Office of Student Financial Services

Financial aid FAQ

Below are some of the most common questions Student Financial Services receives about the FAFSA and the financial aid process. If you have questions not listed here, call 413.662.5219 or email FinAid@mcla.edu.

This FAQ section is specifically geared toward general financial aid questions. We also offer a student loan FAQ and a student accounts FAQ.

To apply for aid, you must complete the FAFSA. Additionally, if you are selected for verification by the Department of Education, you must submit any requested verification documents to Student Financial Services.

We recommend reviewing these instructions when applying for financial aid.

Yes. A new FAFSA must be completed for each academic year.

The FAFSA opens up on October 1 each year. The 2021-2022 FAFSA is available now.

We recommend completing the FAFSA and your financial aid file as soon as possible after October 1. Applications completed by January 1 will have priority for the funds available.

Not necessarily. The FAFSA must be completed every year as soon after the October 1 date as possible. It may be possible to receive a comparable award if the family’s financial situation has not changed from the prior year and all required paperwork has been completed as soon as possible after October 1.

The student and a parent need to complete the FAFSA. Both parties will need their tax information and their FSA user ID and password.

In most cases for undergraduate students, yes. In the eyes of the FAFSA, you are considered either a dependent student or an independent student. The FAFSA asks you questions to preliminarily determine your status. 

If you live on your own by choice, do not meet any of the independent questions on the FAFSA (24 years old, veteran, etc.) and maintain a relationship with your parents, you will have to include parental information.

If there has been a breakdown in the relationship with your parents, you can complete a written independence appeal directly through Student Financial Services. This consists of a written letter from you detailing your circumstances regarding your relationship with your parents, along with two supporting letters from “responsible adults” (e.g. therapist, school counselor, clergy.)

All students in a graduate program are considered independent students.

The student will use the parent’s information that they reside with the most during the calendar year. If that parent is remarried, the step-parent’s information is also included on the FAFSA. If the student splits their time 50/50 with both parents, then they will use whichever parent contributes 51% to their support.
Both of their information is required on the FAFSA.

Both of their information is required on the FAFSA.

If you have a legal guardian that has been appointed by the courts, you will complete the FAFSA as an independent student and the guardian’s information is not required.  The College may require a copy of the legal document.

If you live on your own by choice, do not meet any of the independent questions on the FAFSA (24 years old, veteran, etc.) and maintain a relationship with your parents, you will have to include parental information.  If there has been a breakdown in the relationship with your parents, you can complete a written independence appeal directly through Student Financial Services.  This consists of a written letter from you detailing your circumstances regarding your relationship with your parents, along with two supporting letters from “responsible adults” (e.g. therapist, school counselor, clergy.)

The Department of Education may randomly select you for verification after submitting your FAFSA. The verification process is a common extra step for many students.

If you are selected for verification, you will be notified by Student Financial Services. (For new/prospective students, this will be in the form a letter to your address. For returning students, this will be mailed to you.) Your correspondence will tell you what forms are required to complete your financial aid file. This may include a verification form and copies of yours and your parent’s tax return transcripts.

It’s a federal law that males that reach the age of 18 must register for Selective Service. Financial aid cannot be awarded without proof of registration.

Selective Service bases the registration requirement on gender assigned at birth and not on gender identity or on gender reassignment. Individuals assigned male at birth who changed their gender are still required to register. Individuals assigned female at birth and changed their gender are not required to register.

Those assigned female at birth and changed their gender will need to complete a Status Information Letter (SIL) request form with Selective Service and provide a copy of their birth certificate. They should keep the original SIL and send copies to the financial aid institutions, if needed.

If you're a first time borrower of the loan, you will need to complete the online entrance counseling and Master Promissory Note on www.studentaid.gov. These will be available once your student loan has been processed by the College's Financial Aid Office, beginning in June. You will receive an email when that process can be completed.

If you are a prior borrower at a different college, you may only need to complete the online entrance counseling. The Master Promissory note is active for up to 10 years.

There are several options available. You can apply for an alternative student loan, which is credit based and will require a credit-worthy cosigner.  Your parents may also choose to apply for a federal Direct PLUS Loan, which is a loan in their name. Additionally, the balance can be financed through a monthly payment plan by Nelnet. You can choose to do any of these or a combination of them. Whatever works best for you and your family.

Yes.  Once you’re a student at MCLA, you can apply for scholarships during the spring semester.  The application process usually happens in early March and the awards are paid against your tuition account in the upcoming fall semester.  Students are notified when the scholarship applications are available.

There are merit scholarships available that are awarded by the Admissions Office to incoming students upon acceptance.  These are based on SAT scores, class rank and/or GPA.  There is no application process needed.

There is also a large scholarship database/binder in Student Financial Services for outside scholarship resources. You can contact us for more information.

The cost of attendance is what it costs the student to live and go to school for 9 months.  This not only includes the direct costs of tuition, fees, room and board, but also books, transportation, and personal expenses.

It's very important to note that the cost of attendance is not a bill. The cost of attendance is a figure used by Student Financial Services when awarding aid.

Fall semester bills are mailed and eBilled in early July with an early August due date. Spring semester bills are due in mid-November with a mid-December due date.

Accepted aid will show as a credit on your bill. However, if you accepted federal student loans and are a first time borrower, you will need to complete Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note. You will be notified by Student Financial Services when you can complete this, but no federal loan will show on your bill until this is done..

Yes, if your financial aid exceeds your billed charges, you can request a ‘book advance’ from Student Financial Services. Book advances are available upon request only after you complete any required paperwork for your financial aid file. Whatever you request as a book advance would be deducted from your refund.

If you are interested in a book advance, email StudentAccounts@mcla.edu after the bills go out to be put on the list. You will be notified of the next steps.

Refunds normally occur by mid-October and early March for each semester.  If you are enrolled in a degree completion program, Graduate Program, MBA Program, the Early Childhood Program, or any other cohort program, refunds may occur at a later date due to enrollment verification.  It’s recommended to check with Student Financial Services if you need to know a specific date.
If you were eligible for the workstudy program, it would be listed on your financial aid award for the upcoming academic year.
No. If you are awarded workstudy, you will receive a bi-weekly paycheck for your worked hours.

If you weren't awarded workstudy but would like to be considered for workstudy funding should any become available, please email FinAid@mcla.edu your request. However, there's no guarantee that we will be able to get to the waitlist even if you qualify.

We strongly recommend that any student looking for an on-campus job visit the Student Employment page on the myMCLA portal. You would want to look for non-workstudy positions on this page.

Per federal regulations, you may repeat a course and receive aid for it if you have never passed the course. If you previously passed the course, you may receive one repetition and receive aid for it. Any second or subsequent repetition will not qualify for financial aid.