The following is not a comprehensive list of answers but contains some very helpful tips in your next step of the enrollment process and securing your enrollment in order to be pro-active:
1) In order to apply for financial aid you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. Make sure that you have your federal taxes and W2s handy as the application will be asking for that information. If you did not file taxes please have all of your income information readily available. You will also be asked for your college’s school code which is 001681 for Highland Community College. It will take about 7-10 days from the day you submit your FAFSA to reach our office here at Highland– so please plan ahead! Every year the new FAFSA is available beginning January 1 (for example, for the 2016-2017 school year, students can apply as early as January 2016). It is best to complete the FAFSA as close to January 1 as possible to ensure that we receive your results in a timely manner and that you qualify for as much financial aid as possible – so once again please plan ahead! You must re-apply for financial aid every year.
2) When you complete your FAFSA you will see a number called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC measures your family’s financial strength, and is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid during one school year. If your EFC is between 0-$5,198 it is possible that you could be eligible for the Pell Grant. You should stop by our financial aid office to determine your exact eligibility after we have had time to receive your FAFSA results (about 7-10 days after you have submitted it). There are many other factors that can affect your eligibility such as enrollment status, declared major, academic progress, etc. If you do not qualify for grants, you still could be eligible for student loans. Interested students must inquire about loans at our financial aid office. Otherwise, you will need to enter into an online payment plan or pay off your entire balance due to Highland.
3) A Student Aid Report (SAR) is a document you will receive from the Department of Education after your FAFSA is processed. Your SAR will list all of the answers you provided on your FAFSA as well as any issues that need to be resolved. You should review these items carefully and make any necessary corrections.
4) Completing the FAFSA is half the process. The other half is to complete the institutional forms for Highland Community College’s financial aid application and return them to the financial aid office. There are three basic requirement forms that every student will need to fill out: Financial Aid Data Form, Financial Aid Authorization & Return of Title IV Funds Form, and Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy. All of these forms can be found on our website. It is also possible that you may have to complete other forms as well depending on the review of your FAFSA. It is best to contact our financial aid office by either stopping in or calling us at 815-599-3519 to see if there are further requirements that need to be met before your financial aid application is considered complete.
5) Please keep in mind that many students who complete a FAFSA are randomly selected for a process called ‘verification’. Your SAR should notify you if you have been picked for this process. When picked for verification, students (and parents if the student is dependent) must provide copies of their IRS tax return transcript, IRS tax account transcript (if applicable), W-2’s (if applicable), proof of Illinois residency (if applicable), and other forms as necessary. This is another reason why it is important to get in contact with the financial aid office to check on the results of your FAFSA about 7-10 days after you have submitted the application online. The financial aid office can confirm if you have been picked for verification and can let you know what documents and forms need to be submitted to Highland.