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Financial Aid FAQ’s

How do I apply for federal and state financial aid programs?

You will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at . To apply online, it is recommended that you (and your parent, if you are a dependent) create a Federal Student Aid Identification Number (FSA ID) with the U.S. Department of Education. You can create a FSA ID at If you do not have access to a computer, there are computers available for your use to file FAFSA forms in the financial aid area. In addition to the FAFSA, you will need to complete Highland’s financial aid forms and any verification documents if you are picked for verification by the Department of Education.

What is the FSA ID and why do I need to create one?

The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification Number) serves as your identifier to let you access your personal information in various U.S. Department of Education systems. The FSA ID also allows you to sign your Federal student aid application online and allows you to correct your application data online. After you provide an e-mail address when applying for your FSA ID, you’ll get an e-mail response in a few minutes that contains an access code. In the interest of keeping your personal information secure, do not share your FSA ID! You should never give your FSA ID to anyone. Be sure to keep your FSA ID in a safe place.

What is Highland’s school code?


Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?

Yes. If your financial circumstances change, you may get more or less aid. After the first year you file a FAFSA you will receive an e-mail notification or a reminder by US mail to renew. Even if your income should stay the same or you did not file Federal Tax Returns, you are still required to apply for financial aid every year.

Why do I have to provide my parents’ information on the FAFSA?

When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to the questions in Step 3 of the paper FAFSA or in Step 2 of the online FAFSA will determine whether you’re considered dependent on your parents or independent. If you’re considered dependent, your parents’ income and assets as well as your own must be reported on the FAFSA. Students are classified as dependent or independent because federal student aid programs are based on the principle that students (and their parents or spouse, if applicable) are considered the primary source of support for postsecondary education.

How can I check the status of my FAFSA application?

At any point during the processing period, you can use your FSA ID to check the status of your FAFSA or to check on a correction you made to your FAFSA:

To check the status of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), click Login on the FAFSA on the Web home page to log in; your FAFSA status can be found on the “My FAFSA” page, which displays immediately after you log in if you have already started or completed a FAFSA.

Checking the status of your application at any time during the processing period is beneficial, but we recommend you at least check the status at the following times:

  • 3 to 5 days after submission – if you used your FSA ID to sign your application
  • 2 to 3 weeks after submission – if you printed, signed, and mailed a signature page.

I received my Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail today. What am I supposed to do with it?

It is important to review your SAR to make sure that the information that you provided is accurate. You also need to review it to determine whether the Department of Education has noted any issues with the information you provided. If the Department of Education noted any problems with your FAFSA, the issues will need to be corrected before your financial aid can be processed. The SAR will also tell you if you have been picked for verification.

What is verification?

Because errors can occur on a student’s FAFSA, student applications are sometimes selected by the CPS (Central Processing System) to be verified by the College they are attending. If your financial aid application was selected for the verification process you will be required to submit a verification worksheet, federal tax return information , W-2’s and IL state residency verification for state aid. Depending on your dependency status, you may also be required to submit federal tax return information for your spouse or parents. If errors are identified during verification that require corrections, the financial aid office will submit any necessary corrections to the Department of Education.

I was picked for verification, but I misplaced my tax return from the previous year. What do I do?

If you and your parents (if dependent) used the IRS Tax Retrieval process when completing your FAFSA and did not make any changes to that information, a tax transcript is not necessary. If you and your parents (if dependent) did not use the IRS Tax Retrieval process or you made changes after the IRS Retrieval, contact the IRS at or call 1-800-908-9946 to obtain a tax transcript.

How will I know if I am eligible for financial aid at Highland Community College?

You will receive a Welcome Letter from the Financial Aid Office that will explain how to view your eligibility for financial aid.

I received an award letter indicating I qualify for financial aid. How do I receive my financial aid?

This depends on the type of financial aid you are receiving and when your financial aid file is completed. Regardless of the order in which financial aid is applied to a student’s account, funds are applied to all outstanding charges before a refund will be processed. In most cases,

  • Veteran state grants and scholarships are applied to your account 3-4 weeks after the start of class.
  • Loans are disbursed based on the disbursement schedule and when the student completes the loan forms. The loan advisor can tell you when to expect disbursement. First time borrowers must schedule an appointment to meet with the loan advisor. For freshmen, first time borrowers, first disbursements are not made until at least 30 days into the semester.
  • Federal and state MAP grants are applied to your account approximately 9 weeks into the semester.
  • College Work Study funds are paid bi-weekly by paycheck from the payroll department for hours worked.

Can I use my financial aid money to purchase books?

Students receiving Pell, loans or funding from the Workforce Investment Act program may have eligibility for help with books. Book vouchers will be available at the bookstore two weeks prior to classes starting. You must have a complete financial aid file and be enrolled in classes.

How do I apply for a Federal Work-Study job?

If your award letter indicated that you are eligible for a Federal Work-Study job, you must contact Career Services at 815.599.3536. Work-study positions are limited. You must complete an application and interview process.

How do I apply for scholarships?

You can browse and apply for all scholarships available to students online, or pick up applications at or the Foundation Office. Since many of our Foundation scholarships require financial need, you may need to complete a FAFSA as part of the scholarship application process. The majority of scholarships have an application deadline of April 1, 2022, for the 2022-23 academic year. Please contact the Foundation Office at 815.599.3413 for questions.

How could the Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress policy affect my financial aid?

Federal law mandates financial aid recipients maintain a certain standard of academic performance in order to qualify for and retain financial aid eligibility. If you are not maintaining these minimum academic standards you will lose your financial aid for the future. Every student that applies for financial aid at HCC is asked to read and sign a copy of the Standards of Academic Progress Policy. If you have questions regarding the policy, please contact the Financial Aid Office.

I just found out that my financial aid was terminated. What can I do?

If you encountered extenuating circumstances that prevented you from meeting the Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements you may complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form with the Financial Aid Office. The appeal along with required documentation of your situation will be reviewed and if approved you may get your financial aid reinstated.

How do I transfer my financial aid from my previous school to HCC?

Financial aid does not transfer from one college to another. To determine your financial aid eligibility at Highland, you will need to add Highland Community College to your FAFSA. Once this has been done, the Financial Aid Office will then be sent your FAFSA information. We will then process your information to determine your financial aid eligibility at Highland. Since the cost of attendance differs between colleges, you may qualify for more or less aid at Highland.

Is financial aid available during the summer sessions?

If you are a Pell recipient, contact the Financial Aid Office to determine if you have any eligibility left to use for the summer semester.

Will adding and/or dropping classes affect my financial aid?

Yes, depending on the financial aid you are receiving, your enrollment, and when it is done, adding/and or dropping classes could increase or decrease your financial aid award. Check with the Financial Aid Office if you are thinking about changing your class schedule to determine how it will affect your financial aid award package.