FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The Office of Financial Aid receives many common questions. For your convenience, these are divided into these categories:

When is the Financial Aid Office open?

We are open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Why is it when I try calling your office I can never get through?

Our office handles several hundred phone calls per day during peak times. We have 2 incoming phone lines that stay constantly busy and are answered in the order in which the calls are received. A good strategy if you are in the area is to stop by in person. You may also try other means, such as e-mail or fax. For real-time information about your current financial aid status, check Banner Self Service!

Why can’t you tell my spouse, parents, or outside agencies what kind of aid I have been awarded?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (also known as the Buckley Amendment) limits access to educational records without written consent.

When do I apply for financial aid?

As soon as possible after October 1st of each year for the following Fall semester. You must reapply every year.

What is the deadline to apply for financial aid?

To receive priority consideration for aid, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by April 15th for the Fall semester.

If I miss the priority deadline, can I still get financial aid?

If you miss the priority deadline, you are still encouraged to apply for financial aid. If you are eligible and have paid your tuition, you will be reimbursed after the semester begins.

Do I have to apply for financial aid every year?

Yes. You must reapply for financial aid each year by completing the FAFSA.

I’m not admitted to Nicholls yet. Do I have to wait until I am admitted before I apply for financial aid?

No. Students do not have to be admitted to Nicholls in order to file their FAFSA. You should file your FAFSA as soon after October 1st as possible.  However, you will not be awarded any assistance (TOPS, scholarships, Title IV aid, etc) until you have been admitted to the University.

I probably don’t qualify for aid. Should I apply for aid anyway?

Yes, any student who is looking for assistance with the cost of higher education should apply for financial aid. Most people have the misconception that income is the only factor in determining financial need. Other variables are also considered, such as family size, number of family members in college, age of the older parent, savings, investments, and various allowances to income and assets. There are also a few sources of aid, such as the Unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans, that are available regardless of need.

I only want a loan. Do I have to file a FAFSA?

Yes. The FAFSA is the foundation used to determine what type of loan you may be eligible for.

What is a DRN?

DRN stands for Data Release Number. It is the confidential four-digit number found in the upper right hand corner on the Student Aid Report (SAR). A financial aid applicant needs to provide the DRN when communicating with the Federal Student Aid Information Center regarding FAFSA and SAR processing.

What is an FSA ID?

Your FSA ID is the username and password you use when you visit certain U.S. Department of Education Web sites.

For example, you can use your FSA ID to

  • sign your online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.gov;
  • complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note at studentloans.gov;
  • review what federal student aid you have received in the past by visiting the National Student Loan Data System at www.nslds.gov;
  • sign certain federal student loan contracts online;
  • find out whether your FAFSA has been processed at www.fafsa.gov; or
  • correct information you reported on your FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov.

If you do not have an FSA ID, have lost or forgotten your FSA ID, or if you think someone else knows your FSA ID, you can create and manage your ID here.

If you are a dependent, one of your parents should have his/her own FSA ID to electronically sign your FAFSA and to make any corrections.

How do I apply for student financial aid at Nicholls?

The first step in applying for financial aid at Nicholls is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA Worksheet may be obtained in our office in Otto B. Candies Hall, or you can complete and submit your FAFSA on-line at www.fafsa.gov . Once your FAFSA is processed and we receive your SAR, we email a request for additional paperwork to your Nicholls’ email account.

When I originally completed the FAFSA, I did not list Nicholls State University as a school choice. How do I now list Nicholls?

Contact our office and provide your name, social security number, date of birth, and DRN. We will be able to add Nicholls to your application so that we can obtain your financial aid information.  You can also make a correction to your existing SAR by adding Nicholls’ school code of 002005.

Do I need to submit other documents to Nicholls?

You will have to complete an Authorization to Credit Form and any other forms/documents requested by us. Remember to include your name and student ID number on all documentation submitted, including parent documents.

Should I keep copies of the information I submitted for my file?

Yes! Keep copies of all forms completed.

I did not keep a copy of my tax return. How do I request a copy?

