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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 university!

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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, click here. 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.

  4. How do I apply for financial aid and what are the deadlines?
    • 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
    • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), on-line at 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, click here.
    • 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, click here.
    • 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.
    Need help with completing the FAFSA? Check out College Goal Sunday in the month of January, 2011 ( and 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.

  5. 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 family contribution.

    Cost of Attendance (COA)
    - Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
    = financial aid eligibility (NEED)

  6. 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)

  7. How much does it cost to attend a college or university in Washington?
    • 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.
    For a complete listing of schools in Washington State, click on:

  8. 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)

  9. 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.

  10. 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, click here.
    • 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,

  11. 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.

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