Answers to Common Questions About Financial Aid
The Application Process
How do I apply for financial aid?
Apply online! If you are a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.ed.gov. If you are not a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen, but meet the requirements of the California Dream Act (AB 540) complete the California Dream Act Application (CADA) at www.dream.csac.ca.gov.
Why should I file the FAFSA? I don’t think I will qualify anyway.
One of the biggest mistakes new students make is not applying for financial aid because they think they don’t qualify. If you think you need help paying for fees, books and other expenses, you should apply. Even if you aren’t sure you’ll qualify, we encourage all students to apply. Citizens and eligible non-citizens can complete the FAFSA, while other non-citizens can complete the California Dream Act Application (CADA) instead.
Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?
Yes, you must reapply by submitting a new FAFSA/CADA for each academic year. The new FAFSA/CADA for the following academic year becomes available on October 1 annually.
When do I apply for financial aid? Are there any deadlines?
The FAFSA is available for students to apply all year-round. Each application becomes available on October 1 one year prior to the academic year, with a filing deadline of June 30 at the end of the academic year. For example, the 2018-2019 FAFSA will come out on October 1, 2017, with a final deadline of June 30, 2019. It’s true! You can file all year long! However, we always encourage students to file early if you need money for books, supplies, etc. in advance of the school year. Additionally, there is a March 2 priority filing deadline every year to be considered for additional grants, like Cal Grant.
Should I do the FAFSA/CADA first or my Admissions Application first?
It makes no difference whether you do your FAFSA/CADA first or your Admissions Application first. However, we encourage you to do both as closely together as possible. Additionally, you must be registered and enrolled in classes before any financial aid disbursements can be made.
I missed the March 2 deadline! Is it too late to apply for financial aid?
If you are a FAFSA filer, you should definitely still apply! March 2 is only a priority deadline for Cal Grant, as well as priority awarding for additional aid such as Federal Work-Study. You can still apply and qualify for the Federal Pell Grant and California College Promise Grant (formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver) all academic year long. So, if you miss the March 2 deadline, don’t worry! You can still complete the FAFSA to get financial aid. However, if you are a CADA filer, you must file by the March 2 deadline to be considered for Cal Grant only.
What if I am not a U.S. Citizen? Can I still apply for financial aid?
To be eligible for federal student aid on the FAFSA, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen. For financial aid purposes, an eligible non-citizen is one of the following:
S. Permanent Resident who has an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
a conditional permanent resident (I-551C); or
a non-citizen with an Arrival-Departure record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with one of the following designations—“Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Parole,” or “Cuban-Haitian Entrant.”
If you do not qualify as an eligible non-citizen, you might still be considered for state aid under the California Dream Act Application (CADA) if you meet AB 540 requirements.
Why do I have to put my parents’ income and other information if I am over 18 years old?
Students who are considered “dependent” on the FAFSA must provide parent information. Whether you are considered to be “dependent” is based on a series of questions on the FAFSA. Click here for more information on how dependency status is determined. Please note that, regardless of where a student lives, whether the parents provide support, or the parents’ willingness to provide the required information, the student must still provide parent information to complete the FAFSA.
Why is the FAFSA/CADA asking me for income from two years ago?
Because the FAFSA/CADA for an academic year is available on October 1 of the prior year, the most recent income would be from the prior-prior tax year. For example, if you are completing the 2018-2019 FAFSA/CADA on October 1, 2017, the last full tax year would be 2016, so you use the 2016 income information to complete the FAFSA. This ensures that the application is based on actual income data rather than estimates, since most people will have already completed their prior-prior year tax returns by the time they apply for financial aid.
The financial aid application is complicated! Where can I get help?
We offer regular lab services where you can get one-on-one assistance completing your online application! Just visit our office between the hours of 9AM-1PM Monday-Friday (closed Fridays in summer). Select “FA Lab” as your reason when checking in at the sign-in kiosk. Our office is located in the Student Services Center. We also host several “Financial Aid On-the-Spot” events throughout the year, where students can get help and connect with a financial aid staff member. Follow us on social media to stay on top of all our financial aid events! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, just search for #cccwheresmycheck.
The California DREAM Act
What if I am not a U.S. Citizen or an eligible non-citizen. Can I still apply for financial aid?
