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How Do I Transfer Financial Aid from One College to Another?

Mark Kantrowitz

March 21, 2011

If I change schools, how do I edit my FAFSA so the money goes to my new school? And about how long would it take for the money to transfer schools? — Q.T.

Student financial aid does not directly transfer between colleges. Instead, the new college will recalculate your eligibility from scratch based on the information on your FAFSA and the college’s financial aid application forms. Certain types of government aid are portable, while campus-based aid such as the Federal Perkins loan and Federal Work-Study are not. In addition, any money awarded by the college from its own funds will not transfer. The new college might award you the same types of financial aid as your current college, but the amounts may differ due to the college’s financial aid policies and available funds. Transfer students, especially mid-year transfers, often qualify for less financial aid than first-time and continuing students.

If you are transferring in the middle of the academic year, the amount of federal student aid for which you are eligible will be reduced by the amount of federal student aid you received and “earned” at the previous college. (There is a complicated formula called R2T4 for determining how much of the aid you received at the previous college was earned. Generally, financial aid is earned on a proportional basis until 60% of the way through the semester, at which point the financial aid is considered to be fully earned. Any unearned aid will be returned by the college to the federal government. There is a preference order for returning financial aid that typically returns loans before returning grant funds.)

There are also cost of attendance caps on the amount of federal student aid you can receive. If your new college is much less expensive than the previous college, the amount of financial aid you can receive might be reduced.

Keep your current college informed about your intent to transfer. Depending on the college’s refund policy and the return of student aid funds to the federal government, you might end up owing some money to your current college. You’re still responsible for your portion of the college costs, and the college’s refund policy might be less generous than the government’s policies concerning the return of federal student aid. The college will be within its rights to withhold official transcripts if you have unpaid bills. This could make it difficult for you to transfer your credits to the new college.

The online FAFSA has space for you to list up to ten colleges. To send your FAFSA information to the new college, list it in one of the ten slots. If all ten slots are filled, replace one of them with the new college. It will take a week or two for the new college to receive the data from your FAFSA. You will receive a new Student Aid Report (SAR) when the college has received the data from your FAFSA. Be sure to submit any supplemental forms required by the new college. The time to prepare a new financial aid package varies from college to college. If you haven’t heard from the new college more than a month after you receive the SAR, call the college’s financial aid office to ask about the status of your financial aid application.


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