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What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is federal, state, institutional or private assistance that comes in the form of grants or scholarships, which do not have to be paid back, work-study, a part-time job on campus, and student loans, which must be repaid starting six months after you leave school or fall below half time enrollment. Students must be enrolled in a Title IV eligible school and enroll in an eligible program to qualify for financial aid.
How can I apply for financial aid?

The first step in applying for state or federal financial aid is to complete the FAFSA. application online. Students, parents, and borrowers are required to use an FSA ID to log-in and sign the application. The FSA ID is made up of a username and password, and is needed to access certain U.S. Department of Education websites.

The FSA ID is used to confirm your identity when accessing your financial aid information and electronically signing your federal student aid documents.

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What happens after I apply for financial aid?

After the FAFSA is processed you will receive a Student Aid Report. If you provided an email address on the FAFSA, the processor will email you the Student Aid Report. This report details the information that you provided and informs you of any corrections that need to be made.

At the same time that you receive the Student Aid Report, the Financial Aid Office receives your information electronically. The financial aid office uses this information to determine if additional information or documentation is required, at which time, the staff will send you a letter indicating what is needed.

What is the deadline for applying for financial aid?

The Cal Grant deadline is March 2 of each year. The earlier you apply and submit any other required information to the financial aid office, the more likely you are to have funding available when you start school.

PAU’s deadline to submit all your financial aid documents in order for your bill to display your anticipated aid is July 1.


How do I receive the money I am awarded?

Once you are awarded, you will receive a financial aid notice via email with instructions to log into the financial aid portal to view your awards. At the same time, your award will be displayed on your student account as anticipated aid. Grants are accepted for you.

If you accept the student loan and you are a first-time borrower, you must complete the Master Promissory Note and Entrance Loan Counseling session online at: Department of Education is also requiring all students to complete the Informed Borrower Consent. The Informed Borrower consent must be completed every year for any students who recieves federal aid for the upcoming award year.

The Informed borrower consent is an addition to completing the MPN and can be done at Once the financial aid office receives confirmation that you completed your loan entrance and MPN, IBC, and you are enrolled for the minimum number of required credits, your financial aid will be applied to your student account. The funds posted to your account will be used to cover your tuition and fees. Any remaining balance with be refund directly to you.

Will I be mailed a paper check for any refunds owed to me?

You have the option to enroll to receive your refunds via direct deposit by completing the Direct Deposit Form available on the PAU Student Portal and submitting it to the Business Office.

We highly recommend this option as it expedites the refund process. Students who do not wish to enroll in direct deposit will have to pick up their paper check from the business office during regular business hours.

I am receiving financial aid but my tuition bill is due before my aid is disbursed, will I be charged late fees or be dropped for non-payment?

No, your financial aid will be shown on your account as “anticipated” aid and as long as your anticipated aid is enough to cover your total charges, you will not be charged late fees or dropped from your courses.

Will I have to pay back my financial aid if I withdraw from my program (classes)?

If you completely withdraw from school (drops all classes), take a leave of absence, or stop attending before the 60% point in the quarter, you may be required to repay a portion of the aid received for that quarter. A Return of Title IV worksheet is completed using the amount of aid received and the withdrawal date to determine if any repayment is due. You will be notified by email of repayment amount due.

Note: It is important to consult with the Financial Aid Office prior to withdrawing to determine how your financial aid eligibility will be affected.

Eligibility for Financial Aid

How will I know if I am eligible for financial aid?

Never assume you will not be eligible! You will not know if you are eligible until you apply. When you complete the FAFSA, you will be considered for federal and state grants. Loans, institutional grants, and work-study will also be considered.

Even if you don't qualify for grants, most all FAFSA eligible students are eligible for some type of federal loan. More than 90% of PAU students pursuing a degree receive some type of financial aid.

Do I have to be a full-time student to receive financial aid?

