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Financial Aid
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What is financial aid?


Financial aid is any form of monetary assistance that students receive to help pay for college.


When people talk about financial aid, they usually mean need-based federal financial aid (or student aid from either the federal or state government.)  Because most financial aid comes from the government, it’s best to focus on filing the FAFSA (link 14) first when seeking financial aid.


However, financial aid can also come in the form of scholarships from clubs or organizations, stipends from employers, or private loans from banks.  When seeking aid, leave no stone unturned!


Nearly everyone can qualify for financial aid!


Nearly everyone who applies can qualify for some type of aid.  Each year over 1,800 students receive an average award of $5,000 to attend BCC.    


Day, evening, and online students who are either full- or part-time students are eligible to receive financial aid consideration.  Because eligibility requirements vary depending on the type of financial aid (link to What types of financial aid can I get? below), BCC encourages every student to apply for financial aid. (link to How Do I apply for  aid? below)


To receive financial aid, you must meet the following requirements:

·         Be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident

·         Be registered with Selective Service (link to (unless female or born before 1960)

·         Be accepted into a degree or certificate program

·         Have a GED or high school diploma from an accredited high school

·         Have financial need (except for certain student loans)


If you attended college previously, you must also meet these requirements:

·         Be making Satisfactory Academic Progress (link to SAP policy)

·         Not be in default on any student loan

·         Not owe a refund on any grant or loan, and not have borrowed in excess of loan limits


What types of financial aid can I get?


 There are three major types of financial aid:


·         Grants, waivers, and scholarships provide free monies that can be applied to college expenses and do not have to be repaid. 

·         Work-Study provides part-time jobs so students can earn while they learn.  Paychecks can be used to cover living expenses while enrolled. The added benefit of this program is the opportunity for you to gain work experience and references. 


·         Low-interest student loans allow you to borrow money for your education. Repayment begins after graduation, and in many cases, the government pays the interest during your enrollment.  


Financial aid programs at BCC


Flowchart: Alternate Process: At BCC, if you file your FAFSA by May 1, complete the financial aid process by July 1, and qualify for a Pell Grant, financial aid will pay 100% of your tuition and fees up to 12 credits each semester. That’s a BIG deal!Federal Pell Grant (PELL) 

Eligibility for this grant is determined by the household and financial information you provided on the FAFSA.  It is generally the largest source of “free money” toward college expenses and does not have to be repaid.   There’s a Pell lifetime limit of 144 attempted credits. You can get other kinds of aid without being eligible for a Pell.


Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)

This grant is awarded to Pell-eligible students with the highest need and also does not have to be repaid.  BCC receives limited SEOG funding.


MASSGrant (MSS) (link to  

This grant is awarded by the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) to state residents who file their FAFSA by May 1 each year.  The amount printed on your award letter is an estimate only.  If you fail to meet the full-time requirement, we will replace your award with a Mass Part-Time Grant (while funds last). There is a lifetime limit of 4 semesters on receiving MASSGrants.


Mass Part-Time Grant (MPT) (link to

BCC gives first preference to awarding you this grant if you were offered a MASSGrant but were unable to enroll full-time.  You must be a Massachusetts resident and enrolled in 6-11 credits to receive this award. 


Mass Tuition Waiver (TWR) (link to

Tuition waivers are awarded to residents of Massachusetts.  A waiver can be used to cover day tuition charges for state-supported courses; if your day tuition charge is less than your award, you’ll receive the lesser amount.  A waiver does not cover college fees, books, or charges associated with summer, evening, or non state-supported day classes. If you enroll in non state-supported classes, we will convert your waiver to a Cash Grant (while funds last).  However, we can’t replace your waiver if you already have another type of waiver (DCF, Mass Rehab, National Guard, Veterans, John & Abigail Adams Scholarship, etc.)


Mass Cash Grant (CGR) (link to

This grant is also for state residents and is awarded first to priority, on-time applicants and offered to others on a funds available basis. Like other grants, the Cash Grant provides “free money” that can be applied to college expenses and does not have to be repaid.


Visit OSFA’s website for a complete listing of grants, scholarships, and tuition waivers (link to available through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 


Work-Study (FWS, CWS) (link to Student Employment  - Federal Work-Study)  

This program provides you with part-time employment opportunities in a variety of job sites both on and off campus.  Student wages range from $8.40/hour to $10.08/hour, depending on the qualifications required for the job.  Most students work the equivalent of 8-10 hours per week based on their award amount. Paychecks are issued every two weeks.  For more about how Work-Study works, contact our Coordinator of Financial Aid & Work-Study Programs, Karrie Trautman.

If you apply for financial aid, BCC will include Federal Direct Student Loans (FDSSL, FDUSL) (link to as part of your financial aid package, and a separate loan application process is involved. Federal Direct Student Loan programs provide low interest loans to help meet expenses related to college enrollment.  Eligibility for a “Subsidized’” or “Unsubsidized’” Direct Loan is determined by the household and financial information provided on your FAFSA. You could receive subsidized, unsubsidized, or a combination of both loans depending on your eligibility.  Most BCC students can qualify for a loan subsidy, which means that the government pays the interest on your loan while you’re enrolled.  Student loan borrowers can defer repayment until 6 months after graduation.  Based on the most recent available data, the average total student loan debt upon leaving BCC (graduating, transferring, etc.) is $8,552. 

