Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at: www.fafsa.gov
BCC’s FAFSA School Code: 002167
Almost everyone is eligible for some form of financial aid to help pay for college, including part-time, day or evening, online and non-traditional students. Financial aid may come in the form of grants (“freemoney”), loans, or both. We accept FAFSA financial aid applications all year long. However, students who file their FAFSA by May 1st each year will benefit from priority awarding and can receive up to $1,000 more in state funds. If you missed the May 1st deadline, it’s not too late to file your FAFSA, but file quickly while funds last. You’ll want to have at your fingertips your Social Security number along with your completed 1040 (tax form) and W-2(s) from the appropriate tax year. Most students can transfer IRS data directly into their FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If you are a dependent student (23 or younger), you will also need your parents’ information. Just go to the following web site to complete your FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid): www.fafsa.gov. We put this packet together with your most frequently asked questions in mind, and we’re here to help you navigate the financial aid process. Who qualifies for financial aid?
Financial Aid Office Guide to Financial Aid
Mistakes to avoid when applying for financial aid
Making mistakes on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could delay your application and make you lose out on some financial aid. The most common errors people make are:
Incorrect order of name – Enter your last name in the block requesting your last name, and your first name in the block requesting your first name. Many people enter their names in the wrong blocks.
Listing incorrect Social Security number – Check your entry and have someone else check it, too. Triple check to be sure.
Leaving the question about drug-related offenses blank – If you’re unsure about something, find out before you submit your FAFSA instead of leaving it blank. A conviction doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from getting aid.
Leaving questions about parents blank – If you’re under 24 years of age, you must report your parents’ income and obtain their signature on the FAFSA whether or not you live with them, unless you meet certain other criteria. To be considered independent for financial aid, you must meet (and be able to document) at least one of the following circumstances:
• You’re 24 or older.
• You’re married.
• You’re a veteran.
• You were an orphan or ward of the court at any time after the age of 13.
• You have children who receive more than half of their support from you, or you have dependents (other than children or spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you.
• You’ve had a serious falling-out with your parents. In this case, you must file a “dependency override” appeal with the Financial Aid Office, preferably before submitting your FAFSA.
Not listing your stepparent’s income and assets on the FAFSA – Your stepparent’s income and assets must be factored into your need analysis to differentiate your family from one that is headed up by a single parent.
Not using the IRS Data Retrieval tool – We strongly recommend using the IRS Data Retrieval process as the fastest, most accurate way to complete the FAFSA. If you do not use the IRS Data Retrieval tool, you will be asked to order a Tax Return Transcript from the IRS.
Forgetting to sign and date – Be sure to obtain your PIN from www.pin.ed.gov. Your PIN is your electronic signature and is assigned only to you.
How your award will be determined
After you have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the Financial Aid Office at BCC will be able to establish your eligibility for federal and state aid. Based on the information you reported on the FAFSA, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be calculated. You can find your EFC on the FAFSA Submission Confirmation Page or in the upper right corner of the Student Aid Report that will be sent to you from the federal processor.
The Federal EFC Formula
The Federal EFC formula is used to help distribute limited financial aid dollars as fairly as possible relative to students’ needs, with the goal of increasing access to higher education. The EFC is based on parents’ and students’ income and assets as reported on the FAFSA and is computed using a standard formula that assesses your family’s financial strength. The formula contains income and asset protection allowances to account for your family’s basic living and other expenses. Family size, federal tax liability, the state you live in and employment expenses are some of the factors that protect income. Additionally, some parent assets are protected based on a sliding scale that increases with the age of the older parent.
Financial Aid Eligibility
To determine your eligibility, the Financial Aid Office will subtract your EFC from the college’s Cost of Attendance. If your EFC is insufficient to pay the full Cost of Attendance, you would be considered eligible for financial aid. With your eligibility calculated, the college will be able to award grants and loan funds based on established guidelines for individual federal and state programs. The financial aid award letter you receive from BCC will be based on the assumption of full-time enrollment. If you enroll less than full-time, we will prorate your awards accordingly.
Cost of Attendance (COA) - Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial aid eligibility/financial need
Financial Aid Formula
To help you estimate your cost or net price based on current tuition and fees we recommend you use BCC’s Cost Estimator or Net Price Calculator. The Net Price Calculator can be found online at www.berkshirecc.edu/costestimator. The estimate provided using this calculator does not represent a final determination, or actual award, of financial assistance, or a final net price; it is an estimate based on cost of attendance and financial aid provided to on-time applicants (those who file their FAFSA by May 1st each year). Please remember that cost of attendance and financial aid availability change year to year. The estimates shall not be binding on the Secretary of Education, the institution of higher education, or the State.
Financial aid can come in the form of grants and scholarships (“free money”), work-study jobs and loans. Students who file the FAFSA are considered for all of the following financial aid programs.
GIFT AID — This is money that is being granted to you that you are not required to pay back.
Federal Pell Grant: Eligibility is determined by the Federal Processor, and it can be awarded to students who have not earned a bachelor’s degree. It is generally the largest source of “free money” for college expenses and is available to non-priority as well as priority applicants.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: 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.
Massachusetts State Scholarship (MASSGrant): This grant is awarded by the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) to eligible state residents who filed their FAFSA by May 1st and who attend BCC full-time. The amount on your BCC award letter is an estimate only. There is a limit of four semesters for receiving MASSGrants.