Graduate and undergraduate students must be enrolled in at least 6 units for federal loan eligibility. Further, undergraduate students with exceptionally high need may be eligible for a Federal Pell and FSEOG Grant as a less-than-half-time student; however, all (graduate and undergraduate) of our programs require students to be enrolled full-time. There are rare exceptions made to the full-time requirement. However, when a student is enrolled less than full-time, their award amount may decrease based on the number of units enrolled.

Undergraduate enrollment levels are as follows: full-time (12 or more credits), three-quarter time (9-7 credits), half-time (6 credits), and less than half time (1-5 credits).

Graduate enrollment levels are as follows: full-time (9 or more credits), three-quarter time (7-8 credits), half-time (6 credits), and less than half time (1-5 credits).

Please note, that doctoral internship and continuing dissertation is considered full time at 3 units. 

I heard I have to be accepted into an “eligible” program of study to receive financial aid. What does that mean?

The federal and state regulations require a student to apply to the university and be accepted into an “eligible” program.

At PAU, all bachelor programs, and graduate programs are considered eligible.

Do I need to have good grades to receive financial aid?

Students who receive financial aid are required to complete a minimum number of units with a minimum cumulative GPA (GPA on all units taken at PAU) and within a certain timeframe in order to remain eligible to receive financial aid. Please review PAU's Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy for details. 

I’m taking classes at another college in addition to my classes at PAU. Can I get financial aid there too?

You may only get financial aid at one college for each quarter. You should request financial aid through your home school (the school you intend to graduate from).

Does the college take into account my living expenses when determining financial aid?

Yes, when determining the amount of financial aid you are eligible for, the Financial Aid Office assigns each student a budget, which includes tuition, fees, books, room and board, personal expenses, transportation and loan fees.

Child-care expenses, excessive transportation costs or disability-related expenses are not budgeted unless the student provides documentation to the Financial Aid Office for consideration.


What school code do I list for Palo Alto University?

PAU’s FAFSA school code is 021383.

What is a Renewal FAFSA?

If you applied for financial aid last year, and intend to enroll in the next academic year you may complete a renewal FAFSA rather than a new FAFSA.

The renewal FAFSA will include all of last year’s information. You just need to update your and your family’s income information and any data that has changed.

What if my family income has changed since last year? How will they know?

You are required to use the information from the prior-prior tax year on the FAFSA. For example, when completing the 2023-2024 FAFSA, you will use the 2021 tax year information. If your and/or your family’s income information has changed significantly in the current year due to unemployment, death, divorce, medical expenses or other special circumstances, you may be eligible to be considered for a special circumstance.

You can request a “Special Circumstance” by writing to the financial aid office and submitting documentation of the changes (pay stubs, more recent tax information, medical bills, or unemployment compensation payout report, etc). The Financial Aid Office will then consider your current situation to determine if you will be eligible for additional financial aid.

I don’t live with my parents. Do my parents have to complete their section on my FAFSA?

Living on your own doesn’t automatically qualify you as an independent student. The Federal Government requires parents to complete their information and considers you a dependent until you are one of the following: 24 years old, married, have dependents of your own that you provide more than 50% support for, are pursuing a graduate degree, are an orphan or ward of the court, or are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

If there are unusual circumstances, please discuss them with the financial aid office so they can help you determine the best way to complete the FAFSA.

I originally filled out my FAFSA with a different school listed. How do I add PAU?

You can go online at to add PAU to your FAFSA, school code 021383.

My parent is also taking classes, should I include them as going to college on my FAFSA?

No, parents cannot be included in the number in college.


Do I have to pay back a Federal Pell or FSEOG grant?

There are only two reasons a student would ever have to pay back a Federal Pell or FSEOG Grant. First, if a student drops below full-time prior to census date(the last day of add/drop).

And second, if a student withdraws from school (drops all classes) before the 60% point in the quarter or stops attending, a calculation is completed to determine if any repayment is due..

