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Frequently asked questions

FAFSA pin number

Wondering what happened to your FAFSA Pin number? The new FSA ID replaced the Pin Number system as of May, 2015. The FSA ID requires both students, and parents of dependent students, to set up a username and password in order to:

  • submit the FAFSA moving forward
  • make changes/edits to the FAFSA
  • log into NSLDS
  • complete entrance counseling
  • electronically sign master promissory notes
  • apply for a new repayment plan or consolidation
  • complete PLUS loan requests.

Learn more about the FSA ID federal guidelines and how to create an FSA ID.

New student

How do I know if I am eligible for state or federal financial aid?

To be considered for state and federal aid the student must complete the FAFSA and meet the following basic eligibility requirements. (There may be additional eligibility requirements for specific state awards.) Basic eligibility requirements include:

  • Be a degree seeking student at Columbia College.
  • Enroll and attend at least half-time, which is 6 or more credit hours per semester. Students who are Pell eligible may still qualify for Pell funds if enrolled and attending less than half-time.
  • Be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Complete the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) at:

  • Include the Columbia College school code (002456) in order for Columbia College to receive your FAFSA application information.
  • Students must have an active application for admission to Columbia College for the FAFSA information to reach the financial aid department at Columbia College. To apply for admission, fill out an application online.
  • Note: In filling out the FAFSA, you will supply information about yourself. If you are considered a dependent for financial aid purposes, you must also supply information about your parent(s).
  • Activate your CougarTrack account today and monitor your CougarMail account on a regular basis. The Financial Aid office uses your official Columbia College CougarMail e-mail address to inform you about the status of your financial aid application, additional information you may need to provide to complete your aid application and upcoming deadlines and important dates.
  • Find more financial aid information on the financial aid homepage

How much financial aid can I get?

The goal of the Financial Aid Office is to offer students a package that meets their financial need, if possible. However, since there are limits, it isn't always possible to cover 100% of a particular student's financial need. The Financial Aid Office will put together a federal aid financial aid package based on financial need.

  • If eligible, students will automatically be awarded federal and state grants.
  • Students will be awarded both subsidized (if eligible) and unsubsidized Stafford loans and may accept, decline or modify these amounts. Students are encouraged to accept only the amount needed to avoid a high student loan debt.
  • Students also may apply for scholarships at Columbia College.

Am I considered Dependent or Independent?

When will a student be considered independent for financial aid purposes? Generally, not until the student turns 24 (i.e. student must turn 24 before January 1st of the award year). Exceptions are made for:

  • veterans and active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • students with dependent(s) other than a spouse
  • married students
  • students in graduate or other professional school
  • students who are in legal guardianship, homeless, orphans, emancipated minors, or wards of a court

If you are a dependent student who has special circumstances and want to have the financial aid office review your dependency status you may complete and return a Request for Dependency Override form located in the Financial Aid Forms section of your CougarTrack account.

How much does Columbia College cost?

To estimate both direct costs (tuition) and indirect costs (books, transportation, living expenses), review the net price calculator. There are no book costs for students taking classes online or at one of our adult higher education locations across the country.

How do I find scholarships?

Please use our Scholarship Finder and search for opportunities available by campus.

There are many website scholarship search engines that can help you find scholarship opportunities. Please be wary of any website or application that charges a fee to apply.

Registration and book vouchers

Residential students with questions about registering for classes or applying book vouchers using financial aid should be directed to Columbia College's Enrollment Service Center.


Can Financial Aid Apply to Study Abroad?

Financial Aid may be able to help fund study abroad programs. Please reference the Financial Aid Eligibility page, as well as the Study Abroad page for more program information.

What is Columbia College's federal school code?


Who do I call to check on my financial aid status?

If you are a Day Campus or Evening Campus student at the Columbia, Missouri campus, check with the Enrollment Service Center at (800) 231-2391, ext. 7252 or (573) 875-7252. If you are from a nationwide/extended campus, check with the financial aid advisor at your campus.

How can I get an estimate of my federal aid situation?

This Net Price Calculator will give you an estimate of your federal aid eligibility. It will also give you an estimate of the cost of attending Columbia College.

