Applying for Financial Aid

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Application Process

NIU uses the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, to determine if students qualify for financial aid. Continuing students must complete the FAFSA for every academic year they wish to receive aid. The FAFSA becomes available after January 1st each year. NIU encourages students to complete their FAFSA as early as possible each year to ensure they are considered for all aid programs.

The FAFSA uses such factors as your family’s income, the number of people in your household, and family assets to determine how much your family can afford to contribute to your education.

In order to minimize the time spent on the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, we strongly encourage you and your parents to access your federal tax return data using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)


The information supplied on the FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution, which is a measure of your family’s financial strength. The EFC is calculated using a formula established by the U.S. Congress. The EFC defines for the SFAO the financial aid programs for which you are eligible for.

How Financial Aid Is Calculated


The federal government established financial aid programs based on the premise that it is the primary responsibility of the student and his or her family to pay the student’s educational expenses. Students needing assistance to cover these expenses should file the FAFSA each year. A basic formula is used to determine your eligibility for need based financial aid:

     Cost of Attendance — Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Aid Need

Cost of Attendance or Student Budget


The SFAO establishes an estimated or “standard” student budget each year that includes allowances for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel, and personal expenses. Your actual expenses may vary from the estimated budget depending on enrollment, housing, and financial choices.

Financial Aid Need


Your financial aid need is determined by calculating the difference between the NIU Cost of Attendance and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The SFAO will assist students and their families in trying to meet their financial aid need by offering any federal grant, state grant, loan, and federal work-study employment eligibility for which they are eligible. Students who do not have financial aid need are still eligible for certain loans and campus employment opportunities.