Financial Aid Services FAQs


What types of Federal Financial Aid are available?    
There are three types of Federal Financial Aid: grants, loans, and work-study. (A grant is free money. Loans are borrowed from the government and MUST be repaid. Work-study is a job on campus.)

What is an FSA ID?   
The FSA ID is your official Federal Student Aid ID, which you will use to log in to your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

How do I apply for Federal Financial Aid?    
You must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) . You can do it electronically at .  Once completed you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) via e-mail or in the mail. Please review your SAR and bring it to the Financial Aid Office in Building A-101 to check if there are any corrections to make.

Is there anything else that I have to submit to the College of Alameda Financial Aid Office?

Students need to send their official transcripts (from ALL non-district schools that they have attended) to the COA Financial Aid Office. In addition, about a third of the applicants will be chosen for verification and will need to submit the required documents prior to their file being processed.

What is verification?    
Verification is submitting additional documentation to confirm the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is correct.  The federal government requires colleges to verify and confirm the information reported by students and their parent(s) on the FAFSA.   There are three types of Verification Worksheet.

Do I have to go to school full-time to receive Federal Financial Aid?
Not necessary.  However, with the Pell and SEOG Grants, your awards will be larger if you attend full-time.

If I’m eligible for financial aid, how often will I receive money?
Generally, grant recipients receive three disbursements a semester. The first disbursement (25% Pell) will occur four days before school starts.  The second disbursement (25% Pell) will be by the end of the first week of school.  The third disbursement (50% Pell) will be in the middle of the semester for all students eligible.  Loan recipients usually get two disbursements a year: one in Fall and one in Spring. College Work-Study students get one paycheck a month.

How much money can I get if I apply for financial aid?
It depends upon your family’s situation. The maximum Pell Grant would be $5,815 per year. The maximum Subsidized Stafford Loan for a first year dependent student is $3,500. Work-study allocations usually begin at $3,800 per year.

If I am living away from my parents, am I considered to be “independent?”         
Not necessarily. Applicants for Federal Financial Aid (below the age of 24) are considered to be dependents, unless they are married, a veteran, an orphan, a ward of the court, or have dependents (usually children).

How long does it take from the time I complete my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to when I receive my first disbursement?
It may take at least 4-8 weeks.

Why does it take so long to receive the money?
Because many people are applying for financial aid. But here’s a rough breakdown of the steps and the approximate timeframe for each: For you to receive your SAR after you have submitted your application online (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): 2 to 4 weeks; For COA to process your file: 4 to 6 weeks.

I didn’t get my SAR. Is there a number I can call to find out what happened?
Call 1-800- 4-FED-AID / (800) 433-3243 (Note: If you provided an e-mail address, the SAR will be sent to you electronically.)

I have a “dead end” job and want to go back to school full time. Can I afford to quit my job and then go to school?
It might be difficult–especially in the first year. However, regardless of your income in the previous year, you will probably qualify for student loans.

Do I have to pay a loan back?    
Yes. Payments for student loans begin once a student leaves school for six months (or falls below half-time enrollment for six months).

Is there a deadline for applying for Federal Financial Aid?
Yes & No. Students may submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application as early as January for the academic year that begins in the following Fall. Students that apply by March 2nd will receive priority consideration for several types of Federal Financial Aid. Students that don’t meet the priority deadline can still apply throughout the school year. (However, some Federal Financial Aid may no longer be available for those that apply late.) There is also a second deadline of Sept. 2nd for Cal Grant consideration.

Do I have to “do well” in school to receive Federal Financial Aid?  
Yes. For each semester that you receive aid you will need to complete a certain number of units with a minimum GPA of at least 2.0. In addition, you need to maintain an overall completion rate of at least 67% and an overall GPA of at least 2.0. (This is called maintaining “Satisfactory Academic Progress.”)

How long can I receive Federal Financial Aid at the COA?
Provided that you maintain satisfactory academic progress, you can receive Federal Financial Aid until you exceed 150% of the published length of an eligible program. (Students in 60 unit A.A./A.S. programs or planning to transfer to 4-year schools will need to complete their studies by the time they earn 90 units. ) Students who exceed the maximum time-frame may petition for an extension of funding through an “appeal process.”

Do I have to reapply for Federal Financial Aid every year? 
Yes.  Please make sure to visit your college Financial Aid Office 7 – 10 days after you have done so.

If I apply for Federal Financial Aid, do I also get admitted to COA?
No. You need to complete a separate COA Application for Admission.