If you (and/or your spouse) or your parent filed a Federal Income Tax Return, you can return to fafsa.gov to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool by following the correction process on the website. If you chose not to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool or you were determined ineligible to use this tool, you may be required to submit your (and/or your spouse’s) or parent’s Federal Tax Return Transcript from the IRS and copies of all W-2 Form(s). There are several ways you can request a tax transcript:
(1) Phone 1-800-908-9946
(2) Online – www.irs.gov
(3) IRS Form 4506T-EZ – https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506.pdf

What is verification? And why was I chosen?

Verification is a review process in which the Office of Financial Aid determines the accuracy of the information provided on the student’s financial aid application. During the verification process the student and parent will be required to submit documentation for the amounts listed (or not listed) on the financial aid application.

Financial aid applications are randomly selected by the federal processor for verification. If there is an asterisk next to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure on your Student Aid Report (SAR), your SAR has been selected for verification. Schools may also select additional students for verification. If any discrepancies are uncovered during verification, the financial aid office may require additional information to clear up the discrepancies. If you refuse to submit the required documentation, your financial aid package will be canceled and no aid will be awarded.

What do I do if something changes after I file?

If something changes after you submit the FAFSA, you should contact our office to discuss what circumstances have changed. For some situations, such as a loss of income compared with the income you used to complete your FAFSA, we can re-evaluate your financial aid. You should meet with a financial aid counselor to discuss your individual situation and determine the correct course of action.

Is financial aid available for the Summer?

Yes. Summer ends our financial aid year, so you must first complete the FAFSA from the prior year.  Contact our office for more information.

When do I apply for Summer aid?

There is no specific application for summer financial assistance. Students registered for the summer session(s) who have met all outstanding requirements and have remaining eligibility will be processed for aid accordingly. Our office will notify eligible students in mid-April; however, your final eligibility will be determined after the spring semester.

I was told that I have to be full-time to receive financial aid. Is that right?

No! You do not have to be enrolled full-time to receive financial aid. For most programs you can receive funding for half-time (6-8 credits), three-quarter time (9-11 credits), or full time (12+ credits). You may be enrolled less than half-time and be eligible for the Pell Grant program. In order to receive a student loan you must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours.  We will process your award based on full time enrollment; however, your aid will be adjusted based on the hours of enrollment at the time of disbursement.

Can I receive financial aid if I already have a bachelor’s degree?

Financial aid includes grants, loans and work-study. If you hold a bachelor’s degree, you are not eligible to receive grant funds, but are eligible to be considered for loans and work-study.

Am I allowed to receive financial aid from more than one institution at the same time?

No. If you are enrolled at more than one college or university at the same time, you may receive financial aid from one of the institutions, not both.  You must be pursuing a degree at the awarding institution.  Cross-enrolled students cannot be processed for aid at their host institution.

Will my financial aid transfer from one school to another?

No. Financial aid does not transfer from school to school. Students planning to transfer to another school should contact the Financial Aid Office at both schools to find out what is required.

I think that I am going to get a scholarship. Will that affect my aid?

Your financial aid from all sources cannot exceed the cost of attendance established by the University. If you receive a scholarship, whether it is from the college or from a private source, you should notify the Office of Financial Aid. We are required to review your aid package to make sure that you are not receiving more aid than your total cost of attendance. In many cases we are able to include your scholarship without adjusting any of your other aid. Sometimes we have to reduce or replace another form of aid. In that case, we always attempt to reduce or replace any loans that you might have been offered since loans must be repaid in the future. We encourage you to explore scholarship opportunities as an important and valuable means to help finance your college education.  You can report any expected scholarship amounts via your Banner Self Serve account.

Can audit courses be used to receive financial aid?

No. Audit course hours cannot be used to fulfill your hour requirement for financial aid.

My parents want to help, but they can’t afford the amount of the family contribution. What can I do?

If remaining need exists, your parents can apply for a Federal Parent PLUS Loan to satisfy your family’s contribution.  Please contact our office for more information.

What is Nicholls’ school code?

Nicholls’ school code is 002005.

If I have a parent who is enrolled in a college or university, can this parent be counted as a family member in college when calculating my financial aid?

Under normal situations a parent cannot be included as part of the “number of family members in college”.  However, certain circumstances may warrant the inclusion; contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information.

My parents have a lot of debts. Where are expenses reported on the FAFSA?