Can I opt-out of Columbia Colleges marketing campaign?

The marketing opt-out form allows a student to opt-out of the marketing for a specific financial aid award year. Opting out of the marketing campaign means that the student will not receive future financial aid marketing reminders regarding (via e-mail, postal mail, and phone) the deadlines, FAFSA completion, or loan certification information. Opting out does not mean that the student will no longer receive e-mails from financial aid. E-mails will continue to come as a result of processing responses and award changes. Opting out of marketing must be requested each individual year.

Marketing is done by the Financial Aid Office to help students meet deadlines and encourage students completing financial aid in a timely manner. Opting out of the marketing will keep the Financial Aid Office from sending student reminders. By opting out of the marketing a student takes on full responsibility of knowing financial aid deadlines and requirements.

Where can I find financial aid forms for students and/or parents?

Both student and parents forms can be found on the Financial Aid Forms webpage. Students will need to login to CougarTrack and select the correct academic year.

Why can't I open the financial aid forms listed under CougarTrack/Parent forms page?

Most of the financial aid forms are in a PDF format. To view this file type, you must have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. If you do not have it, you may download it for free from Adobe's website.

How do I submit the documents once I have them?

PDF forms marked with the icon PDF Icon may be submitted electronically at this time. If a form cannot be submitted electronically, please:

Print the documents and fill them out. Then you can mail, or fax them to Financial Aid. Our address is 1001 Rogers Street, Columbia, Missouri 65216 and our fax number is 573-875-7452. You can also bring them in or scan and email them to

Why can't I submit them all online?

We are currently working on a document system that will allow this capability in the near future.

My FAFSA on the Web Submission Confirmation page indicates graduation, retention, and transfer rates for Columbia College. How are these defined?

Graduation rate is the percentage of a school's first-time, first-year undergraduate students who complete their program within 150% of the published time for the program. For example, for a four-year degree program, entering students who complete within six years are counted as graduates.

Retention rate is the percentage of a school's first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at that school the next year. For example, a student who studies full-time in the fall semester and keeps on studying in the program in the next fall semester is counted in this rate.

Transfer rate is the percentage of a school's first-time, first-year undergraduate students who transfer to another college within 150% of the published time for the program. For example, a student who is in a four-year degree program is counted as a transfer if the student goes to another college within six years.

The Department of Education's Glossary is a helpful resource to learn and understand federal aid terminology.

How long will it take to process my financial aid document?

The general turn-around-time for processing financial aid documents submitted to Columbia College is normally 10 business days. This time will likely increase during peak times, such as the beginning of a new school year, or decrease during periods of lower volume. Students are encouraged to submit documentation as early as possible. Additional supporting documentation may be required after the initial review.

What is the cost of attendance at Columbia College?

The cost of attendance for a student is an estimate of that student's educational expenses for the period of enrollment. See our cost of attendance webpage.

What are Origination Fees?

Origination fees are a percentage fee deducted proportionately from each loan disbursement a student receives. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans have a 1.066% origination fee. The Federal Direct PLUS Loan has a 4.264% origination fee.

Why is the cost of attendance lower for military students?

Effective July 1, 2010 the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) implemented a change that affects military students. Specifically, the HEOA, section 471 HEA Section 472(3) states:

The HEOA specifies that, for students living in housing located on a military base or housing for which they receive a basic allowance under Title 37 of the U.S.C - Pay and Allowances of the Uniformed Services, the room and board allowance shall include an allowance based on the expenses reasonably incurred for board only.

Because the housing allowance is not required to be reported on the FAFSA, the housing allowance must be excluded as part of the cost of attendance. (The cost of attendance is an estimate of a student's educational expenses for the period of enrollment). All monies awarded (to include loans, grants, scholarships and military tuition assistance) cannot exceed the estimated cost of attendance for a session. Effectively, the removal of your BAH lowers a student's cost of attendance figure.

I am not receiving a military housing allowance at this time. What should I do to have my cost of attendance adjusted?

