Welcome to the Washington Financial Aid Association Website!
The members of the Washington Financial Aid Association are financial aid professionals working at colleges
and universities in the state of Washington. Our primary mission is to help students access federal, state,
institutional and local financial resources in order to make attending college affordable, regardless of
your financial resources. We want you to know that your decision to attend college need NOT be based on your
ability to pay for it. We hope the information we've provided here will assist you in planning for and
making college affordable, especially if you choose to continue your education at a Washington college or
If the information we've provided on this website causes confusion or is unclear to you, please feel free
to contact a financial aid administrator at your local college or university for assistance. Failing to
attend college should not happen because of a lack of financial resources...or a lack of information.
- Purpose of Financial Aid: The purpose of financial aid is to provide funding for
eligible students who want to attend college when their own personal and/or family financial resources
are insufficient to cover that cost of attendance. Financial aid is intended to allow you to choose a
school, not based on its costs or your financial resources, but on the programs it offers and your
interests and abilities.
- Who qualifies for financial aid? Generally, every United States citizen or permanent
resident is eligible for some form of assistance. Financial aid is offered on the basis of both
financial need as well as merit (academic achievement or other talents). Therefore, you should assume
you are eligible for some form(s) of financial assistance and not let a perceived lack of financial
resources prevent you from pursuing a college education. Students who are considered for the most
financial assistance are typically students from families with the lowest incomes, who also possess a
record of strong academic achievement or demonstrated outstanding ability or talent.
- What is financial aid? In addition to scholarships and grants, financial aid also
includes student employment and student loans.
- Scholarships and grants are considered "gift aid" -- they do not have to be repaid,
making them the most desirable form of assistance. Scholarships are usually awarded on the basis
of merit (academic, athletic, or other talent), while grants are generally awarded on the basis
of financial need. For information on the available federal grants,
For information on the available state grants, click here.
For a scholarship matching website specifically for Washington state residents and students attending
a Washington college or university, click here.
- Student employment is available at most schools. Some are need-based (federal work study and state
work study) and awarded by the financial aid office as part of your financial aid package. Many
schools have student jobs on campus that are open to any student enrolled at that school, even if
not work-study eligible.
- Student loans, which you must start repaying after you leave school, are available at all but a
handful of schools. Eligibility for most federal loans is need-based, while others are available
regardless of your financial status. Private loans are also available from commercial lenders, but
eligibility is based on the credit worthiness of the applicant or a co-signer.
- Parent Loans, which are borrowed by the parents of dependent students, are available at most
schools. Eligibility requires a credit-worthy parent or endorser. Although payments can be deferred
while the student is enrolled, interest begins accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed.
- How do I apply for financial aid and what are the deadlines?
Need help with completing the FAFSA? Check out College Goal Sunday in the month of January, 2011
the FAFSA workshops being held in your local high schools. These events are designed to help families
electronically file their FAFSA. For more information about the FAFSA, click here.
- Obtain a Personal Identification Number (PIN) prior to filing the FAFSA so you can use your PIN
to sign your on-line FAFSA. You can obtain your PIN at www.pin.ed.gov.
- File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), on-line at www.fafsa.gov. Filing your FAFSA on-line is more accurate and a much quicker method of applying - after
you transmit your electronic FAFSA, you will have the results on the confirmation page immediately.
- By completing the FAFSA, you are applying for most federal and state student aid programs. For many
schools in Washington, the FAFSA is the only application you will need. Check with your school to
determine if an additional application is required to be considered for the school's institutional
scholarships and grants. For a list of Washington schools that require a separate application,
- In most cases, you must also be admitted to the school before you will receive an offer of financial aid.
- Applying on time is critical, as some financial aid programs have limited dollars. Be sure you submit
your FAFSA in time to meet the earliest priority filing deadline of the schools you are considering.
To check on the financial aid deadline for Washington schools,
- You must file the FAFSA each year in order to renew your financial aid award for a subsequent academic
year. Applications can be filed after January 1 for each year, e.g., to apply for the 2011-2012 academic
year, you can begin applying January 1, 2011.
- How is financial aid eligibility determined? Your financial aid eligibility is the
difference between the school's cost of attendance and the amount you are expected to pay toward those
costs. Financial aid eligibility will increase with a higher cost of attendance and/or a lower expected
Cost of Attendance (COA)
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
= financial aid eligibility (NEED)
- What is Cost of Attendance (COA)? Cost of attendance is made up of:
- tuition and fees (varies by school)
- room and meals (approximately $9000 per nine month academic year)
- books and supplies (approximately $1000 per nine month academic year)
- personal and transportation expenses (approximately $2,000 per nine month academic year)
- How much does it cost to attend a college or university in Washington?