There is no specific section that you list expenses. The formula used by the Federal processor to calculate the Expected Family Contribution assumes that a certain amount of income is needed to support a family. Also, it is based on the household size and the number of family members in college. The Federal financial aid methodology does not make allowances for different lifestyle choices, which often influence the amount of a family’s living expenses.

I’m going to be married during the school year for which I am applying for aid. Can I fill out my FAFSA as “married”?

No. You must indicate your marital status as of the date you are completing the FAFSA. In general, once you have indicated your marital status, it is not changed. However, certain situations may warrant an update.

My parents are separated or divorced. Whose information should be given on the FAFSA?

On the application, information should be given for the parent you lived with the most in the last 12 months. If you don’t live with either parent or lived with both parents for an equal number of days, information should be given for the parent who provided the greater amount of support to you during the last calendar year. FAFSA instructions have information that will be helpful if you have questions about providing information from separated or divorced parents.

If the parent that you reported has remarried, you must also include information about your stepparent on the FAFSA. Your stepparent must be included, regardless of the marriage date or the stepparent’s intent to provide financial support for you. If you receive financial support from the parent not reported also, you should report this as an Other Untaxed Income amount on the FAFSA.

My custodial parent remarried and signed a prenuptial agreement that absolves the step-parent from financial responsibility for my education. Why does my step-parent have to provide financial information on the FAFSA?

Prenuptial agreements are ignored by the federal need analysis process. After all, two individuals (parent and step-parent) cannot make an agreement between them that is binding on the third party (the federal government). The federal government considers the step-parent a source of support regardless of any prenuptial agreements to the contrary. If a step-parent marries the parent, he or she is considered responsible for supporting the parent and children even if he or she is unwilling to do so.

What does it take to be considered an independent student?

In determining whether you are independent, our office is required to adhere to the standard definition of independent status as outlined by the United States Department of Education.

8. My parents don’t want to fill out the FAFSA. Can I use only my information?

If none of the dependency status questions on the FAFSA apply to you, the parental information is required because you are classified as a dependent student for financial aid purposes. However, under limited circumstances you may be able to submit your FAFSA without parental information.  If you are unable to provide parental information, skip steps 4 and 5.  Once you have submitted your FAFSA without parental data, you must follow up with the financial aid office in order to complete your FAFSA.

9. My parents don’t claim me on their tax return and don’t give me any money. Can I file as “Independent”?

The definition of an independent student is very narrowly defined by law and impacts many students who consider themselves “independent.” See “What does it take to be considered an independent student?”

10. I am really independent, why do I have to apply for financial aid using my parent’s income and asset information?

The definition of an independent student is very narrowly defined by law and impacts many students who consider themselves “independent.” See “What does it take to be considered an independent student?”

11. I’m moving out of my parents’ house and will support myself from now on. Do my parents still have to fill out the FAFSA?

Students under 24 years of age are considered dependent on their parents by federal law no matter where they live (there are limited exceptions – please note them in the FAFSA instructions). If your parents do not provide their information on your application, you probably cannot be considered for aid. If you have special circumstances that make it impossible for your parents to complete the application, contact us. See “What does it take to be considered an independent student?”

What happens if my parents decide they will not provide any financial assistance (Expected Family Contribution) towards my college expenses?

The federal student aid programs are based on the premise that students (and their parents, or spouse, if applicable) have the primary responsibility of paying for their college education. You are encouraged to seek scholarships. You can also seek employment. Additionally, you may want to consider a student loan.  If mitigating circumstances apply, contact our office.

What if my, or my parent’s, income has changed significantly since I completed my FAFSA?

If you or someone in your household has experienced a loss or change of income since you completed the FAFSA, please contact our office for more information on special circumstances.  Specific information will be needed from those in the household affected.

What is a Direct loan?

The Federal Stafford and PLUS Loans are offered through the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. The Department of Education (DoE) funds the loan. The federal government guarantees the loan against default, which allows them to offer loans at very attractive interest rates.

What is the difference between the Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loan?

A Stafford Loan is a government-guaranteed loan available to students. There are two types of Stafford loans; subsidized and unsubsidized. With a subsidized Stafford, the government pays the interest while you’re in school. With an unsubsidized Stafford, you are responsible for the interest while you are in school. You can either elect to pay the interest while you are in school or defer it until after graduation. You should note that if you defer the interest, it will be capitalized upon graduation and will raise the overall cost of your loan.