Please send a request to have your cost of attendance reviewed for adjustment. Be sure to provide the reason you are no longer receiving a military housing allowance along with this written request. All requests should be sent to

General eligibility

Am I an independent or dependent student?

According to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you must meet certain criteria to be considered an independent student, even if your parents are not providing financial support for you. To help determine if you are a dependent student, complete the Department of Education's Dependency Status Worksheet.

If you are a dependent student and want to request a review of your dependency status by the financial aid office, please complete and return the Request for Dependency Override Form located in the Forms section.

What is satisfactory academic progress and how does it affect my financial aid situation?

According to state and federal regulations, all students applying for federal and/or state financial assistance must maintain satisfactory progress in a degree program to receive federal and/or state funds. For more in-depth information, see the Financial Aid Standards of Academic Progress.

The standard annual review time is May of each calendar year. If student does not meet the minimum (quantitative or qualitative) requirement, he/she will be placed on financial aid suspension and will be ineligible to receive federal financial aid. Students will be notified in writing via CougarMail. If placed on Financial Aid suspension, federal and state aid will be withdrawn for future sessions. Students on financial aid suspension have options to reinstate themselves or appeal if there were extenuating circumstances that contributed to the failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress. Returning students who are not making academic progress when they apply for federal aid will be in a suspension status and also have the option to reinstate and/or appeal.

What will happen if I withdraw from all classes?

You will need to complete the official withdrawal process. Withdrawal can affect your aid situation and may result in some or all of your federal aid being returned to the federal government. For more in-depth information, you can see the Return of Title IV Funds (Federal Aid) Policy.

Day Campus students should consult the Dean of Student Affairs if you have questions about the withdrawal process. All other students should contact the Enrollment Service Center at (800) 231-2391, ext. 7252 or (573) 875-7252, or your local campus.

What if my financial situation has changed, can I have my information updated?

Yes. If you or your family has unusual circumstances (such as loss of employment or major medical expenses) that might affect your need for financial aid, you will want to complete the Special Consideration Form.

Is it possible to register for Selective Service when completing the FAFSA?

Yes, if you are male, age 18-25 and not already registered, you can register when completing the FAFSA (check box #22). Additional information can be found here.


How Much Can I Borrow in Student Loans for One Year?

Students cannot exceed the amounts listed below for an academic year (August through July). Students who are pursuing an Associate's Degree cannot exceed a sophomore level loan limit even if they have completed more than 59 credits.

Federal Stafford Direct Loan Program Annual Limits

Grade Level  Credit Hours Dependent Independent
Freshman  0-29  $5,500 $9,500
Sophomore  30-59  $6,500 $10,500
Junior  60-89  $7,500 $12,500
Senior  90-120+  $7,500 $12,500
Post-Bacc    -  $5,500  $12,500
Graduate    -   - $20,500 

 *Annual limits include both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. These limits apply to loans borrowed from August through July. Aggregate limits, proration, and cost of attendance may prevent a student from being eligible for the full annual limit.

What Are the Overall Stafford Loan Limits (Aggregate Limits)?

Students cannot exceed aggregate loan limits during their undergraduate or graduate academic programs. Student loan history and aggregate limits are reviewed each year a student submits a FAFSA. Aggregate includes Stafford loans at Columbia College and Stafford loans that were borrowed while attending other colleges and universities. This limit does not apply to private, credit-based loans.

Federal Stafford Direct Loan limits:

  • Dependent undergraduates: $31,000 total, of which $23,000 can be subsidized
  • Independent undergraduates or dependents with a parent PLUS loan denial: $57,500 total, of which $23,000 can be subsidized
  • Graduate students: $138,500 total, of which $23,000 can be subsidized

How Do I Accept My Loans?

A student may accept, modify, or decline their electronic award letter. The options to accept, modify, or decline are available beside each award type (i.e. subsidized loan or unsubsidized loan). A student must accept federal Direct Stafford loans and submit their eAward letter for the loan to be originated. A loan cannot be figured into a payment plan until it is accepted and has been originated.

How is my Direct Stafford Loan Disbursed?

