Financial Assistance FAQs


Financial Assistance FAQs

FAQ - Financial Assistance

Am I eligible for all types of financial aid?

To receive federal, state, and institutional funds, you must meet certain financial aid eligibility requirements. If you do not meet the criteria, you may be eligible for scholarships external to the Graduate Center and/or private/alternative loans with a banking/lending institution.

Am I eligible to receive a federal student aid if I had a loan discharged due to total and permanent disability?

If you had a prior loan discharged due to a total and permanent disability and wish to take out another federal student loan or wish to receive a TEACH grant, you must obtain a physician’s certification stating that you have the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. You must also sign a statement that you are aware the new federal student loan or the TEACH grant service obligation cannot later be discharged for any present impairment unless it deteriorates so that you are again totally and permanently disabled.

1. Physician's Certification of Borrower's Ability to Engage in Substantial Gainful Activity Form
2. Borrower's Acknowledgment of Ineligibility for Cancellation of Loans Form

If you are in the three-year post-discharge monitoring period, you must resume payment on the discharged loan before receipt of the new loan or TEACH grant. If you received a discharge based on a determination from the VA, you are not required to resume payment on the discharged loan.

If a defaulted loan was conditionally discharged and then reinstated, you must make satisfactory repayment arrangements before receiving federal student aid.

Am I eligible to receive financial aid if I filed for bankruptcy?

If you include a non-defaulted federal student loan in an active bankruptcy claim, so that collection on the loan is stayed, you are eligible for aid as long as you have no loans in default (including the stayed loan).
If you list a defaulted federal student loan or grant overpayment in an active bankruptcy claim, you are eligible for further federal student aid funds if you provide documentation from the holder of the debt stating it is dischargeable (NSLDS loan status code DO).
If you have had a federal student loan or grant overpayment discharged in bankruptcy, you remain eligible for federal student loans, grants, and work-study (NSLDS loan status code BC for loans that did not default and status code DK or OD for loans that defaulted prior to the bankruptcy discharge). You do not have to reaffirm a loan discharged in bankruptcy in order to be eligible. The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 prohibits denial of aid based solely on filing for, or having a debt discharged in, bankruptcy.
If you filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may have your loan discharged only if the bankruptcy court finds that repayment would impose undue hardship on you and your dependents.

Are guest students eligible to receive financial aid?

Guest students are not eligible to receive financial aid.

Are there other forms to complete in addition to the FAFSA?

Yes.  After you have reviewed and accepted the loans you want to borrow, there will be certain requirements to complete to begin the student loan process:

Federal Direct Loan Application
: This form must be completed each academic year to request to be processed for a federal loan.

Federal Direct Loan Entrance Counseling/Interview:  First time borrowers are required to complete this online session before funds can be disbursed.

Federal Direct Stafford and Federal Direct Graduate Plus Loan Master Promissory Notes:  All students who have been awarded and have accepted the Federal Stafford Loan and Federal Graduate Plus Loan will need to complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note.

Private Loans: New and continuing students who wish to borrow a private loan will need to select a lender and complete a loan application with the lender.  You must apply for the entire academic year, not per semester.

Perkins Loan: New and continuing students who have been awarded a Perkins loan will receive an email from the Perkins Loan servicer, ECSI.  Please follow the information in the link to complete your promissory note.  The student must complete the promissory note in order for the loan funds to be credited to their accounts.

Do I have to apply for financial aid each year?

Yes. Both the Graduate Center and the federal government require students to apply for financial aid each year since it is possible that a student's situation may change from the prior year.

Do I need to be admitted before I can apply for financial aid?

You do not need to be admitted to the Graduate Center before you can apply for financial aid funding.  However, the Financial Aid Office cannot provide you with a financial aid package without an eligible admission status.  You must be admitted into a degree-seeking program.

Do international students receive financial aid?

There is no federal financial aid for international students at the graduate level. All international students should make arrangements for their college financial obligations prior to coming into the country.

How and when will I receive my student loan disbursement?

All loan funds are disbursed through the Bursar.  If you are registered for direct deposit, your lender will generally send a portion of your loan funds for each term via electronic disbursement.  For example, if you have borrowed a $12,000 loan, the lender will send $6,000 at the beginning of the fall semester and beginning of the spring semester (financial aid for the summer term is processed separately from the regular academic year).  Arrival of disbursements may vary depending upon the loan type, disbursement method, and enrollment.  When our office receives your disbursement information, your file will be reviewed for completeness, your enrollment status will be confirmed, and then your disbursement will be approved for issuance from the Bursar’s Office.  You must be enrolled at least half time to receive a federal loan disbursement.  The Bursar will notify you via email that a disbursement has been received for you.

How do I accept my financial aid award?