For a complete listing of schools in Washington State, click on:
- Public, two year technical or community colleges: The average cost of attendance at a Washington two
year public college is about $16,000 in 2010-11, which includes tuition and fees, room and meals, books
and supplies, and personal and transportation. All of these schools participate in federal and state
financial aid programs, although some schools do not participate in the student loan programs. These
schools offer short term certificate programs as well as two-year Associate of Arts programs, many of
which can be transferred and credited toward the first two years of your education at a four year school.
- Public, four year universities: The average cost of attendance at a Washington four year public
college is about $20,000 in 2010-11, which includes tuition and fees, room and meals, books and supplies,
and personal and transportation. All of these schools participate in federal and state financial aid
programs. These schools offer four year bachelor degree programs as well as advanced degree programs
(masters and doctoral degrees).
- Private, non-profit colleges and university: The average cost of attendance at a Washington four year
private college is $38,000 in 2010-11. All of these schools participate in federal and state financial
aid programs, as well as offering institutional grants and scholarships to help offset their higher
tuition rates. These schools offer four year bachelor degree programs as well as advanced degree
programs (masters and doctoral degree).
- Private, for-profit or vocational schools: The average cost of attendance for these schools varies
and requires contacting the school directly to obtain specific program costs. All of these schools
participate in some of the federal and state aid programs, as well as offering some institutional
scholarships. These schools offer short term certificate programs as well as two year Associate of
Arts degrees and a limited array of four year bachelor degree programs.
- How is Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated? The information you provide on the
FAFSA is applied to the federal formula to calculate the expected family contribution. The four major
components in the formula include:
- Income of parents and student. The EFC generally increases as income increases. Some forms of
untaxed income are not included in the FAFSA application.
- Assets, excluding the value of your primary residence and assets with retirement tax status, such
as IRA accounts, 401K, pensions, or Keogh accounts, etc. As a student's assets increases, so does EFC.
Parent's assets must be greater than a "retirement protection" threshold (based on the parent's age),
before it will have an effect on the EFC.
- Family size (As family size increases, EFC decreases)
- Number in college, but not including parents and running start students. (As number in college
increases, EFC per student decreases)
- I'm a couple years away from attending college. Can I get an estimate of what financial aid I
might be eligible to receive? Yes. Here's what you'd want to do:
- First, complete the FAFSA4caster, which is a shortened version of the FAFSA, which will provide you
with an estimated EFC - how much your family would be expected to contribute toward your college cost
on an annual basis. The FAFSA4caster is located at
- Second, find out the cost of attendance (COA) at the schools you're interested in attending.
Subtracting the EFC from these costs will give you a rough idea of your financial aid eligibility at
that school. Remember that costs generally increase each year everywhere and colleges and universities
are no exception.
- Beginning in October of 2011, all schools participating in federal student aid programs will be
required to post a "Net Price Calculator" on their website. This calculator will estimate how much
your total "out-of-pocket" costs will be at that school. The "out-of-pocket" costs is the difference
between the school's cost of attendance after subtracting the average scholarship/grant award you
could expect to receive at that school, based on the information you submit on the calculator.
- Can I improve my chances for receiving financial aid? There are several steps you can
take to improve your eligibility for additional financial assistance:
- Do well in school. As mentioned earlier, many scholarships are awarded simply on the basis of
academic achievement (your high school GPA and/or SAT/ACT scores) so it does pay to study hard and
do well in school. Scholarships may also be awarded on the basis of leadership and community service.
- Excel in a sought-after talent. Scholarships are awarded for athletic excellence, as well as
exceptional ability in music, forensics, drama, dance, and other abilities. Availability of these
awards vary from school to school.
- Apply for admission and financial aid on time. Admission demand at some schools may exceed their
capacity and a qualified, but late applicant may be denied admission due to a lack of space. Funding
for some financial aid programs are limited so you want to be "in the pool" when there is the most
financial aid dollars available. To see the application deadline of the Washington school(s) you are
interested in attending,
- Apply for any scholarship for which you are eligible. This isn't as difficult as it used to be. Use
the free Washington-only scholarship matching search engine, www.thewashboard.org.
- What is a good financial aid package? The best financial aid package is one that
offers enough gift assistance (scholarships and grants) that reduces your out-of-pocket costs to an
amount that you are capable of paying within your current financial means. If your educational costs
exceed your gift assistance and your ability to pay, then you may need to consider borrowing student
loans or earning money (under the work study programs or with your own employment) to pay the difference.
An inadequate financial aid package is one whose total assistance, when added to your ability to pay,
falls short of the amount needed to pay for your total educational costs.