Financial Aid is applied to student accounts in the second week of classes, shortly after the add-drop date for the session. The aid will first pay any balance that is due to the school and any remaining funds will be available by the third Wednesday of each session. For more information, please see the Important Dates & Information page. If your financial aid is not disbursed in the third week, refunds will be available on a weekly basis thereafter.

Where and When do I Pick up my Refund Check?

Your refund check will either be mailed to your permanent address on file or sent by direct deposit to an account designated by you. You can set up direct deposit by logging in to your ePayment account and creating a payment profile. If you would like your refund to be mailed to you, be sure to confirm that your address is correct on your CougarTrack account and notify us of any future address changes.

How do I request a Change to my Electronic Award Letter?

The Loan Request Form is available for making changes to the electronic award letter that cannot be handled through submission of the eAward (accepting, modifying or declining). Packaging of aid eligibility is done automatically for up to 4 sessions.

Examples of when a Loan Request Form may be needed:

  • Student plans on attending all six sessions.
  • A student reduced loans when the award letter was first submitted, but the student needs to borrow more loan funding.
  • A student's loans for future sessions were denied or reduced due to non-enrollment, non-attendance, or withdrawal and the student wants to request funds for those future sessions.

How are Loan Funds from a Private Credit-Based Lender Disbursed?

Loan funds may be disbursed electronically through direct deposit or via postal mail to Columbia College on or after the loan disbursement date. Checks sent by the private lender to Columbia College will be made out to Columbia College and the borrower. Checks will have to be endorsed before funds can be credited to the student's account. Once the check is received, the student will be contacted (via phone or mail depending on campus location) to endorse the check. The check will then be sent to the Accounting Office to have funds credited to the student's account.

Loan funds sent from the private lender electronically will be refunded on or after the loan disbursement date. Private loan funds that are sent electronically are credited to the student's account within 3 business days of receiving the funds (unless the student has been notified of a problem). Funds received electronically do not have to be endorsed to disburse to a student's account.

What is a Lender, Servicer and Guarantee Agency?

  • A Lender is the company that originates the loan; the organization that loans the money to a student.
  • A Servicer is the company that provides customer service and account management services.
  • A Guarantee Agency insures loans against default.

What are Loan Fees?

The origination fee is a fee paid by the borrower to the lender to cover administrative fees for his or her loan. Loans borrowed on or after October 1, 2017 and before October 1, 2018 are charged a 1.066% origination loan fee on Direct Stafford loans . Graduate and Parent PLUS loans carry 4.276% origination fees between October 1, 2017 and October 1, 2018. It is important to note that the loan origination fees can change each year.

What are the Federal Loan Interest Rates?

Loans first disbursed July 1st, 2017  -  June 30th, 2018



Stafford Loans



Stafford Loans











What is a Default Clearance Letter?

If a student is in repayment and stops making payments on student loans without a deferment or forbearance, the loan(s) could go into default.  If you are in default on your student loan, you are no longer eligible to receive Title IV funds.  

To clear a defaulted status on student loans:

  • Determine which loan servicer holds your defaulted loan(s) by logging into the National Student Loan Data System
  • View details of the loan which indicates a defaulted status
  • Contact the lender to determine options for resolving the defaulted status
  • Once the default has been resolved, request a Default Clearance Letter from the lender. The letter must indicate that the default has been resolved and can be submitted to the Financial Aid Office

Consortium permission request

What is a Consortium Permission Request?

A Consortium Permission Request is the application process for a degree seeking student to request approval to receive federal aid from Columbia College for a course taken at a host school. The course must be required for degree completion at Columbia College. This process is also known as a consortium agreement or consortium.

What do I submit to be reviewed for pre-approval?

Students should submit:

  • Completed "Consortium Permission Request: student information" page; this must be submitted 3 weeks prior to the start of the class at the host school.
  • Student must be enrolled in degree-seeking program at Columbia College.
  • Student must be making satisfactory academic progress based on financial aid standards as well as academic standards at Columbia College.
  • Student must have submitted FAFSA and other required documents for aid to be packaged.The host school needs me to make payment to register for classes.