What types of Federal GRANT Programs are available?

Federal Pell/ FSEOG Grant – Students are eligible for Federal Pell Grants based on financial need calculated by completion of the FAFSA. A student will be identified upon review of the FAFSA by the Office of Financial Aid.

An FSEOG is a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. A limited amount of FSEOG funds are appropriated to PAU from the federal government every year to be awarded to the students with the highest financial need (usually Federal Pell Grant eligible students).

How do I apply for Cal Grant?

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and indicate California as your “State of Legal Residence”. If this question is left blank, you are not considered for state funds.

Why haven’t I received my Cal Grant?

Reasons for not receiving your Cal Grant award would be:

1. Failure to meet the FAFSA March 2nd application deadline

2. Failure to meet the eligibility criteria

3. Failure to submit the Cal Grant GPA form on or before the March 2nd deadline

4. Failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress

5. Reached the maximum Cal Grant eligibility period

6. Failure to complete the Cal G-6 Transfer Entitlement Cal Grant Certification Form


What is the difference between a Federal Direct Subsidized, Federal Direct Unsubsidized, and Federal Direct PLUS loan?

The Federal Direct Subsidized loan is need-based (based on the information you provided on the FAFSA) and the government pays the interest while you are in school and during authorized periods of deferment.

The Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan is non need-based and you will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed until it is paid in full.

The Federal Direct PLUS loans are federal loans that graduate/ professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for college. Federal Direct PLUS loans can help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. They are non need-based and interest accrues until the loan is paid in full.

What if I only want a loan?

You must first file the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what other type of aid you qualify for; you will be offered need-based (grants, work-study and Federal Direct Subsidized loans) funds first, and then non-need based loans (Federal Direct Unsubsidized or PLUS loans).

In addition to meeting the other Title IV aid program requirements, a student must also be enrolled at least half-time to receive payment of Federal Loans. Loans are always considered financial aid even though you have to repay them.

How much can I borrow on a student loan?

The Department of Education has set maximum levels for student borrowing which is driven by the total number of credits completed toward graduation in your program. Credits determine your grade level. Those limits are listed below.

Each student's eligibility is determined by a variety of factors including: results of the FAFSA, if the student is dependent or independent, the unmet need, and cost of attendance.

Federal Direct Student  Loan Limits (Federal Direct Subsidized and Federal Direct Unsubsidized)

2nd year Undergraduate students:

  • Dependent--$6,500/year (no more than $4,500 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans)
  • Independent--$10,500 (no more than $4,500 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans)

3rd Year (and beyond) Undergraduate students:

  • Dependent--$7,500/year (no more than $5,500 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans)
  • Independent--$12,500/year (no more than $5,500 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans)

Graduate or Professional Students (health profession programs):

  • $20,500/year for Masters Programs (Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans only)
  • $33,000/year for PhD and PsyD (Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans only)

Additional Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan eligibility up to total cost of attendance

Lifetime Eligibility Maximum:

  • Undergraduate Students: $57,500 (no more than $23,000 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans)
  • Graduate Students: $138,500 (no more than $65,500 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans) for Masters students. $224,000 (no more than $65,500 in Federal Direct Subsidized loans) for PhD and PsyD students.The graduate maximum limits include all federal loans received for undergraduate study.

Can I just go to the bank to get a Federal student loan?

No, for federal low-interest student loans, you need to complete the FAFSA. The Financial Aid Office will determine your eligibility and help you complete the application process. There are several private lenders who offer private alternative loan programs.

For more information or a list of lenders please see PAU's Lender List. Consult with the Financial Aid Office before taking any private educational loans.

Can I cancel my loan if I don’t need it?

Yes, PAU gives you the option to accept or decline any loan offered. You may cancel your loans at any time as long as your tuition has been paid.

Contact the Financial Aid Office to cancel your loan or any portion of the loan.

Why isn’t my loan here yet?

