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Financial Aid FAQs



What is financial aid?

Financial aid is a combination of scholarships, grants, low-interest loans and work-study. If you are eligible, your financial aid package will consist of aid provided by the federal government, the state of South Carolina (if you are an in-state student), outside organizations and CSU. With contributions from students and parents, we all work together to make a secondary education possible for all students who desire one!

How do I qualify for financial aid?

In order to qualify for financial aid at CSU, all students must first apply for admission and be accepted to the university. Then, if you want to determine your federal eligibility for aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Finally, we will create a financial aid package for you and notify you by email when your award letter is available online.  Your award letter will detail all of your financial aid for the academic year. The aid in this package will be based on several criteria — academic merit, financial need, residency, and athletic qualifications, just to name a few.

How do I apply for admission and for financial aid?

You can apply for admission to CSU by contacting the Enrollment Services Office at 843-863-7050 or 1-800-947-7474. You will then be sent an admissions packet, information on Charleston Southern University and financial aid. Once you have been accepted, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is available each year beginning October 1. You will need to create or utilize your existing FSA ID/PIN, which can be created on the FAFSA website. The FSA ID/PIN must be created individually for both students and parents (for dependent students) and will be used each year for the FAFSA.  Remember to add CSU to your list of colleges on the application! Our federal code is 003419.

Why should I fill out the FAFSA if I know I do not qualify for Financial Aid?

All students receiving financial assistance from CSU must complete the federal aid application. The only way to be sure that you do not qualify for federal aid is to apply for it! You must also complete the FAFSA to receive state aid and student loans. If you feel your situation is unique, please notify the Enrollment Services Office to discuss it.

Why do I need a PIN and where do I get it?

You will need to create or utilize your existing FAFSA ID/PIN, which can be created on the FAFSA website at The FSA ID/PIN must be created individually for both students and parents (for dependent students) and will be used each year for the FAFSA.  This number confirms your identity with the U.S. Department of Education and allows you to electronically sign your FAFSA application. It also allows you to go in and make changes, request a Student Aid Report (SAR) or fill out a renewal application in subsequent years. This number has replaced a physical signature and makes processing much quicker.

Once I’ve completed the FAFSA process, do I ever have to do it again?

Yes! The FAFSA must be completed every year. Many changes can occur within a year that may affect your financial situation. For example, you may have another sibling who enrolls in college, or a drastic change in household income or you may get married — all of these changes affect your financial situation and your eligibility and should be included on your FAFSA each year.

What is an SAR?

SAR is an acronym for Student Aid Report. Once you have completed the FAFSA and the U.S. Department of Education has processed it, they will send you a report to confirm all of the information on your FAFSA. You can make corrections on your SAR and return it to the federal processor if you find mistakes, or you can make your corrections online. If the Student Aid Report is accurate, file it — you may need it later. Usually, the report is printed in a color that coordinates with the color of the actual FAFSA form — to identify the academic year it was filed.

I have been chosen for verification. Why was I chosen, and what does that mean?

Each year the U.S. Department of Education selects a group of applications for verification. The applicants selected must submit certain documents to the financial aid office at CSU. These documents may include, but are not limited to, a copy of your (and your parents’) federal tax returns, W-2 forms and the verification worksheet, which is available on your Financial Aid LIVE, under the “Forms” tab. These documents are used to ensure that the information on your FAFSA is accurate and that you are getting the aid for which you are eligible. If there are discrepancies between your verification documents and your FAFSA, the CSU Financial Aid Office will make the corrections. THIS CAN CHANGE YOUR FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE. Important points to remember about verification:

  • Provide honest and accurate information to prevent becoming ineligible for any financial aid.
  • Submit your verification documents immediately—until you complete this process, you will not receive any financial aid!

When will I receive an award letter?

Once you have filed your FAFSA and the U.S. Department of Education has processed it, they will send us your FAFSA information electronically. If you fill out the paper FAFSA, this could take up to six weeks. However, if you complete the FAFSA on the web, it could be processed in two weeks or less. Once we have received your information from the Department of Education, we then create a financial aid package for you, which can take 2-3 weeks before it is available to the student online. Students will receive an e-mail notification when their financial aid package is available online.