When will I get my aid

A student is responsible for all payment to the host school. With or without a pre-approval the student is fully responsible for payment arrangements to the host school. Financial aid will not disburse until after the add/drop for the course at the host school. If a student's course(s) at host institution begin after Columbia College then funds will be delayed until after the drop period of the course at the host school.
If a student's course(s) at host school begin prior to Columbia College then funds will post to the student account along with Columbia College's schedule.

Why Consortium Permission Request denied

Most denials occur because the student is not meeting general eligibility requirements or the student has not complied with terms of the Consortium Permission Request. A student will be notified of the reason when notified of the denial. Reasons for denial are listed below; the list is not all inclusive.

  • Submitted "Consortium Permission Request" is incomplete.
  • Consortium Permission Request is submitted after deadline.
  • Student isn't enrolled in enough hours to receive financial aid.
  • Student is already receiving all possible aid due to enrollment at Columbia College.
  • Student has not enrolled at Columbia College within past 6 months. Student must be enrolled at Columbia College during academic year to be eligible for consortium approval.
  • Coursework at host school does not apply toward degree at Columbia College.
  • Coursework at host school applies only toward an elective at Columbia College.
  • Course is a correspondence course.
  • Course at host institution does not have a scheduled ending and can be done a student's own pace.
  • Course at host institution is longer than 16 weeks in duration.

If my request is denied

You may still take the class at the host school and you may still have your transcripts submitted for evaluation. The Consortium Permission Request process determines whether you are eligible to receive aid at Columbia College for the course that you are taking at the other institution. If your request is denied then you will not receive federal aid for the course at the other institution.

What happens if I withdraw or fail courses at host institution?

The student must immediately notify Columbia College's Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Office will determine whether the student was eligible for all disbursed aid. If the student was not eligible for all disbursed funds a return of title IV calculation will be done. In addition, the student's completion rate for financial aid satisfactory academic progress will be reviewed to determine whether the student remains eligible for future aid.


Find out more about eligibility and verication.

State aid


What is the Access Missouri Grant?

Beginning with the 2007-2008 academic year, the Charles Gallagher Student Grant and the Missouri College Guarantee Scholarship were replaced with the Access Missouri Program. This need-based grant is awarded to undergraduate students who are Missouri residents. Students must be full time with high need. The award amount varies depending on the student's calculated need from the FAFSA. It is only awarded for the academic year and not during summer sessions.

How do I know if I am eligible?

To be eligible for initial or renewed assistance a student must:

  • Have a FAFSA on file by the final deadline* of April 1st of the upcoming academic year (i.e. April 1, 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year), with an EFC of $12,000 or less, and
  • Have any FAFSA corrections made by July 31 for the upcoming academic year (i.e. July 31, 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year); School choices may be added until September 30 of the academic year (i.e. September 30, 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year),
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident and a Missouri resident,
  • Student must complete 12 hours for the fall time-frame (August through December) and 12 hours for the spring time-frame (January through May). Eligibility can be lost with a withdrawal or incomplete grade.
  • Maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 and otherwise maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the school.
  • Student must be working on their first undergraduate degree and not be pursuing a degree in theology or divinity.

*You must submit your FAFSA by February 1 each year in order to meet the priority deadline. Eligible students who apply on or before February 1 are guaranteed an award. You must submit your FAFSA by April 1 to meet the final deadline to be considered for eligibility.  

For more information, please visit

Why can't the Access Grant be used to register with when it is included in my eAward letter?

Students cannot use this grant to register because they are not guaranteed funds -- the grant is contingent upon the student being full-time. The ACCESS Grant is packaged in an "estimated" status and is only moved to "awarded" status after add/drop has ended. We must wait for add/drop to end so we can confirm student is full-time and eligible for the state funds.

When is the Access Grant applied to my Account?

  • Day students are reviewed after the add/drop ends for the fall and spring semesters. If it is determined that a student is eligible for the grant we request the funds from the state. Once the funds are received they are applied to the student account. We typically receive the funds during the third or fourth week of classes.
  • Eight week students are reviewed after add/drop for the October term for fall and the March term for spring. If it is determined that a student is eligible for the grant, we request the funds from the state and once the funds are received they are applied to the student account. We typically receive the funds during the third or fourth week of the October term and the March term.