What are some benefits of the Stafford Loan?

  • The interest rate is capped at 8.25% for the life of the loan.
  • It carries low origination and guarantee fees.
  • There is no credit check.
  • Repayment of the loan does not begin until you graduate or drop below half-time status.

How much can I borrow with a Stafford?

Your eligibility is determined by the Office of Financial Aid. You will be notified of the exact amount you can borrow in the Financial Aid Award Notification. You can never borrow more than the cost of education, less other financial aid received. Below are the maximum amounts you may borrow.

Combined subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford annual eligibility is as follows:

Annual Stafford Loan Limits for Dependent Students

Grade LevelAnnual AmountImportant Note
Freshman$5,500$3,500 Maximum Subsidized
Sophomore$6,500$4,500 Maximum Subsidized
Junior/Senior$7,500$5,500 Maximum Subsidized

Annual Stafford Loan Limits for Independent Students

Grade LevelAnnual AmountImportant Note
Freshman$9,500$3,500 Maximum Subsidized
Sophomore$10,500$4,500 Maximum Subsidized
Junior/Senior$12,500$5,500 Maximum Subsidized
Graduate$20,500Unsubsidized Loans Only

What is the interest rate on a Stafford Loan?

For the latest interest rates, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans

If I do not graduate, do I have to repay my Stafford Loan?

Yes. The Stafford Loan, like any other loan, must be repaid. After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you will have a six-month “grace period” before you begin repayment. During this period, you’ll receive repayment information, and you’ll be notified of your first payment due date. You’re responsible for beginning repayment on time, even if you don’t receive this information. Payments are usually due monthly.

During the grace period on a subsidized loan, you don’t have to pay any principal, and you won’t be charged interest. During the grace period on an unsubsidized loan, you don’t have to pay any principal, but you will be charged interest. You can either pay the interest or it will be capitalized (added to your principal loan balance, thus increasing the amount you’ll repay).

What is loan counseling and why must I complete this process?

Loan counseling is required by federal regulations for all first-time borrowers at a school. The session gives an overview of the Federal loan program, discussing the types of loans, interest rates, borrower rights and responsibilities, etc. The link to fulfill this obligation is on our website.

What are some of the benefits of the PLUS Loan?

  • The interest rate is capped at 9% for the life of the loan.
  • It has no prepayment penalty.
  • It has lenient credit criteria, often more lenient than with other types of loans.
  • It allows you to keep other assets, such as savings, retirement, and home equity intact.

How much can my parent borrow with a PLUS Loan?

You can borrow up to the cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid your child receives. The cost of attendance is determined by the school’s financial aid office, and usually includes tuition, room and board, books, living costs and transportation expenses.

What is the interest rate on a PLUS Loan?

Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans for the current interest rate information.

What if my parent is turned down for a PLUS Loan?

If your parent is denied, you may be eligible to borrow additional unsubsidized loans. We will process you for the additional funds once we have received notice of the denial from the DoE.

How can I get an In-school Deferment on repayment of my loan?

Request the deferment form from your lending institution and have our Registrar’s Office complete it, and return it to the institution. Continue to make all payments until you receive confirmation of your deferment.

If I am in default on a previous loan, what documents are needed to clear the default?

A letter is required from the agency, or holder of the defaulted loan, stating that the default has been cleared.

What scholarships are available?
As private and university scholarships become available for continuing students, they will be posted in the Financial Aid lobby and e-mailed to all faculty, staff and student e-mail accounts in the Inside Student newsletter.  The list is also available online, as well as the application, at https://www.nicholls.edu/financial-aid/scholarships/current-scholarships

How can I apply for scholarships and when will I find out if I get one?
The application for the scholarships advertised is now available online at https://www.nicholls.edu/financial-aid/scholarships/current-scholarships  There now exists one application for each scholarship a student wishes to apply for; students no longer have to complete a separate application for multiple scholarships.  For those unable to complete the online application, a paper application will still be available in the Scholarship Office located in 409 Candies Hall.  If you are selected as the recipient of the award, an award letter will be mailed to you and the scholarship will be credited to your student account.