If you submitted your FAFSA over two weeks ago and still have not received an award e-mail notification, you have outstanding requirements.  Students may need to submit US Citizenship documents, Selective Service status, etc.  Please review your Financial Aid LIVE for updates to your documents.

What is need-based aid?

Need-based aid requires that you have some amount of financial need. Examples of need-based aid are Federal Pell Grants, Federal Work-Study, Subsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and South Carolina Tuition Grants.

What determines my dependency status?

If you are considered a dependent student, you must include your parents’ income and asset information on your FAFSA. If you are an independent student, you are only required to report your income and asset information (including your spouse’s if you are married). You are an independent student only if one or several of the following criteria apply to you:

  • You are under the age of 24
  • You are married
  • You are enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral Degree Program
  • You have children AND you provide over half of their support
  • You are an orphan or ward of the court
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces

How does the Federal Work-Study Program work?

Federal Work Study (FWS) is a need-based program, so students must be eligible for FWS based on their FAFSA data. FWS refers to the money used to pay a student for hours worked at a part-time job on campus. If hired, you will be responsible for working 10-14 hours each week, and your paychecks will be applied toward your tuition and room & board charges. FWS shown on your Financial Aid LIVE is the total amount a student may earn for the academic year. Because you are awarded this amount, however, does not mean this is the total amount you will earn. FWS is subject to federal/state taxes, which will reduce the amount you will receive, after all taxes have been deducted from your gross wages earned. Earnings may be less than amount awarded, depending on the number of hours worked.  Students are responsible for finding on-campus employment. If you are awarded FWS, contact the Office of Student Employment regarding potential opportunities.

Remember, financial aid, including FWS is distributed on a first-come basis — please be aware that work-study runs out quickly, so if you are interested, fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible each year to ensure funding is available when awarded.

Does CSU offer academic Scholarships?

Yes! CSU rewards students academically by giving them grants/scholarships that are renewable each year, as long as they continue to meet residency and academic requirements. Our merit-based aid is determined by the student’s grade point average, SAT/ACT score and residency status. Eligible students can receive up to $15,000 in merit-based aid! Also, different departments at CSU offer their own scholarships based on performance—for example, athletic scholarships, music scholarships, band stipends and AFROTC scholarships.

Do other non-CSU scholarships affect CSU financial aid?

Outside scholarships and grants can affect the amount of your institutional aid. CSU has an institutional policy called the Maximum Free Aid Policy, which limits the amount of free aid a student gets to the cost of attendance + books. If you have enough free aid to cover tuition, room & board and books, the amount of your institutional aid will be decreased.

If tuition, room & board and books are covered with the free aid that you have in your financial aid package, any additional aid added to the package must be in the form of low-interest loans. This is to ensure that all scholarship and grant funds are spent toward educational costs.

Will my financial aid package change from year to year?

Your financial aid package may vary from year to year. Each year, your loan eligibility increases — for example, as a freshman you qualify for $5,500, and as a sophomore you qualify for $6,500. Also, if your EFC varies, then your financial need will change — this will cause your Pell grant amount (if you qualify for it) to vary over the course of your education. Depending on what types of scholarship and grants you have, you may have to maintain a certain GPA to renew them each year. To qualify for financial aid each year, you must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. All of these situations may affect your financial aid package each year.

What is SAP?

SAP is an acronym for Satisfactory Academic Progress. It is our goal that all of our students graduate in a timely manner. In order to do this, we have to make sure that each year you are progressing toward graduation by earning the minimum number of academic hours and GPA. Each student enrolled full time must earn a minimum of 24 hours each year. Part-time students must earn the number of hours that they attempt. You must also earn the GPA necessary for the cumulative amount of hours you have earned:

Hours Attempted *                 Cumulative Minimum GPA:

1 - 59                                                 1.80 

60 - 75                                               1.90

76  or more                                        2.00

Financial aid can be cancelled due to failure to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Undergraduate students must maintain the above GPA based on the number of hours attempted and earn a minimum of 67% of their attempted credit hours to meet SAP requirements. SAP evaluations occur at the conclusion of every spring semester, appeals are considered on an individual basis, and the student is notified in writing of the committee’s decision. If financial aid is cancelled from failure to meet SAP requirements students may submit an appeal, which will be reviewed by a committee.  Submitting an appeal does not guarantee that aid will be reinstated. 

