Frequently Asked Questions

State Budget and Impact on MAP Grant

How does the State of Illinois' budget situation impact the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) Grant?

Illinois began a new fiscal year on July 1st without a State budget. As of today, there is still no budget agreement. Among other things, this means that funding for grants awarded through the Illinois State Monetary Award Program (MAP) has not been finalized. As your letter from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and your Financial Aid Award from NIU indicated, announced MAP grants are always estimated pending a final State appropriation.

While we cannot guarantee it, we are hopeful that funding for MAP will be approved in the eventual State budget. However, until there is legislation enacted to fund the MAP program, there is no final decision regarding how much MAP funding will be available for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 grants.

NIU is committed to assisting students and we do not want students to be caught in the middle of the budget stalemate. We understand some schools have announced that they will not credit accounts with MAP until there is a final budget. NIU has and will continue to credit students' accounts, based on qualifying enrollment, for the MAP Grant amount announced by ISAC while we wait for a budget and payment from the state.

We also want to advise students that once the state budget is final, ISAC will re-compute MAP and determine the final grant amount for each student. It is possible that your MAP award could be reduced by the state and we may be required to adjust the credit. We will communicate with you whenever we have additional information.

Information about the budget impact on MAP can be found at the ISAC website. If you have additional questions, please call us or contact the ISAC Call Center at 800-899-ISAC (4722) or isac.studentservices@isac.illinois.gov.


FAFSA

Do I need to fill out the FAFSA?

Even if you think you won't qualify for financial aid, we strongly encourage you to fill out the FAFSA. You may be eligible for more aid than you think. Northern Illinois University uses the results of the FAFSA, along with academic credentials, to determine eligibility for additional grants. Also, if your financial situation changes mid-year and you need to apply for a student loan, you will need to fill out the FAFSA if you haven't already done so.

I heard the submission date for the FAFSA is changing. What's the deal?

For the 2016-17 school year, the FAFSA application process opens in January 2016. For the 2017-18 school year, the FAFSA application process opens on October 1st, 2016. In future years, the FAFSA process will open on October 1st. The date change corresponds to the federal government's decision to evaluate your family's income from two years ago instead of one year ago.

Is there a deadline for the FAFSA?

No. You should complete and submit the FAFSA form as soon as possible after the process opens. Funds are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you submit, the more likely you are to receive funds if you are eligible. NIU continues to process financial aid applications on a rolling basis, so we don't have an official deadline for FAFSA submission.

What if I have a special family circumstances, for example living with someone other than my parents?

Here are a few examples of special circumstances that you may need to consider when filling out the FAFSA. If you have questions, contact our office.

Dependent student, parents not married: If the parents of a dependent student are not married and do not reside together, the student is to apply with the parent they lived more in the 12 months prior to filing the FAFSA. If the parents live in the same home, include both parents' financial information.

Dependent student living with someone other than parent: Federal regulations do not allow for a student to file the FAFSA with anyone other than biological or adoptive parent(s). In such a situation, the student may meet one of the criteria to be considered an independent student, or it may be a situation where an independent appeal could be considered. If a student is not sure which direction to take, it may be best to contact the SFAO to discuss the situation.

Independent appeal: If a student does not meet any of the criteria to be considered independent, but feels that he or she has a special or unusual circumstance, he or she may appeal to be considered an independent student. Contact our office to discuss your situation and determine if an independent appeal could be considered.


Financial Aid

How long will it take for submitted documents or loan applications to be processed?

To ensure prompt processing, scan documents and email the images to finaid@niu.edu or fax to 815-753-9475. Be sure to include both sides of the document. Mailing documents may result in longer processing times. Documents are processed in the date order received and processing time can vary depending on the specific documents submitted. Basic verification documents such as the Household Size Form or federal tax return transcripts will normally be reviewed within 4 days of submission. Be sure to monitor your Z-ID student email account, and your MyNIU To Do List, as these are the methods by which we would inform you if we needed clarification on anything.

If you or your parents have applied for a PLUS Loan online, you should expect the resulting loan amount to be visible on your awards screen within roughly a week. Private Loans will take at least two weeks, due to the federal Truth In Lending Act.