Ensure that you have completed all the required documents in your financial aid file, and that you have accepted loans offerred to you. Please log into the student portal to determine if any action is still needed by you. If not, your loan funds will be disbursed as they are released to PAU.

If your current loan has not been disbursed to PAU within the first weeks of the off the quarter, contact the Financial Aid Office for further information.

What is the interest rate on student loans?

For any Federal Direct undergraduate student loans taken after July 1, 2019, the interest rate is fixed at 4.52%. Graduate Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans taken after July 1, 2019 have a fixed 6.07% interest rate.

Federal Direct Parent or Gradute PLUS Loans taken on or after July 1, 2019 have a fixed 7.07% interest rate (for parents of dependent undergraduate students and graduate/ professional students).

Can I get more loan than what I was awarded?

Your loan amount is determined by your financial need, loan limits, and cost of attendance. Not all students will qualify for the maximum loans.The Office of Financial Aid will determine the maximum amount you are eligible for and advise you appropriately. The loan amount is then divided equally between the quarters you plan to attend. An origination fee is assesed to each loan disbursed.

When do I pay back my loan?

You don't have to begin repaying most federal student loans until after you leave college (usually 6 months after graduation) or drop below half-time enrollment. However, Federal Direct PLUS loans enter repayment once your loan is fully disbursed (paid out); in some instances you can defer the Federal Direct PLUS loan repayment until after the student graduates

SAR (Student Aid Report)

What is a SAR?

A SAR is a Student Aid Report. This report is provided by the Federal Processor and is a summary of the information you provided on the FAFSA. The SAR will be mailed to you if you sent your FAFSA through the mail and did not provide an email address on the FAFSA.

If you filed your FAFSA electronically or provided an email address on the FAFSA, the SAR will be emailed to you. The report will let you know if the application was accepted, rejected or if there are any problems with your application that require a corrections to be made.

What do I do with a SAR?

Review your SAR carefully to ensure all information is accurate. If errors are found, log into your FAFSA at and make any necessary corrections as soon as possible. If everything on your SAR is correct, file it away for your records. There is nothing you need to do with it, but keep it available in case you want to add another college later.

How do I make a correction to my financial aid?

If you need to make a correction to your financial aid application information before you receive your award notice, you can do so by logging into your FAFSA at

If you have already received your award letter, contact the Financial Aid Office to determine if the correction is necessary.


How do I apply for scholarships?

Palo Alto University maintains a scholarship page where students can look for scholarships that may be applicable to them. In addition to the page, new Undergraduate and Doctoral students may be eligible for PAU scholarships.

New students apply for PAU scholarships within their admissions application. Each scholarship has different awarding criteria and deadline dates.

Caution: Never pay a fee to agencies that offer scholarship search services or financial aid consulting services without first checking the validity of that agency.

Check out more available scholarships
What if I receive an outside scholarship from my employer or community group? Do I have to notify the financial aid office?

All types of financial assistance, scholarships, other community agency grants, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation grants, Dislocated Worker benefits, etc. must be reported to the Financial Aid Office to be coordinated with your federal and state aid.


What is Federal Work-Study?

The Federal Work-Study Program provides eligible students with funds to earn money from a part-time job and gain valuable work experience. Most jobs are on campus and may offer more flexibility than a traditional part-time jobs.

Visit our Student Job Board
How do I know if I am eligible for Federal Work-Study?

Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be offered work-study as part of their Financial Aid award. If you are interested in work-study but were not offered it, contact the Financial Aid Office to review your eligibility for the program.

What kind of work is available for work-study jobs and how do I apply?

Work-study positions are available in different departments on campus. You may see job postings online at the PAU Student Job Board. Application instructions are included in the job descriptions, but most jobs ask you to apply directly with them by either submitting a resume or application. 

Need to contact the Financial Aid Office? 
You can contact the Office of Financial Aid at or by phone at 650-433-3824.