You can accept your financial aid award by logging on to Banner Student Web and indicating the type of financial aid you want to receive and the dollar amount for each type.  Additional requirements are also listed in Banner Student Web.

How do I apply for a graduate assistantship or fellowship?

Decisions regarding assistantships and fellowships are determined by academic departments. Please contact your academic department for information regarding their nomination procedure.

How do I apply for financial aid?

To apply for financial aid funding to include grants, work-study and federal student loans you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every academic year.  In addition, students must also complete a Direct Loan application with the Graduate Center.

The priority filing deadline for the 2015-2016 FAFSA and all documents is April 30, 2015. If you estimate your income and tax information on the FAFSA, be sure to make any corrections after you file your tax return.

How do I decline aid on my award?

If you wish to borrow less than what you have been awarded, you must notify the Office of Financial Aid at CUNY – Graduate Center in writing or through the "Financial Aid" in Student Web of your intent to cancel or reduce your loan. Click the "Edit" button to reduce the amount of your award, then click "Continue" to submit the request to your Financial Aid counselor.

How do I find information on non-GC scholarships?

Visit Fast Web for a General Scholarship Search Tool --

How does citizenship status affect financial aid eligibility?

To be eligible for federal, state, you must be classified as either a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you are subject to different regulations that may require the submission of citizenship documentation. You are considered to be an eligible non-citizen for financial aid purposes if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • A permanent U.S. resident with a Permanent Resident Card (I-551)
  • A conditional permanent resident (I-551C)
  • The holder of an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security showing any one of the following designations: “Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Parolee” (I-94 confirms that you were paroled for a minimum of one year and status has not expired), T-Visa holder (T-1, T-2, T-3, etc.) or “Cuban-Haitian Entrant.”
  • The holder of a valid certification or eligibility letter from the Department of Health and Human Services showing a designation of “Victim of human trafficking.”

How much am I allowed to borrow each year in student loans?

The amount you can borrow each year from the Federal Stafford Loan program is based on the number of credits you have earned toward your degree you are pursuing as well as your dependency status.  Detailed information about Annual Loan Limits is available at

How much can I borrow in a private loan?

Your eligibility for a private loan is determined by the difference between your total Cost of Attendance (COA) and any other financial aid.  If you have applied for and have been awarded federal financial aid, you can refer to Banner Student Web for the amount of aid you’ve already been awarded and the Cost of Attendance.  To calculate your maximum eligibility, subtract your total aid awarded form your total Cost of Attendance.  For example, if your total Cost of Attendance is $50,000 and you already are receiving $30,000 in other forms of aid, you can request up to $20,000 in a private loan.

How soon after January 1 should the FAFSA be completed for the upcoming school year? Is it better to wait until the income tax returns have been completed?

Send in the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. You are not required to wait until your taxes are done. Although it is better to complete your taxes early, it is okay to use estimates of your income, so long as they aren't far off from the actual values. You will have an opportunity to correct your FAFSA after you've completed your taxes.

I am supposed to receive a $25,000/$18,000 fellowship. Why is my award amount much lower on my Financial Aid Award Letter?

Tuition remission and stipend amounts will appear on your Financial Aid Award Letter, but bi-weekly payments attached to GABs and GTF do not appear on your letter. The complete breakdown of your year-to-year award will be present in your Appointment letter from the Office of the Provost.

I defaulted on a student loan. How do I resolve this so I can receive financial aid?

If you defaulted on a federal student loan, you cannot receive further Title IV aid until you resolve the default. You can resolve the default in the following ways:

1. Repay the loan in full or consolidate the loan: If a defaulted loan is successfully consolidated, it is counted as paid in full. However, if the loan holder simply writes off the entire loan, the loan is not paid in full, and you remain ineligible for Title IV funds.

2. Make satisfactory repayment arrangements: After you make six consecutive, full, voluntary payments on time, you may regain eligibility for Title IV funds. Voluntary payments are those made directly and do not include payments obtained by federal offset, garnishment, or income or asset execution. You may regain eligibility under this option only one time.

We must have written documentation that you have made satisfactory repayment arrangements from the loan holder.

Loan rehabilitation: Although you can regain eligibility for all federal student aid by making satisfactory repayment arrangements, the loan is still in default. A loan is rehabilitated once you make nine full, voluntary payments on time (no later than 20 days after the due date) within 10 consecutive months.

After a loan is rehabilitated, you will not be in default anymore, and you will have all the normal loan benefits, such as deferments.

I have a five-year fellowship, and why am I being charged student fees this year when I didn’t have to pay them last year?

The distribution of your award changes from Year 1 to Year 2, although your minimum total award may be fixed.

For many first-year fellowships, larger stipends are offered to match bi-weekly payments from Graduate Assistantships to reach your total award amount.