Outside of an approved appeal, students can regain financial aid eligibility by successfully completing enough coursework to bring their GPA and course completion ratio at or above the required minimums. SAP appeals must be submitted no later than 10 working days after the end of the Summer session for the Fall semester.

What is the Bridge Program, and how does it affect my financial aid?

The Bridge Program is a comprehensive developmental program designed for students who are not yet prepared to enroll in freshman Algebra and English courses. These students are required to master basic-level skills before enrolling in the freshman courses. Students enrolled in Bridge courses may receive financial aid during the academic year. However, Bridge courses count as attempted hours, not earned hours. Therefore, these students must pay close attention to the SAP requirements stipulated above.

What if I decide to go to school only part time?

If eligible, part-time students may receive a prorated Federal Pell Grant. Federal loans may also be available for students enrolled in at least 6 credit hours. Students enrolled below full-time (less than 12 credit hours per semester) will be ineligible for institutional and state funding.

What if my family’s financial status changes after the award year begins?

If a student or family member recently lost a job or experienced financial hardship due to death, divorce, or unexpected medical expenses, please contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss the Special Circumstance process.  Students and/or parents must complete a letter and provide required documentation. Requesting a review of Special Circumstances does not guarantee a change in aid. 

What is the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loan?

Both of these loans are federal loans and are only awarded to students who meet the federal requirements. The difference between Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans is the accrual of interest. The subsidized loan is a need-based loan that the federal government pays the interest on while the student is enrolled at least half-time in an eligible degree program. The unsubsidized loan is not need-based, and it begins to accrue interest from the date of disbursement. A dependent student cannot get an additional unsubsidized loan unless the parent PLUS loan is denied by the lender. All federally eligible students qualify for student loans — whether they will get a sub or an unsub depends on their financial need. Both of these loans go into repayment six months after graduation, after a student drops to below half-time status, or after the student withdraws from an academic program.

Year            Loan Amount   Additional if PLUS denied      Total

Freshmen       $5,500             $4,000                                $9,500

Sophomore     $6,500             $4,000                                $10,500

Junior              $7,500             $5,000                                $12,500

Senior             $7,500             $5,000                                 $12,500

All independent students can receive the total amount of both loans without going through the parent loan application process. The federal government has limited the amount of loans that students can borrow as undergraduates. Dependent students are restricted to $31,000, and independent students are limited to $57,500 total. These amounts cannot be exceeded.

Students apply for federal student loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each academic year. Federal Direct loans (Stafford Subsidized/Unsubsidized and Parent PLUS loans) have mandatory requirements. Federal Direct loans require Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note (MPN) before disbursement. Parents approved for a Parent PLUS loan must complete only an MPN. All federal loan requirements can be completed on the Department of Education’s website at

Important: Loans will not disburse for students enrolled less than half time, even if all requirements are complete. Half time is 6 or more credit hours for undergraduate students.

What happens if I don’t have enough money to pay for school?

If you are still short after your grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans have been applied, your parents may apply for a PLUS loan. The PLUS loan allows a parent with a good credit history to help pay for his/her dependent’s college education by taking out a loan in the parent’s name. The PLUS loan has a variable interest rate. Remember, if the PLUS loan is denied, the dependent qualifies for additional unsubsidized funds. In addition to the PLUS loan, students can apply for alternative loans to help cover their educational costs. These are private loans that are approved or denied based on credit and work history. Students can apply for alternative loans at any point as long as they are enrolled in a degree-seeking program.  These loans may require a credit worthy co-signer. An alternative loan may replace a PLUS loan if a parent prefers to co-sign for a student. Most alternative loans go into repayment six months after graduation or after a student withdraws from school.

Where can I go to find out more information about financial aid and outside scholarships?

These are just a few of the scholarship sources that are available. It would also be advantageous to contact local churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations—they have scholarship programs too!

What if I have questions? Who can I contact?

Assisting you in your career at CSU is our highest priority. The Enrollment Services Office is located in the Hunter Center. The office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Our phone numbers are 843-863-7050 or 800-947-7474. Fax number is 843-863-7070.