If you are not a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen, but meet the requirements of the California Dream Act (AB 540), you may qualify to apply for state financial aid programs by completing the California Dream Act Application (CADA) online at www.dream.csac.ca.gov. The CADA is available online on October 1 annually for the following academic year. Students must apply by March 2 to be considered for Cal Grant. If you apply after March 2, you can only be considered for the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, which is not a cash award.
What is AB 540?
You may qualify to apply for state aid under the California Dream Act (AB 540), if you meet all of the following criteria:
Attended a California high school for at least three years, OR attained the equivalent of at least three years of credits from a California high school and attended at least three full years at California K-12 schools;
Graduated from a California high school, got a GED, or passed the California High School Proficiency Exam;
Are registered or enrolled at a California community college;
If required, complete an affidavit saying you have filed (or will file when you are eligible to do so) for legal immigration status.
Students who meet all of the above criteria should visit the Admissions & Records Office, located in the Student Services Center, to have their AB 540 status verified. The California Dream Act Application (CADA) is open to all students meeting the above criteria on October 1 annually, with a deadline of March 2 annually for the following academic year, in order to be considered for Cal Grant.
If I am an AB 540 student and I don’t get a Cal Grant, is there any other type of financial assistance I can apply for?
There are many types of private scholarships that undocumented AB 540 students may qualify for, so we encourage you to apply! Visit our Scholarship Tips & Resources page for more information on free scholarship search tools and other sites offering financial resources for undocumented students. You should also contact the Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) office to inquire about other state resources, such as book grants or help with transportation. Book an appointment with EOPS today!
After filing your FAFSA/CADA
OK, I filed my FAFSA/CADA. Now what?
Filing your application is only the first step in completing the financial aid process and receiving funds, if eligible. First, you will receive email confirmation of your application submission and your Student Aid Report (SAR) within 1-3 business days. Next, in about 10-14 business days, you will receive an email notification from the Contra Costa College Office of Financial Assistance to your InSite Portal school email account. This email will acknowledge that we have received your application, and also provide you with instructions for checking your “Required Documents” on InSite Portal to find out if you have any other documents or forms to submit. Most students have to turn in some additional paperwork before receiving any financial aid payments.
I made a mistake on my FAFSA/CADA! How do I fix it?
No problem! You can always make corrections to your FAFSA/CADA information if you need to. Just log back into your FAFSA on www.fafsa.gov, or CADA on www.caldreamact.org, then click on the link to “Make Corrections.” If you need help, visit our FA Lab hours for one-on-one assistance with your online application. Lab hours are limited, so check our web site for the most recent listing of lab hours.
What if I (or my parents) don’t make as much money now as I/they did on the taxes that the FAFSA/CADA is asking for?
We understand that the FAFSA/CADA requires income information from the prior-prior tax year, and sometimes life situations occur that cause the income to decrease. This can include things like loss of employment, loss of benefits, separate or divorce, or the death of a parent/spouse. Should any of these situations occur, you may file a Reduction of Income Form to update the income information on your financial aid application. All forms are available on the Financial Aid Forms web page. Please be sure to read and follow all instructions carefully and submit all required supporting documentation.
Can I still get financial aid if I am not enrolled full-time?
Yes! You don’t have to be a full-time student to receive financial aid. At Contra Costa College, there is no unit requirement for the California College Promise Grant (formerly known as the BOG Fee Waiver). Additionally, to receive financial aid cash disbursements, many students can qualify for as little as 1 unit. However, this can vary from student to student and the amount of the disbursement will be less than the full award amount.
Do I have to turn in anything else to receive financial aid? How will I know?
Filing the FAFSA/CADA is only the first step in the financial aid process. Most students will have to submit additional forms or documents to complete their financial aid file. To tell if you have anything missing, log on to InSite Portal, then click on the Financial Aid tile. Next, click on “Financial Aid Home” from the menu, then on “Required Documents.” You can download and print any required forms right from the web site. Submit any required documents ASAP! Your financial aid cannot be awarded until all required documents have been received and reviewed.
What if I can’t come in during office hours to turn in my missing documents?
We are happy to accept your documents via fax or email. You can find our fax number and email address on our home page online.