Why did my financial aid amounts adjust?

Eligibility for the full amount of the Federal Pell Grant and/or Illinois MAP Grant is contingent on enrollment in a certain amount of credit hours (12 credit hours for Pell, 15 credit hours for MAP). When initially packaging a student with these awards, we assume that the student will be enrolled in enough hours to qualify for the full amount. Recipients who are enrolled in fewer hours will receive adjusted, lower amounts of these awards. At various points prior to disbursement, the Student Financial Aid Office reviews a student's current hours of enrollment and adjusts these awards accordingly. This is considered the best practice in order to ensure that students have the most accurate information about their pending aid at any given time.

The Department of Education requires schools participating in the Title IV federal aid program to periodically adjust student budgets based on their level of enrollment; i.e. full-time, half-time and less than half-time. If your Cost of Attendance changed, it is most likely the result of the amount of hours you are enrolled in for the term.

How do I accept my student loans?

Accept your loans on your MyNIU Campus Finances. First-time loan borrowers must also complete the Master Promissory Note and Loan Entrance Counseling at the Federal Student Aid website.

How does Federal Work-Study Employment work?

Federal Work-Study awards are not guaranteed and are earned as wages by working on and off campus with eligible employers. A Federal Work-Study award reflects the amount the student can earn if hired. Students must apply for a Federal Work-Study job and be hired in order to utilize the eligibility offered on their award notification. Federal Work-Study wages do not credit to the student's Bursar account. Students earn paychecks for work performed. Regular Student Employment positions do not require an offering of Federal Work-Study on the award notification.

What is the EFC?

The information supplied on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used by the federal government to determine a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC defines for the university what financial aid programs a student is eligible to participate in and the amount for which he/she is eligible. A common misunderstanding is that the EFC is the amount the student will owe the university. Rather, the amount owed is the student charges minus the financial aid awarded and disbursed.

Where should I send the check for a private scholarship I have been awarded?

All scholarship checks should be sent to the Student Financial Aid Office and will be directly applied to your Bursar account, one-half in the fall semester and one-half in the spring semester, unless otherwise specified by the donor. If the check needs your endorsement, please sign before mailing.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Office
Northern Illinois University
Swen Parson Hall
245 DeKalb, IL 60115


My Award

What is considered when offering an award?

Financial aid awards are determined based on the information provided in the 2016-2017 FAFSA. New students who completed their FAFSA using estimated 2015 tax information may be offered an estimated award letter that which will expire after the Fall 2016 semester if actual tax information is not provided on a subsequent FAFSA. Continuing students who estimated 2015 tax information must update their FAFSA with actual tax information before being issued an award notification. Before offering an award the information must be verified to be accurate for students who have been selected for verification. Additionally the award is offered assuming a student will be enrolled full time for the entire academic year. Any changes to enrollment status may affect the amount of financial aid a student is eligible to receive. Please contact the Student Financial Aid Office if you have any questions about how your enrollment status may affect your financial aid eligibility.

When will financial aid award notifications be issued?

New students and transfer students attending Northern Illinois University for the first time can expect to receive their financial aid award notifications by the end of March. Award notifications for continuing students are expected to be sent out in early April. Students who are selected for verification must provide all required documents in order to be offered an award letter. All students are encouraged to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to provide actual tax information once 2015 taxes have been filed.

When should I accept my financial aid award?

There are two types of aid that a student must accept, merit based scholarships and federal student loans. While students are encouraged to accept all sources of financial aid as soon as possible but may accept aid at almost any point within the academic year with the following exceptions:

Merit bases scholarships must be accepted by the date indicated in the scholarship notification letter.

Federal student loans must be accepted at prior to the last day of the term a student is attending. For example students who wish to receive their loans for the 2016-2017 academic year must accept their awards by no later than May 1, 2016.

Federal, state and institutional grants are automatically accepted.

What is Cost of Attendance and how does it differ from what I can expect to pay for school?

