Jenna Kuhns, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor
Whether you are an incoming freshman or a returning senior, financial aid can be confusing. As financial aid counselors, there are things we really want all students to know.
There is a limit to how much financial aid you can receive.
Every school will give you something along the lines of an “Estimated Cost of Attendance” or “Budget.” This is your limit on financial aid at your university and students cannot have financial aid over this amount. This amount will vary at different universities because it takes into account your tuition, room and board, and other estimated expenses that are specific to each university.
There is a difference between your Estimated Cost of Attendance and your bill.
Your Cost of Attendance is a term that is interchangeable with “budget.” It will include estimated costs for expenses like books and supplies, transportation, housing and food, miscellaneous costs, etc.
The university is not going to bill you for estimated miscellaneous costs. If you’re not living on campus, you will not be billed the amount for “room and board” on your Estimated Cost of Attendance. Your budget is a list of estimated expenses you may have for the year. Your bill is what you will actually owe. Your budget doubles as your financial aid limit, as mentioned previously, but it’s also a way for you to “budget” for expenses that may pop up during the year. In actuality, your bill will only be tuition and fees (and housing and food if you stay in a dormitory).
Financial aid counselors want you to understand this difference because we often see students taking out loans to cover their entire budget. In reality, these students could have saved themselves thousands of dollars had they known they wouldn’t be billed for their entire Cost of Attendance.
You can get a refund.
So why does your Cost of Attendance/budget even bother to include expenses you won’t be directly billed for? The answer is simple. It’s so you can get financial aid to help cover extra expenses, and this is done with a refund.
Since your budget includes costs like miscellaneous expenses, you may find that you have a budget of $20,000 when you only have a bill of $17,000. This means you potentially have financial aid $3,000 in excess of what you need to cover your bill. In a situation like this, the Bursar’s Office will issue you a refund check. This refund can be used to help cover any of your academic expenses that you won’t be automatically billed for such as: books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. If you are staying off campus in an apartment, fraternity, or sorority, instead of living in a residence hall, this refund can also be used to help cover your off-campus rent.
Your grades really matter.
Believe it or not, grades actually matter when it comes to financial aid. Students must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in order to remain eligible for financial aid. SAP is measured at the end of every semester, even if you didn’t take classes, and Purdue notifies you by email of your new SAP status. Purdue’s SAP Policy can be found online on the Division of Financial Aid website.
There are no dumb questions.
We are here to help! We understand that financial aid is very confusing, especially if you are brand new student. It’s our job to answer any financial aid questions or help explain things that may seem confusing. Above all, we hate seeing a little issue turn into a big issue just because a student was scared or embarrassed to ask us a question. We’ll be excited that you are seeking more information, and you’ll never know unless you ask.
Are you a student at Purdue who has questions about financial aid? Please feel free to contact the Division of Financial Aid via email or phone.