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From Futureology

Financial Aid Overview

how can I afford college?

Colleges and Universities will expect students and their families to contribute toward the expense of college, however, most college students utilize some form of financial aid to close the gap between what their families can afford, and the actual cost of college.


An excellent resource for comprehensive information about Financial Aid, Grants, Student Loan programs and much more

California Dream Act

The California Dream Act Deadline is approaching, please apply now if you are eligible.

California Dream Act

cash for college workshops

For Seniors and their parents
In January and February, students and families attend FREE workshops across California for help to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid  (FAFSA) and Cal Grant GPA verification form required for Cal Grants. The Cash for College program mission is to help low income and first generation to college-goers complete the application process so they can access financial aid for education and career/technical training after high school.

Cash for College workshops start up in January and run up to the Cal Grant deadline!
Click here to Find a Workshop near you

What is financial aid?

Financial Aid comes in many forms. The more common aid categories are: 

  • Gift Aid:  Financial aid that does not need to be paid back:
    • Grants - Typically based on financial need
    • Scholarships - Typically based on achievement or talent.
  • Federal Aid: Aid that comes from the U.S. government.  Usually distributed through the college. 

  • Loans: Funds that must be paid back later, with interest.  Federally-guaranteed loans can be from a private lender (e.g. a bank) or form the federal government (administered by the college).  Private loans are offered by private lenders with terms set by the lender, not the government.
  • Work Study :  the college provides the student with a job opportunity to earn money for college expenses
  • Institutional Aid:  money that the specific college or university offers. Could be a grant or scholarship. You may be required to complete an additional financial aid application called the CSS profile.

Federal Aid Programs

Pell Grant:  Gift aid that is given based on financial need.  How much aid you will be eligible to receive is based on your EFC (Expected Family Contribution), which is determined when you complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). 

Federal Work-Study:  Provides part-time employment for students who have financial need.  Jobs are usually available both on or off campus.  Work study is also determined by FAFSA.

Perkins Loan:  Fixed low interest loan through your college.  You must demonstrate financial need. 

Stafford Loan:  Currently a variable interest rate loan.  You can receive this loan from a private lender or your college.  They can be subsidized (no interest accrues while enrolled full-time in school) or unsubsidized (interest accrues while in school)

To find out more about loans, visit

California Department of Veteran's Affairs

The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) wants soon-to-graduate high school students and their parents to know that free college tuition may available because of a parent’s military veteran status.
The dependent child of a service connected (S/C) disabled or deceased veteran may be entitled to tuition and fee waiver benefits at any campus of the University of California, California State University, or California Community College system.
To be eligible, students must:

  • Meet California residency requirements;
  • Have a parent who is a disabled veteran rated 0% or more;
  • Have a veteran spouse who is S/C deceased or rated 100% S/C disabled;
  • Be a child earning less than $11,369 per year. There is no income limit for a spouse or children of S/C deceased or 100% S/C veterans;
  • Attend a California Community College, California State University, or University of California school;
  • Provide proof of the student's relationship to the veteran such as a copy of a birth or marriage certificate.

For complete eligibility requirements, a college fee waiver benefit application, or help applying for these valuable benefits, those interested should contact their County Veteran Service Office.

cal grants (state-based) financial aid

Cal Grants are one of the smartest ways to get cash for college. For starters, it's money you don't have to pay back. If you're a graduating high school senior or recent graduate, meet academic, financial and eligibility requirements ---you may receive a Cal Grant! Aliso Niguel High School will automatically send your GPA electronically to California on your behalf. No need to apply.

If you do NOT wish to be considered for a CalGrant and do NOT wish your GPA to be sent, please contact the registrar before Winter Break.

With a Cal Grant you can get up to $11,124 a year to pay for college expenses at any qualifying California college, university or career or technical school in California. Depending on which Cal Grant you get,  the money can be used for tuition, room and board, even books and pencils. The best part is, it's yours to keep and you don't have to pay it back.

The following is a list of programs administered by the California Student Aid Commission. Program names followed by an asterisk (*) are available for California residents only.

California Chafee Grant Program
For Eligible Foster Youth and Former Foster Youth 

Assumption Program of Loans for Education APLE
For Future Teachers K through 12

State Nursing Assumption Program of Loans for Education (SNAPLE)

Child Development Grant Program
For Future Child Care Careers

Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program (LEPD) *
For Eligible LEPD Undergraduates

Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program

National Guard Education Assistance Award Program

Key Financial Aid Terms

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): 
This is the form used by the government to determine the amount of federal and state aid you are eligible to receive.


Expected Family Contributions (EFC): 
This is a measure of your family's financial strength based on income, assets, family size, etc. and gathered from information you submitted on the FAFSA. Your EFC represents the amount of money the federal government believes your family can contribute toward one academic year of college. The actual amount your family ends up paying could differ from the EFC figure, depending on which sources of aid are available to you.

Aid Eligibility:
This is the total aid you are eligible to receive. It can include scholarships, grants, work-study and loans. Any aid that is offered is typically summarized in an award letter and sent to you by your prospective college(s).

Award Eligibility Letter (Financial Aid Award Letter):
This is the list of aid that you are eligible to receive from your prospective college, including terms and conditions. you should be aware that you are not required to accept all the aid found in the letter. You could turn down loans, for example.
Click here for a link to "Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter" from

Cost of Attendance (COA):
This figure includes the total price of tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, transportation and personal expenses for one year of college. This is also known at some colleges as the "Student Budget". Remember, the farther your college is from home, the more you must allocate for trips home!


Financial Need:
This is the difference between your Cost of Attendance (COA) and you EFC.

Awards typically based on financial need and do not need to be paid back.

Awards usually based on achievement or talent that also do not need to be paid back.

These funds must be paid back, usually with interest. There are federal student loans, federal parent loans, and private loans.
Federally-guaranteed student loans can come from a private lender (like a bank) or from the federal government and administered by your college.


An annual charge for borrowing money, expressed as a percentage of the loan balance. Interest rates are either variable (the rate can change) or fixed (the rate will not change).

Annual Percentage rate (APR)
The overall cost of borrowing money, expressed as an annual percentage of the loan balance. The APR combines the interest rate with loan fees, and also includes the effects of compounding.

Failure to repay your loan; it may lead to legal action to recover the money and can negatively affect your credit rating.

The full amount borrowed. During repayment, it refers to the portion of the original amount still owed (not including interests).

Loan Fees:
One-time charges to originate or guarantee a loan, expressed as a percentage of the loan balance.