In subsequent years, you will receive larger bi-weekly payments, while your stipend amounts may be smaller or absent.
The complete breakdown of your year-to-year award will be present in your Appointment letter from the Office of the Provost.


I missed the deadline for applying for aid. Can I still apply now?

It is still possible to apply for financial aid after the FAFSA priority deadline. In order to be considered for federal financial aid, your application and processed FAFSA must be received by the Office of Financial Aid before the end of that enrollment period.

Is it possible for graduate students to be eligible for financial aid for the summer?

Graduate students who enroll at least half-time during the summer (6 credits) may be eligible to receive a Federal Direct Stafford Loan for that period. If you are interested in being considered for this loan please complete the summer enrollment questions on FAFSA. If you do qualify for a Federal Direct Stafford Loan for summer enrollment, you may be required to sign a Master Promissory Note and complete Entrance Counseling.

Is there a limit on how long I can receive financial aid?

U.S. Department of Education regulations prohibit students from continuing to receive federal financial aid if they have earned more than 150% of the credits that are required to earn their degree.  If the degree you are trying to earn requires 120 credits, you may not continue receiving aid if you have earned 180 credits and still have not earned the degree.  This can happen if students change their major and are required to take additional courses.  This regulation affects both undergraduate and graduate students.

What if I don't qualify for need-based financial aid?

If you don't qualify for need-based financial aid, the Financial Aid Office will consider you for non-need based financial aid funding provided you meet the eligibility requirements for those funds.

What if I need to withdraw from my classes and have federal aid?

Please notify our office immediately.  Contact your advisor for more information about the academic and billing aspects of withdrawing from classes.  For financial aid purposes, you will be considered to be a withdrawn student.  We calculate how much aid you have earned based on the amount of time you have been enrolled.  It is possible that some federal funds will need to be returned and you may owe a bill to the college.

What is half-time and full-time?

A graduate student will be considered half-time if he/she is enrolled in at least 6 credits during the 15 week semester.

A graduate student will be considered full time, if he/she is enrolled in:

7 credits for Ph.D. students (or WIUs)
12 credits for M.A. students
12 credits for School of Journalism students (although students are usually enrolled in 15 credits)

Audit courses do not count toward full-time or half-time eligibility for federal student aid.

What is Satisfactory Academic Progress?

Students must be making satisfactory progress toward the degree in order to maintain status at the Graduate Center and to be eligible for any student financial assistance. A student is deemed not to be making satisfactory progress if he or she has a grade point average below 3.00, has accumulated more than two open grades (INC, INP, NGR, ABS and ABP), has completed 45 credits without having passed the First Examination, has completed 10 semesters without having passed the Second Examination, has received two “NRP” grades in succession, or has exceeded the time limit for the degree.

The Graduate Center reviews each student’s record every semester. If formal standards have not been met, a student may register (and receive financial aid, if otherwise eligible) only upon petition of the student’s Executive Officer to the Vice President for Student Affairs. Students whose petitions are approved are considered to be making satisfactory progress toward the degree and are eligible to receive financial aid.

What is the Master Promissory Note?

It is a legal document between a student and the government agreeing that the student will replay the loan.  It is valid for 10 years.  It explains the rights and responsibilities associated with a student loan.  You do not need to complete a new Master Promissory Note (MPN) each academic year, unless you wish to change lenders.  The Graduate Plus Loan may require a new MPN each year if an endorser was selected.

What is your Federal School Code?

CUNY Graduate Center – 004765

What options do I have if the aid I received is not enough?

Graduate students may consider applying for the Graduate or Professional Student PLUS loan or Alternative loans to fill the gap between the aid offered and their budget. Information on the PLUS loan can be found at the Office of Financial Aid website. Contact the lender directly to ask about rates and other questions.

What should I do if I will be taking more (or less) credits than I originally said on my application?

Send a letter or email to Financial Aid at CUNY – Graduate Center stating the change in number of credits being taken.

What will you do with my deferment form or other enrollment verification form?

Send these forms to the Office of the Registrar.  A deferment form can only be completed once the student has demonstrated half-time status for the period of deferment.

Why am I being charged student fees this year when I didn’t have to pay them last year?

Tuition remission and stipend amounts will appear on your Financial Aid Award Letter, but bi-weekly payments attached to GABs and GTF do not appear on your letter. The complete breakdown of your year-to-year award will be present in your Appointment letter from the Office of the Provost.

Why do I have to submit my Federal Tax Return to the Office of Financial Aid?

By law, every college/university is required to verify 30% of their student body.  The government randomly selects a 30% population of the students to perform the Verification Process. In completing this process, our office simply compares your federal Tax Return to the tax figures you reported on your FAFSA.  If there are any discrepancies, they are corrected and your financial aid awards are reviewed again for eligibility.  If any changes are made to your award due to Verification, you will be contacted.