Cost of Attendance (also known as the Budget) represents an estimate of all of the expenses an individual can expect to pay while attending college. This amount includes expenses such as travel and miscellaneous personal expenses a student may incur but that are not charged by the university. To estimate what the actual costs you will be charged by the university, you are encouraged to visit the NIU Planning and Cost Estimator available through the Office of the Bursar. This tool allows users to input some general information such as the number of hours to attend for the year and select a residence hall to project the anticipated expenses for the academic year.


Loans

How does my parent apply for the Parent PLUS Loan?
  • Application Process
    • Go to the Federal Student Aid website and click the green 'Sign In' box
    • Parents sign in using the same FSAID they used to sign the FAFSA. FSAIDs can be requested at the Federal Student Loan website if they do not already have one.
    • Click 'Request PLUS Loan'
    • Choose 'Parent PLUS'
    • Follow the steps to complete the application
  • Master Promissory Note (MPN): Required for first-time PLUS borrowers
    • Go to the Federal Student Aid website and follow the same 'Sign In' steps as above
    • Click 'Complete MPN'
    • Choose 'Parent PLUS'
    • Follow the steps to complete the promissory note
How much do I request for the Parent PLUS Loan?

Parents can choose to request either the maximum eligible amount or request a specific dollar amount when completing the Parent PLUS application. Whenever possible, borrowers are encouraged to request only the amount of loans that are necessary to pay for their expenses to limit future interest expenses. If a parent requests the maximum loan amount, the PLUS loan will be offered up to the Cost of Attendance minus any other financial aid that has already been awarded. (Cost of attendance amounts are available on NIU's Bursar Office website).

Parents who wish to request a specific amount for the Parent PLUS loan are encouraged to visit the NIU Planning and Cost Estimator. The Estimator allows students and their parents to input their anticipated enrollment, housing plans and awarded financial aid in order to determine the Approximate Yearly Total Due. This amount should help determine how much to request for a Parent PLUS loan.

Remember parents can borrow up to the Cost of Attendance; parents may wish to borrow more than the amount of the Approximate Yearly Total Due if the student wishes to use financial aid to help pay for living expenses.

My parents just applied for the Parent PLUS Loan, when will I see it on my awards?

When a parent applies for the Parent PLUS loan the Department of Education performs a credit check to determine if the parent will be eligible to receive the Parent PLUS loan. The results of the application are sent to the school within 3-5 business days. The Student Financial Aid Office processes all loan requests in the order received. Peak application times may take up to two weeks from when the application was submitted before offering additional funding.

What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

The subsidized loan is based on financial need, while students qualify for the unsubsidized loan regardless of financial need. Students eligible to borrow subsidized loans are not charged interest on the loans while they are enrolled at least half-time. Interest on unsubsidized loans begins accruing while they are enrolled in school. Students may choose to defer the interest payment on an unsubsidized loan until they begin repayment.

Where do I go for assistance with choosing a Private Student Loan?

Private Loans are meant to supplement federal and state aid when the Cost of Attendance (COA) is not fully covered by your financial aid. There is a comprehensive list of private loan lenders and additional information regarding private loans at the FinAid website. Valuable information about the private loan process and interest rate calculations is provided at this website and should be read carefully.


Scholarships

How do I find Scholarships?

Students should be proactive in their search for scholarships. It takes time and effort, but can be well worth the work! Remember, the more scholarships you apply for, the more you are likely to receive. Some resources include:

Visit the NIU AcademicWorks to search for NIU and private scholarships

Visit the Other Scholarship Resources

Utilize free search engines and databases online. Simply type "scholarships" into your Internet browser. Just be certain to forego any sites that require confidential, personal information or cash guarantees.

Students can work with their high school counselor to identify scholarships in their community, such as from local organizations, Lions' Clubs, VFW's, banks, churches, hospitals, etc. Family members can inquire at their places of employment as well.

Does NIU automatically offer scholarships?

Many scholarships for incoming students will be offered based on students' admissions application. For the 2016-2017 school year, click here for scholarship criteria and awards. Although some NIU departments may automatically consider all eligible students, the majority of NIU scholarships for current students require that students submit an application. This information can be found on the NIU AcademicWorks page, or by contacting the department.

Is there a single NIU scholarship form?