What is “verification” and why do I have to turn in IRS tax return transcripts when I already put the information on my FAFSA/CADA?
Verification is the process used to confirm the data that you reported on your FAFSA/CADA. We use this process to make sure the income and other information that you reported is accurate. If you are selected for verification, it doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong! Most people are randomly selected for verification. Those selected for verification are selected by the application processing center, not by Contra Costa College, although CCC has the authority to request verification documents on a case-by-case basis.
OK, I turned in all the documents that were required on InSite Portal. How long will it take until I hear back?
Processing time can vary throughout the year. Peak processing times tend to occur around the beginning of each semester, which can increase the processing time. We encourage you to complete your FAFSA/CADA and submit any required documents early to avoid long lines and long processing times! Generally, processing time can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks. Once your documents have been processed, you will receive an email to your InSite Portal email account regarding your award status.
How can I tell how much my financial aid disbursement will be?
Once your financial aid file is complete, you will receive an email to your InSite Portal email account with instructions for viewing your Award Letter. The Award Letter will include all awards for which you have been determined eligible for, as well as dollar amounts of each award. But remember, if you are not enrolled full-time, your award amount will be prorated. Also remember, the California College Promise Grant (formerly known as the BOG Fee Waiver) is NOT a cash award, so you should not expect to receive that amount in a cash disbursement.
I can see my Award Letter on InSite Portal, but where’s my check?
The date you will receive your financial aid disbursement depends on the date that you received your award notification via email. You can find more information on disbursement dates on the Receiving Your Financial Aid page. Generally, the financial aid disbursement will take place about 5-10 business days after you are notified via email.
How do I get my financial aid money?
We have contracted with BankMobile to deliver your financial aid refund. To choose your disbursement option online, log onto InSite Portal, click the “Financial Aid” tile, then click “My FA Disbursements.” You can even read our contract with BankMobile if you’d like.
I got my financial aid money, but it doesn’t match the amount on my Award Letter. Why not?
This could occur for a number of reasons. First, your Award Letter includes a full annual award. Awards are split into 50% per semester, so you won’t receive all of the award in one semester. Additionally, there are two disbursements per semester, so the semester amount is also split into two halves. Furthermore, if you are not enrolled full-time, you will not receive the full award amount and it will be prorated instead. Lastly, there are times when some of your courses might not be eligible for financial aid, such as if you are repeating the class multiple times.
Why did my brother/sister/friend get more financial aid than I did?
Your eligibility for financial aid is based upon a number of factors, including the size of your family, how many members of the family are in college, and, of course, family income and assets. Even though your family’s circumstances may appear to be very similar to your sibling’s or friend’s, there may be substantial differences in the components used to calculate financial aid eligibility.
Other Types of Financial Assistance
How do I apply for scholarships?
Scholarships are a financial resource available to help students cover the cost of higher education when federal and state financial assistance is not enough. The Contra Costa College Foundation Scholarship Application is available on November 1 annually for the following academic year, with a deadline of March 2 annually. We also encourage students to apply for other external scholarship opportunities as well! You can find more information on scholarships by visiting the Scholarships web page.
How do I apply for a student loan?
Contra Costa College participates in the Federal Direct Student Loan program. Students may apply for a loan online through the InSite Portal by clicking on the “Financial Aid” tile, then “Financial Aid Home,” then select the “New Loan Request” option from the main drop-down menu. To qualify, you must have a completed financial aid file, be in good Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standing, and be enrolled in 6 or more degree-applicable units. Learn more about it.
I could use a part-time job to help cover my college expenses. Does financial aid help with jobs?
The Office of Financial Assistance administers the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. FWS is designed to provide part-time jobs for students, allowing them to earn money for educational expenses while earning valuable work experience. To apply for FWS, all you need to do is complete your FAFSA by March 2, and be sure to answer “Yes” to the question about FWS. Awards are made on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are not awarded FWS on your Award Letter, you may visit the Office of Financial Assistance to be placed on the FWS Waiting List to be considered when/if additional FWS awards become available.
Can I get financial aid for classes in the summer?