If you’re going to take out a student loan, learn about the differences between federal and private education loans and apply for federal first. (link to For more information, contact our Coordinator of Financial Aid & Student Loan Programs, Christopher Weingartner.


In response to concerns at a national level about student lending practices, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, established a Code of Conduct for Student Loan Programs (link to Code of Conduct.doc) and called on each public institution of higher education in Massachusetts to adopt the Code.  Accordingly, on August 28, 2007, Berkshire Community College adopted the Code as specified and is fully complying with the Code.


A Student Borrower Bill of Rights (link to Borrower Bill of Rights.doc) is a variation on this Code of Conduct that is intended to enhance student understanding of their rights under the Code. 


How much financial aid can I get?  — We’ll show you the money!


BCC has nearly $12 million available to help students like you!  Each year nearly 1,800 students receive an average award of $5,000 to attend BCC, excluding student loans.   Just how much financial aid you can qualify for and what types of aid (link 7) you get depends on the following factors:


Whether you’re an on-time FAFSA filer (link to When should I file my FAFSA?)  (see case studies in the box below)


Your household and financial circumstances such as:

·         the number in your family

·         the number of college students in your family

·         your/your parents’ taxable income

·         your/your parents’ assets 


To get the most money you can qualify for, also check out:

·         So You Think You’re Independent? 

·         Common Mistakes to Avoid

·         Special Circumstances



For an estimate of how much aid you can expect to receive and how much you may have to pay out-of-pocket, use Cost Calculator.


Applying for financial aid has never been easier and it’s FREE! 



·         File a FAFSA - BCC requires just one form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) found online at (link).  There’s no charge for filing your FAFSA application at this free government website.  File the FAFSA just once each year to receive consideration for all forms of federal and state aid administered by BCC (grants, jobs, loans).


·         Apply early!  To receive priority award consideration, file your FAFSA on time (by May 1st) each year.  If you apply on time and qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, financial aid will pay 100% of your tuition and fees up to 12 credits per semester; on-time filers who do not qualify for a Pell Grant still receive up to $1,000 more than late filers.  BCC will process FAFSAs year-round while funds last.


·         The earlier you file your taxes, the earlier you can file your FAFSA - Federal regulations require students/families to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) when completing the FAFSA.  Allow 2 weeks after filing your taxes to file your FAFSA using the DRT.  If you estimate tax info on your FAFSA, you must update your FAFSA after filing your taxes using the DRT; then re-submit.  If you do not use the DRT and you are selected for verification, you will need to provide the Financial Aid Office with a transcript of your taxes, as copies of tax returns are not acceptable per regulation.


·         Get a PIN - (Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number) at (link) before beginning your FAFSA. The PIN can be used to electronically sign your FAFSA, correct processed FAFSA information, and apply for a student loan.  If you are providing parent information on the FAFSA, your parent must apply for his or her own PIN.  Save your PIN; you’ll be re-using it annually.

Rounded Rectangular Callout: CAUTION:  Save your FAFSA button at the bottom of the screen.  That way if you lose your Internet connection, you can use your PIN to access the FAFSA you already started.   
			If you click on the “exit” button, you’ll not only close your application, you’ll also erase all of the information you entered since the last time you saved it.

·         Complete your FAFSA - Gather and enter all required information such as your Social Security number and parents’ Social Security numbers if you are providing parent information, or your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen and information on savings, investments, and assets for yourself and for parents if you are providing parent information.  Pop-up boxes on each screen will instruct you as to the information required to complete each question.  


BCC’s Federal School Code:  002167


·         Submit your FAFSA - Make sure you receive a confirmation verifying that you successfully submitted it.  Print and save your confirmation. 

Why do I need a PIN to apply for financial aid?


Get a PIN (Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number) at (link) before beginning your FAFSA.  Your PIN will serve as your “electronic signature” when filing your FAFSA online, correcting or updating a processed FAFSA, and applying for a student loan.  If you are providing parent information on the FAFSA, your parent must apply for his or her own PIN.  Save your PIN; you’ll be re-using it annually.


What financial aid terms do I need to know about?


Cost of Attendance (link 3) includes tuition, fees, books, and allowances for room & board, transportation, and personal expenses.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the number that the federal processing system calculates based on the information you report on your FAFSA.  Your EFC is an estimate of your/your family’s ability to contribute toward college. 


Your Need is the difference between BCC’s Cost of Attendance and your EFC.  It is the number that determines how much financial aid and what types of aid BCC will award you.


BCC’s Cost of Attendance

-  Your Expected Famly Contribution

= Your Need (your eligibility for financial aid)


Financial aid package is the term we use for a typical award offer which includes a combination of financial aid programs such as federal and /or state grants, possibly a tuition waiver, work-study award, and student loan eligibility.  The package is broken into 2 installments (Fall 2014, Spring 2015) and is based on full-time enrollment.


Proration is the process by which we reduce your awards when you enroll less than full-time.  Most awards will be adjusted proportionately according to your actual enrollment status at the end of the refund period (10th day of any given term).  See chart below for actual proration schedule. 




% of Award Received










































100% of Day Tuition




0% of Award

Total Earned or Borrowed


NOTE:  If you add credits after the refund period, you may be liable for any additional charges incurred.