Some scholarships may have a combined form. However, the majority of individual NIU scholarship programs require individual applications. The NIU AcademicWorks will link to an application or an application page.

When are deadlines?

NIU scholarship deadlines tend to fall between November 15 - February 1 for the following academic year. Some deadlines will fall before or after February 1st. Be sure to check deadlines carefully. For students applying for admission for the fall 2017 semester, the priority admission application is December 1, 2016.  Private scholarship have variable deadlines.  You can utilize the ScholarshipFinder to search by deadline.

If I file for Financial Aid, am I considered for scholarships?

Filing the FAFSA means that you are filing for financial aid such as need based grants and loans. NIU scholarship applications are separate from the FAFSA and tend to focus on academic merit, achievements, honors, talent, and involvement, though some may consider financial need as well.

Will I receive a scholarship check from NIU?

Scholarships are automatically applied to a student's Bursars account; checks are not issued directly to students.

Do I need to wait until I am accepted for admission to NIU before I apply for scholarships?

You do not need to wait to begin your search, however, many scholarships do require that you be formally admitted to the university by the scholarship deadline. Some scholarship applications may require that you log in with your Z-ID and NIU password; you will receive an ID and password once you have been admitted.

How do I know if I have received an NIU scholarship?

Typically, students are informed via letter or an e-mail sent to your Z-ID account. Award letters provide information regarding scholarship amounts and requirements for maintaining the award. It is important to thank your benefactors. A simple yet personal letter of gratitude is appropriate. Contact your awarding department for specific direction.

Where do I mail my scholarship checks once I have received them?

All scholarship checks are to be mailed to:
Northern Illinois University
Financial Aid & Scholarship Office
Swen Parson 245
DeKalb, IL 60115

Why was my scholarship check split between two semesters?

Unless otherwise specified by the donor, scholarship checks are split between two semesters to evenly distribute the resources to the student. If the scholarship is for $1,000, there will be $500 for the fall semester and $500 for the spring semester.

I applied for a scholarship some time ago and I have not heard. What should I do?

Most departments and offices notify students if they have received the award as well as if they have not. If you have not heard anything, feel free to make a polite inquiry call to the offering department. They can at least inform you of the status of the process and let you know when you might expect to hear something.

How do I donate to an NIU Scholarship?

If you are interested in donating to an NIU scholarship, or in starting your own NIU scholarship, please contact the NIU Foundation at 815-753-1386.


Charges

How can I see the exact charges for my student?

You can go into the student's MyNIU account. On the 'Student Center' page, about a third of the way down is a blue line that says 'Finances;' under it, click on 'Term Account Detail,' then click on the specific semester you are looking for. This will show you all of the exact charges, payments, financial aid, pending financial aid and refund information for that semester. Please note that it's a snapshot page. You will need to print it if you need it for future reference. If anything on the account changes, the information on this page will change. For more information please go to the Bursar Office website.

How do I provide a prospective landlord with evidence of my financial aid?

The best summary of financial aid awarded is actually accessible to you through MyNIU. Go to MyNIU > Student System > Self Service > Campus Finances > Accept/Decline Awards. This screen shows the amount of aid you have been offered, and the amount that you have accepted. Printing this screen will show this information, juxtaposed with your name and the NIU logo, in a format that longtime DeKalb landlords should be familiar with.

Can financial aid pay for my books?

Financial aid recipients may charge books and supplies to their Bursar account at either the NIU Bookstore or the Village Commons Bookstore (VCB) for a limited time at the start of each semester. It is important to note that the amount you charge will be added to your Bursar account. You will be responsible for covering these charges either with financial aid or by paying out of pocket if your financial aid has been exhausted.

For additional information please visit the NIU Bookstore website.


Unpaid Bills and Outstanding Balances

What happens if I am unable to pay my entire bill before the due date? Will I be dropped from my classes and dismissed from the residence hall?

Students will not be dropped from their classes or dismissed from the residence halls if their entire balance is not paid as of the end of the first billing period. Payment of all charges for a term is due one week prior to the start of the term to which the charges apply. Through this account, students can pay the full account balance at this time or an amount less than the full amount. Students who pay less than the total amount due by the respective due date will be assessed a monthly late payment fee of 1.08% on the remaining unpaid portion, with a minimum late fee charge of $0.50. For additional information regarding payment policies please visit the Bursar Office website.