Yes! There are a couple ways you can qualify for financial aid for summer classes. First, if you did not receive a full-time Pell Grant award in either the fall or spring prior to the summer term, you may utilize those leftover funds for summer classes, if otherwise eligible. Second, if you did receive a full-time Pell Grant award in both the fall and spring prior to the summer term, you might still be able to qualify for additional Pell Grant funds if you are enrolled at least half-time. To get the California College Promise Grant (formerly known as the BOG Fee Waiver) in summer, you should complete your FAFSA for the following academic year.
Are there any additional financial resources I should know about?
The Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) office provides additional student support services, such as book grants or help with transportation, to students from low-income and under-represented backgrounds. Book an appointment with EOPS to find out more about how to apply and qualify for these additional services.
Maintaining Eligibility and Overpayments
Do I have to have good grades to get financial aid?
Yes, there are academic requirements in order to maintain eligibility for financial aid programs. This is called Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. It is important that you read and understand the full SAP Policy. If you do not meet the SAP requirements, you will lose eligibility to receive financial aid.
Does financial aid every run out?
Yes, there are limits to how long you can receive financial aid. First, there is a Maximum Timeframe in the SAP Policy that limits the amount of units a student can receive financial aid for at CCC. Also, there is a lifetime limit to the amount of Federal Pell Grant that a student can receive altogether. Watch this video for more information on the Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility. Lastly, there are loan limits, both annually and aggregately, that a student can take out. Watch this video for more information on Student Loan Limits.
What happens if I drop classes, or don’t attend my classes, after I received a financial aid payment?
Dropping classes or failing to attend can result in a financial aid overpayment. This means that you may be required to pay back some or all of the financial aid that you received. It is important that you read and understand the Withdrawals and R2T4 Policy if you are receiving cash disbursements from financial aid programs. If you are unsure how dropping a class will affect your financial aid, we encourage you to visit the Office of Financial Assistance to speak with an advisor.
I take classes at Contra Costa College and another college/university too. Can I get financial aid from both schools? Can I get financial aid for all the units I am taking at both schools?
No, you cannot receive financial aid disbursements from two schools during the same period of enrollment. Receiving aid at two different schools will result in a financial aid overpayment and you will be required to pay back financial aid funds to one of the schools. If you are attending Contra Costa College and another California Community College, you may be able to receive financial aid for all of your combined units, but you will need to make an appointment to complete a Consortium Agreement. Contact our office to book an appointment.
Can I get financial aid for a class that I am taking more than once?
There is a limit to the amount of times that you can retake a class and still receive financial aid for that class. If you are not sure if a class you are retaking will qualify for financial aid, you can review the Financial Aid Repeat Policy for more details.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Why won’t you give me information about my financial aid file over the phone?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of your educational records. Because there is no way for us to accurately confirm your identity over the telephone, we will only answer general questions about financial aid via telephone. For specific information about your financial aid file, including things like disbursement dates or file status, we encourage you to check your status on InSite Portal, or visit the office in person with a photo ID. Alternately, you may email us from your student email account on InSite Portal and include your student ID, full name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Because your InSite Portal email requires a secure log-in, this suffices as confirmation of your identity for FERPA purposes.
I am a veteran. Can I get financial aid in addition to my VA benefits?
In addition to applying for your veteran education benefits, you might also be eligible to receive other financial aid, so we encourage all students to complete the FAFSA. If you are a recently discharged veteran who is currently unemployed (usually due to a loss of income from military wages), be sure to complete and submit the Reduction of Income Form to the Office of Financial Assistance after you have submitted your FAFSA online. You can find the form on the Financial Aid Forms web page. Filing a Reduction of Income Form can help increase your eligibility for financial aid programs by reducing the income from military wages reported on your FAFSA from the prior-prior tax year.
What if I still have questions?
Don’t worry! You’re not alone. We understand that paying for college can be a huge challenge and the process can be confusing. If you have more questions or need help, you may visit our office in person during normal office hours. Please be sure to have a photo ID to receive information about your financial aid file. You can also email us from your school email account (InSite Portal) with inquiries, but be sure to include your full name, student ID number, date of birth, and the last four digits of your SSN – this will help us to verify your identity in order to release information via email. If you have specific questions, we do not recommend that you call us because we are unable to give detailed information over the telephone due to federal privacy laws.