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College Finances—Parents' Frequently Asked Questions


What are the steps involved in receiving financial aid at the University of Minnesota?
How much should we borrow?
What does it cost an undergraduate to attend the University of Minnesota?
When is tuition due? Will I receive a bill?
What are my student's loan options?
What is the PLUS loan?
Do I have any alternative loan options?
What is Work-Study?

Note: For information about how to pay bills and getting access to your student's records, see Paying Bills and Student Records Access.

Q: What are the steps involved in receiving financial aid at the University of Minnesota?

A: The financial aid process from application to payment consists of six steps. Our students can use the self-service "Financial Aid Status" link to track where they are in the process. This and other self-service options are found on the One Stop Student Services website.

Financial aid disbursements can be applied automatically towards bookstore charges by checking "Yes" on the Financial Aid Withholding Authorization section of the electronic Financial Aid Award Notice (eFAAN). The charge must be made after the last bill of the previous term and before the disbursement of aid for the current term.

At the earliest, students can expect to receive their financial aid credit balance the week before classes begin. Students are encouraged to sign up for direct deposit to have their financial aid credit balance refund automatically deposited into their checking or savings account at their bank. The "Direct Deposit" quick link on the One Stop home page makes signing up for direct deposit easy. Otherwise, a financial aid credit balance check will be sent to the student's current mailing address on file with the University within a few days of disbursement.

Q: How much should we borrow?

A: This is a personal decision but we encourage students to borrow only what they need. Once you have determined your student's estimated expenses for the school year and subtracted any grants, scholarships, or other resources such as savings or earnings from work, the difference is likely to be the amount you will need to borrow in a student and/or parent loan.

The loans offered to your student will be the maximum amount he or she is eligible to borrow. We recommend that you and your student reduce the amount of your loans, if possible, or decline them entirely if you are able. You may reapply for certain types of loans during the school year if you later decide that you do need to borrow additional funds.

Q: What does it cost an undergraduate to attend the University of Minnesota?

A: Every credit over 13 is free when undergraduates pay a per semester flat tuition fee that covers 13 or more credit hours per semester. In general, students need to register for 15 credits per semester in order to graduate in four years. For specific tuition costs, please see the One Stop Costs and Tuition information page.

In addition to tuition, full-time students are assessed each semester a student service fee, technology fee (amount varies by college), and the student health benefit plan (if the student is not covered by a parent's insurance policy).

Discretionary costs—those students have some control over—include room and board, books and supplies, and personal and transportation expenses. These costs may vary, depending on the student's individual circumstances and how much the student wants to economize.

The best place to estimate your student’s expenses for the year is on One Stop’s Cost of Attendance page.

Q: When is tuition due? Will I receive a bill?

A: Students receive bills for tuition and fees electronically. These billing statements are emailed to students' U of M email account approximately three weeks before the due date. For a list of current billing due dates, please visit the Student One Stop website.

Billing statements list the amount owed, the minimum payment due, and a due date. Bills typically include charges such as tuition, fees, University housing and meal plans, books charged at the U of M Bookstores, and bus passes. To avoid paying any installment billing charges or late fees, payment must be received in full by the first due date.

Students may elect to pay by installments during the term instead of the full amount by paying at least the minimum amount due listed on the bill by the due date. If a student pays by installments, a $35 installment charge per semester is added to their balance on the next bill. Students need to pay the minimum payment listed by the due date indicated to keep their account current, to avoid late payment fees, and to avoid a hold on their record. Students may receive up to two additional billing statements during the term and each will indicate a minimum payment amount.

Students have the option of paying their bill online with an electronic check (e-check) withdrawn directly from their personal checking or savings account. Students may also choose to make a payment with a Visa, MasterCard, DISCOVER, or American Express credit card.

Parents set up with a Parent/Guest Access profile also have the option to pay their students’ account online.

Q: What are my student's loan options?

A: Your student's loan options are listed on her or his electronic Financial Aid Award Notice (eFAAN). We award your student the best possible combination of federal, state, and University loans at the maximum amounts. In general, we recommend that your student accept her or his loans in the order they are offered (from top to bottom on the eFAAN) because we award the loans with the best terms first. Each loan offer contains an online description and a link to a loan comparison chart. See the loans page for more information.

Q: What is the Ford Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) loan?