What are my options for paying an unpaid balance?

Based on your dependency status there may be several options to help resolve an unpaid balance.

Dependent students may have a parent complete a Parent PLUS Loan application which if approved can be used to cover most outstanding charges for the current year. Dependent students whose parents have applied and been denied a Parent PLUS loan may qualify for an increase in Unsubsidized Stafford loans.

Any student can apply for private student loans.

Depending on the time of year, students can also apply for a Huskie Installment Plan to make regular monthly payments throughout the semester. Additional information on the Huskie Installment Plan can be found at the Bursar Office website. Student who do not want to sign up for the Huskie Installment Plan are also able to make payments throughout the semester. Payment option information is available at the Bursar Office website.

My parents just applied for the Parent PLUS Loan, when will I see it on my awards?

When a parent applies for the Parent PLUS loan the Department of Education performs a credit check to determine if the parent will be eligible to receive the Parent PLUS loan. The results of the application are sent to the school within 3-5 business days. The Student Financial Aid Office processes all loan requests in the order received. Peak application times may take 5 to 7 business days from when the application was submitted before offering additional funding.


Disbursements and Refunds

When does financial aid disburse, and when will I receive my refund?

For the majority of students, disbursements occur about two weeks after classes begin (earlier for Law students). Refunds will be generated over the rest of the third week of classes. To receive a refund, you must have financial aid in excess of your charges. We recommend that students consider signing up to have their refund directly deposited into their personal bank account. Refund checks will be sent through the mail to students who do not take advantage of this service. Parent borrowers who opt to have any Parent PLUS refunds sent to the borrow rather than to the student have the option to receive the refund as a direct deposit or paper check.

NIU has a very flexible add/drop policy that allows students to change their enrollment through the second week of classes. By issuing refunds after add/drop is closed, students are assured that the refund is based upon the most up-to-date enrollment. The Student Financial Aid Office will recalculate each student's financial aid eligibility after the add/drop period is over based on their enrollment at that time. It is at this point the financial aid funds will disburse to the Bursar account for refund processing.

I just received my refund, why do I still have a balance owed on my account?

You may have a balance on owed on your account for two reasons:

A charge was applied to your account after the refund was calculated and/or

Your refund was from a financial aid disbursement and you have one or more charges on your account that financial aid cannot pay. Students can choose to use their financial aid refund to pay these charges.

Financial aid eligibility is based on the costs associated with your enrollment for this academic year. Financial aid regulations restrict the charges that can be covered by your financial aid. Miscellaneous charges, such as orientation fees, graduation fees, late fees, parking tickets fines and balances from prior years cannot automatically be paid with a financial aid disbursement. If you have a balance on your account, the unpaid charge may be related to one or more of these items.

The financial aid disbursed to your account paid outstanding fall tuition and fees, any bookstore and housing and dining charges. The remainder of your financial aid is the refund you have been issued. You may use part of your financial aid refund or other personal funds to pay the miscellaneous charges you owe.


Title IV Authorization

I received an email about Title IV Authorization, what does this email mean?

Federal financial aid funds may only be used to cover certain charges associated with tuition, room and board, and books. In order for Title IV funds to be able to pay other charges you must provide your authorization to use any excess funds. Title IV funds can never be used to cover prior year charges or non-education related charges such as parking tickets, fines and/or recreation charges.

This authorization can be given online through MyNIU and is valid until rescinded. View a tutorial of how to provide this authorization. The Title IV Authorization may be rescinded at any time but will require you to contact the Student Financial Aid Office.


Exit Counseling

What is exit counseling and do I have to complete it?

Exit counseling is designed to inform you of the grace period, interest rates, repayment options and incentives, and terms and conditions of your loans, as well as the availability of deferment, forbearance and consolidation. An important thing to note, students are only offered a grace period once, if you use your grace period and then return to school, repayment will begin immediately after you graduate. Exit counseling for Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized loans can be found at the Federal Student Loans website and for Federal Perkins loans at the Heartland ECSI website.