My updated eAward has zero for the amount of the Access Grant.

You are currently ineligible for the Missouri Access Grant. (see - How do I know if I am eligible?). This is usually because a student's GPA has dropped below 2.5 or you did not complete 12 semester hours for the award period.

I won't be able to complete 12 hours within the time-frame specified (I need to take two 5-hour science courses in each 8 week session). Is it possible to take a course that doesn't apply to my degree so I have 12 hours or go into an "overload" status for an eight week session to compensate for the shortage in hours?

All overload requests must go through your campus for review. Eligibility for federal and state grants can be reduced or denied if you take courses that do not apply to the current degree requirements.


Are you a participating school in Florida state-funded grant and scholarship programs?

Columbia College currently participates in several Florida state-funded programs. Florida residents are encouraged to research eligibility requirements and apply to any scholarship programs in which they are eligible and Columbia College is listed as a participating institution. Detailed information regarding eligibility requirements, listings of eligible schools, applications and terms and conditions of Florida state-funded aid can be found at:

What are the requirements for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarships?

The Florida Legislative Session 2009 has adjusted the requirements and eligibility amounts according to Senate Bill 2600 and 1696:

  • Senate Bill 2600 - General Appropriations Act (GAA)
    • Specifies Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program award amounts per credit hour in the 2009-10 academic year.
  • Senate Bill 1696 - Conforming Bill
    • Removes Bright Futures college-related expense awards for Florida Academic Scholars.
    • Requires institutions to refund the state for any Bright Futures award amount received for courses which were dropped or withdrawn after the drop and add period.
    • Amends Bright Futures Renewal Requirements:
      • Requires students to submit a refund to their institution for any award amount received for course(s) which were dropped or withdrawn after the drop and add period.
      • Allows students who lose their award due to not earning the required hours to restore the award in a subsequent academic year (available to students not meeting the hours requirement in the 2009-10 academic year and thereafter).
      • Revises credit hour requirements for full-time students to earn 24 semester hours (or the equivalent) per academic year (and prorated for part-time enrollment).
      • Prohibits the renewal of Florida Gold Seal Vocational awards to Florida Medallion awards.

Information regarding the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program can be found here.

What is the Florida ABLE (Access to Better Learning Education) Grant?

The Access to Better Learning and Education (ABLE) Grant Program provides tuition assistance to Florida undergraduate students enrolled in a degree program. Please refer to the Florida state website for a complete description, eligibility, and renewal requirements for the grant.

  • How do I apply for the Florida ABLE Grant?

    Students must complete the FAFSA each academic year. The FAFSA is used to check residency, citizenship, as well as possible defaults. The ABLE Grant is not need based. To get funds for the fall semester (August and October) you must complete the FAFSA before the end of December of the current academic year.

  • When will I Know if I am eligible to receive the ABLE Grant?

    If you are eligible for the ABLE Grant, you should expect to receive an updated eAward by the third week of the session during the October and March sessions. We review all Florida students who are pursuing their first bachelors degree at a Florida Campus or through the Online Campus shortly after the add/drop date for the October and again in the March session. One of the requirements to receive the ABLE Grant is a student must be full-time. That means you must enroll in 12 credit hours in the 16-week time-frame between August-December and January-May (6 + 6; 3 + 9 in respective eight-week sessions). Since Columbia College has eight-week sessions, in order to meet the traditional 16-week semester requirements, a student must successfully complete the August or January classes. Successful completion means to finish the course with a grade other than "F" and not drop or withdraw from classes in order to have the class(es) count toward the required 12 credit hours. We will verify enrollment after the add/drop date of the second session of the fall or spring semester (October and March) and notify students of eligibility by eAward.

     Any individual questions regarding eligibility should be emailed to

IRS data retrieval tool on FAFSA

The IRS Data Retrieval tool allows FAFSA on the Web applicants to electronically request and securely retrieve their income and tax data.

*The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is currently unavailable.


Request info