A: The PLUS loan is available to parents of dependent undergraduates. The purpose of this loan is to assist families who need aid other than, or in addition to, that offered through other financial aid programs. Your lender is the U.S. Department of Education. Before accepting this loan you may want to consult your local bank's investment experts. They can discuss the pros and cons of home equity loans or borrowing against pension plans or life insurance, for example. See the PLUS loans FAQ for more information.

Q: Do I have any alternative loan options?

A: Federal student loans provide the most favorable terms, so accept any awarded federal loans first. If you need additional support or do not wish to accept the Parent PLUS loan, evaluate your private loan options.

Q: What is Work-Study?

A: Work-Study is a financial aid program designed to help eligible students meet educational costs through part-time employment with a Work-Study eligible employer. Employers are encouraged to hire work-study student employees because federal and state financial aid funding pays 70 percent of the student's wages, requiring the employer to pay only the remaining 30 percent. Employers interview and hire qualified applicants at their discretion. Employers include many campus offices and departments, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

Two primary benefits of work-study are: (1) work-study applicants are attractive candidates to employers, increasing their job opportunities and (2) work-study earnings are not considered income on the FAFSA when the student re-applies for financial aid for the next school year, thus, protecting their eligibility for financial aid.

A variety of work-study jobs are available; most are located on campus. Once a student accepts a work-study award, s/he can find instructions on the Office of Human Resources website on how to apply and view current student job openings online. Salaries are dependent on the skill level of the job, but all jobs pay at least minimum wage. Currently the minimum wage at the University of Minnesota is $6.50 per hour. Many student jobs on campus pay more than the $6.50 minimum wage. Students receive a paycheck every two weeks for the hours they work.

The work-study award amount reflects the maximum amount of money the student will be eligible to earn as a work-study employee. If your son or daughter wants to earn more than this amount, s/he can speak to a One Stop counselor about increasing their work-study award if they are eligible and funds are available.

On the other hand, the award does not necessarily mean that your son or daughter will actually earn the entire amount during the academic year. Earnings are determined by the rate of pay associated with the job and the number of hours worked per week. Go to the work study awards page for more information.

If my son or daughter was not awarded Work-Study, can he or she still work on campus?
Is there any way for my daughter to get any additional funds, based on our reduced family budget this year?
Are there deadlines/dates that we need to be aware of when applying for the Ford or PLUS loans?
Who can I talk to for all my questions related to college finances

Q: If my son or daughter was not awarded Work-Study, can he or she still work on campus?

A: Yes! If your son or daughter was not awarded a need-based Work-Study award, they are still eligible for student employment. Most of the student employment opportunities on campus have the same pay rates and schedules, yet do not require the applicant to have a work-study award. They can view and apply for available positions through the Student Employment website.

Q: I was recently laid off from my job, but on the FAFSA forms, there is no space to provide information to reflect that our family income will be lower this year than last year. Is there any way for my daughter to get any additional funds, based on our reduced family budget this year?

A: A committee will be happy to review your current situation and make any possible changes to your daughter's financial aid eligibility.

You and your daughter can complete and submit the Special Circumstances Appeal form for dependent students (along with any requested documentation). A review committee will consider your appeal and make any appropriate adjustments. If the committee members have questions, they will contact you directly. The appeal form contains all the information and instructions you'll need, and it is available as a PDF at Forms Online.

Q: Are there deadlines/dates that we need to be aware of when applying for the Ford or PLUS loans? Or are we able to wait until our student is given the award package?

A: The U of M is a direct lending school, so students and parents borrow from the federal government, rather than through commercial lending institutions. The University's Office of Student Finance (OSF) administers the loans, determining loan eligibility, approving the loan, confirming the promissory note when necessary, receiving the funds from the federal government, and crediting the loan amount directly to the student's University student account. More information is available on One Stop.

The short answer is that families should wait for the award notice to see what financial aid the student is eligible for. The student will be considered for grants, work-study, and student/parent loans. Then the student can accept, reduce, or decline any of their loan offers on the electronic financial aid award notice (eFAAN). One Stop will then provide instructions on how to complete the promissory note for each loan.

Q: Who can I talk to for all my questions related to college finances?

A: One Stop counselors provide expert advice regarding registration, financial aid, billing, payment, student records, and veterans benefits. Contact us by email, phone, or in person.