Tuition Waiver: Need-based tuition waivers are awarded to Massachusetts residents only. A waiver may be used to cover day tuition charges for state-supported courses; if your day tuition is less than your award, you’ll receive the lower amount. A waiver does not cover college fees, books, or any charges associated with summer, evening or non-state-supported 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 such as DSS, Mass Rehab, National Guard or Veterans’ waiver.
Mass Cash Grant: This grant is also for state residents and is awarded first to priority applicants and offered to others on a funds-available basis. Like other grants, this grant provides “free money” that may be applied to college expenses and does not have to be repaid.
Federal Work-Study: This federally-funded program provides part-time jobs on and off campus to students with financial need. Jobs are typically 8-10 hours per week and pay minimum wage or higher, depending on the position. Students are paid once every two weeks, and earnings are taxable. Students must apply for work-study positions through the Financial Aid Office. Apply as early in the semester as possible, as there are always more students applying than there are available positions.
Student Loans: Federal Direct Student Loan programs provide low-interest loans to help meet college expenses, and they must be paid back. Eligibility for a subsidized or unsubsidized Direct loan is determined from the household and financial information you provide on the FAFSA. The packet that comes with the award letter advises students of the necessary additional steps to take out loans, and the loan money is credited to student accounts with the rest of the financial aid money.
Available at BCC
Berkshire Community College is an affirmative action/equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, genetic information, maternity leave, and national origin in its education programs or employment.
Dear First-time Applicant:
The financial aid application process appears complicated when you only do it once a year.
Here’s a brief summary of the application and award process to help you better understand it:
- Go to www.fafsa.gov to complete the application for financial aid, which includes grants and loans. Applying online is the fastest way to have your application processed. You are welcome to use a computer in the BCC Financial Aid Office to complete your application.
- BCC receives your application from the federal processor and reviews it within 2-3
weeks for inconsistencies and for the following items:
• your citizenship (U.S. citizen or permanent resident)
your admission status (you must be accepted into a degree or certificate program)
• that you are not in default on any federal loans
• that you are registered with the Selective Service, if required
• your satisfactory academic progress, if previously enrolled
After this initial review, students will receive a letter from BCC stating one of the following:
- • You’ve been selected for verification, and we need more information from you. If you receive this letter, it is not an indication that you’ve done something wrong. The federal government selects 30 percent of all incoming applications, and the college is required to verify these. BCC may verify an additional 10 percent for inconsistencies in the application. You will be asked for copies of such additional documents as tax return transcripts, W-2’s, verification of dependent/independent status, unemployment documents, etc. (If you’re selected for verification, try to get that paperwork to us ASAP. Once we have all your paperwork and your application is verified, you will receive your award letter.)
• BCC is pleased to offer you financial aid. This “award letter” will list exactly what type and how much financial aid has been awarded. Most award offers include loan eligibility, and a loan application with application instructions is included with the award letter. 4. Financial aid funds will be credited to student accounts 30-45 days after the start of each semester and will not be applied to student bills until that time. Students choosing to waive the student health insurance should do so at the beginning of the semester to avoid being charged. Any excess aid funds will be mailed to students to help with living expenses while enrolled.
If you have any questions regarding your application status, feel free to call or stop by the Financial Aid Office at any time. Applicants with established WebAdvisor accounts can also track their application status online by clicking on “My Documents.”
The Financial Aid Staff
How can I qualify as independent of my parents for financial aid consideration?
A student’s dependency status determines to what degree the student has access to parental financial resources. An independent student is one who is at least 24 years old as of January 1st, is married, is a graduate or professional student, has a legal dependent other than a spouse, is a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, or was an orphan or ward of the court (at any time after the age of 13). All other students are considered dependent. You do not qualify for independent status just because your parents have decided to not claim you as an exemption on their tax returns or are refusing to provide support for your college education.
If the Financial Aid Administrator (FAA) believes that you are not an independent student, you may be required to provide proof of independent status to qualify, and the decision on your status is generally not subject to appeal. However, see your FAA if you have any special circumstances. The FAA may be able to do an override of your dependency status on the FAFSA, if warranted by involuntary dissolution of the family or other very unusual situations.
What should I do if my circumstances change after I apply for financial aid?
The federal need analysis formula is based on your previous year’s income because that’s the year for which documentation exists. If a circumstance in your family such as job loss or other loss of earnings dramatically changes the resources you expected to have at your disposal for the current year, or your family situation changes in certain key ways, then you may request that your financial need be re-evaluated on the basis of your current situation.
The billing office is asking me to pay my bill, but I am waiting for my financial aid to come in. What should I do?
Included with your student bill, you will receive a Semester Response Form that should be signed and returned to the Student Accounts Office. In addition to notifying the Student Accounts Office of your pending aid, you must authorize them to deduct other charges (bookstore, health insurance, etc.) from your pending aid.
How do I get a bookstore account to pay for my books?
If the amount of the financial aid you will receive is greater than your tuition bill, you may be able to use part of the remainder for a bookstore account. This will allow you to charge your books to your account, and the charge will be added to your bill. Bookstore accounts can be found on WebAdvisor two weeks prior to the start of classes, and one week prior to the beginning of the charge period at the bookstore.
ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT FINANCIAL AID
Financial Aid Office, 1350 West Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201 - www.berkshirecc.edu/financialaid
Who to contact:
Administrative Assistant (your first contact) - (413) 236-1640
Financial Aid & Student Loan Coordinator - (413) 236-1642
Financial Aid & Work-Study Coordinator - (413) 236-1643
Director of Financial Aid - (413) 236-1641