Do you have to fill out a FAFSA every year to receive TOPS?
1st year; Yes. After the first year, you don’t have to complete the FAFSA, but it is highly recommended. If the funding falls short, the students who filed a FAFSA will be paid first. Nicholls recommends that ALL students complete the FAFSA.

Do Summer & Intersession classes count towards the TOPS 24 hour rule?
Effective immediately, students who do not earn 24 hours during the academic year may utilize hours earned during the summer and intersession terms to meet the TOPS renewal requirements.

Do you have to be full-time in order to get TOPS?
YES; unless you are graduating or program full-time in your major (ex. nursing clinicals). If you meet one of these exceptions, you need to submit a TOPS Program Full-time/Graduating form signed by your dean/advisor to the Scholarship Office to verify. The forms may be picked up in the Scholarship Office located in 409 Candies Hall or on-line at https://www.nicholls.edu/financial-aid/scholarships/forms.

What happens to my TOPS if I sit out a semester?
You will lose TOPS. You may complete an appeal form to request for an exception to the continuous or full-time enrollment requirement for reinstatement and send it to the TOPS office (LOSFA – Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance). This form should be completed before the student plans on sitting out. It can be picked up in the Financial Aid Office or downloaded from www.osfa.la.gov or the scholarship web-site.

Can the TOPS TECH award be used at Nicholls?

At Nicholls, we have only 4 eligible programs that high school graduates can enroll in to utilize their TOPS Tech award – Associate of Safety Technology, Associate of Petroleum Services, Associate of Culinary Arts, and Care and Development of Young Chidren (AS).

What happens to your TOPS if you do not pass 12 hours in the Fall?
You do not lose TOPS provided you have the required 2.0 cumulative GPA. You have to make up the hours in the Winter intersession, Spring, Spring intersession, or Summer sessions to meet the 24 hours for the year.

What GPA is used for TOPS?
External cumulative GPA. This GPA includes every course you have ever completed. It is important to realize that you may have a TOPS GPA that may not match the one calculated by Nicholls due to repeated courses that are dropped. THE TOPS GPA CALCULATED BY LOSFA WILL ONLY BE USED TO DETERMINE YOUR CONTINUED ELIGIBILITY FOR TOPS. You may review your TOPS GPA and other relevant information at www.osfa.la.gov. After logging on to the website, click on TOPS Portal on the left side menu, then Student Logon. Your information may be accessed there.

Is TOPS checked every semester?
At the end of every Fall semester, intersession, or summer session, the GPA is checked, but not hours. Hours and GPA are checked at the end of the Spring semester. Hours will be checked on all students at the end of summer who failed to meet the 24 hour requirement at the end of the Spring semester.

If I do not make the grades, do I have to pay TOPS back?
No, but you will no longer receive TOPS until your GPA is brought up and you continue to pass 24 hours within two years of the loss of the award.

Can I drop below 12 hours?
You must pass 24 hours within the academic year. You have to be registered with 12 hours through the 15th class day each semester. After that, you can drop, as long as you pass at least 24 hours for the year.

What GPA must I maintain for TOPS?
You must maintain at least a cumulative external GPA of at least a 2.0 at the end of any fall semesters, summer sessions, and any intersessions.

The following requirements must be met at the conclusion of every Spring semester if you have eligibility remaining:

  • If you receive the TOPS Opportunity Award, you must earn at least a 2.3 cumulative external GPA if you have less than 48 credit hours or a 2.5 cumulative external GPA if you have 48 or more credit hours. You must successfully complete no less than 24 credit hours during an academic year. The academic year for TOPS is defined as the Fall semester, Winter intersession, Spring semester, Spring intersession, and Summer sessions.
  • If you receive the TOPS Performance or the TOPS Honors Award, you must earn at least a 3.0 cumulative external GPA. You must successfully complete no less than 24 credit hours during an academic year. The academic year for TOPS is defined as the Fall semester, Winter intersession, Spring semester, Spring intersession, and the Summer sessions.

How would I lose TOPS?
If you do not pass 24 hours for the year, you will lose your TOPS award. If you lose your TOPS award due to not maintaining the GPA requirement, you have up to two years to bring up your grade point average from the date you lost your award. You must remain in school as a full-time student while trying to bring up your grades. (Summer school grades will be counted.)