Who qualifies for Financial Aid?

Financial aid eligibility is need-based. It is the philosophy of need-based student financial aid programs that the primary basis for a student's educational support is the family. A combined effort by the parents and the student to meet college expenses is expected, and the total household resources are taken into account, except in unusual circumstances.
Financial aid is awarded when a family’s financial resources fall short of meeting educational expenses. The application used to determine the family's ability to pay and the amount of assistance the student qualifies for is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


What is Financial Need?

Need is defined by Congress as the difference between the Financial Aid Budget and the amount the family can reasonably be expected to contribute. The amount the family is expected to contribute is calculated by the U.S. Department of Education from the answers you provide on your FAFSA application.

Financial Aid Budget
The Financial Aid Budget is an average, used for all students in a particular category, of direct costs (charges billed by SUNY Oneonta) and indirect costs (other costs you may incur while attending SUNY Oneonta) associated with attendance for the year. Ideally, your financial aid package, along with your personal resources, will cover the direct charges and indirect costs associated with attending SUNY Oneonta. Your actual costs will vary based upon choices you make for things like living arrangements, dining, type and frequency of travel/commuting, purchase of new/used books, and personal needs.

Direct costs are expenses billed and payable to SUNY Oneonta. They include such things as tuition, fees, and room and board (if you live on campus).  Charges for residence living and meal plans vary based on the living arrangement and meal plans you choose.

Indirect costs are other expenses, not specifically billed, you will reasonably experience during the course of the year. They include such things as books, transportation, room and board (if you live off campus), and miscellaneous personal expenses.

Financial aid disbursements are first used to pay direct costs. After direct costs are paid, any additional aid disbursements are refunded to the student/parent and can be used for indirect costs.


What is the student's responsibility?

In determining financial need, prior year (last completed tax year) income and assets are reported on financial aid applications. Students and parents will likely bear some financial responsibility for the cost of attendance.


How Do I Apply for Financial Aid?

SUNY Oneonta requires the following documents to be filed by all aid applicants:
  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The FAFSA Processing Service distributes the results of your application to all named institutions and the applicant. Oneonta's FAFSA Title IV Code is 002847. Applications are NOW AVAILABLE IN OCTOBER! That is a change from the previous JANUARY 1st availability date!!! Be sure to file EARLY!!.

  • TAP Applications

The last page of the FAFSA will contain a link to New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). When you choose this link, most of the federal data will carry over to your TAP application, while you complete the rest.

  • Verification

To verify the accuracy of information for selected students, the college may be required by the Department of Education to request supplemental information/documentation from an applicant. We will request this information from you. In many cases, once we begin reviewing this documentation, the review may lead to additional documentation requirements. As mentioned before, we  will always communicate any additional requirements at such time as it is necessary.


What if my family has special circumstances?

The Department of Education’s philosophy is that the best indicator of your and your family’s ability to contribute towards your educational costs is your income from the family's prior-prior (2 years prior) completed tax return. Your financial aid is based upon the information you supply on your Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which reflects information contained on your prior-prior year Federal income tax returns.

Occasionally due to circumstances beyond the family’s control this income is not the best indicator of the family’s ability to contribute towards educational costs. Each financial aid advisor has the ability to use their professional judgment to change certain data elements to better reflect the family’s ability to contribute towards educational costs. As a first step, please make sure we have a valid FAFSA reflecting your actual income information. Once the FAFSA is processed, we may make changes based on special circumstances.

Listed below are some common reasons for requesting special circumstances with recommended documentation for submission. Documentation should be submitted with a cover letter that clearly identifies the student’s name and ID number.


The student or student’s parent(s) experienced a substantial loss in earnings due to circumstances beyond their control since the last completed tax year. The loss of employment must be at least 12 weeks.


    • Reason for loss of earnings

    • IRS Retrieval data of actual income (or 1040 tax return)

    • Total estimated current annual income (January 1 - December 31 of current year)

Itemize all gross income earned to date. Include any of the following sources of income:

    • Year to date gross income from wages (recent paystub)

    • Estimate to the best of your ability the gross household income to years end.

    • Disability payments

    • Worker’s compensation

    • Unemployment benefits

    • Alimony

    • IRA distributions

    • Income from business/farm/rental properties

    • Child Support

    • Severance Pay

If this loss of income occurs after November of the current tax year, then income information must be submitted for that year once the tax return has been filed.


The student or student’s parents experienced unusually high medical or dental charges not covered by insurance.


    • Document total medical payments with an itemized statement of charges and payments by hospital/ doctor/dentist during the past two years

    • Document the amount covered by insurance

After your financial aid advisor reviews your special circumstances you will be notified in writing of the findings, informed of any changes we made to your application and instructed on how to proceed.

This list is not exhaustive. If you feel there are other special circumstances please visit with your financial aid advisor to discuss options that may be available to you. We cannot consider debt (mortgage, car payments, credit card debt, month-to-month utility bills) as special circumstances.

Note: Financial Aid awards are contingent upon the College receiving adequate federal funds to support these programs. In the event of any changes, you will be notified. State and federal budget discussions may lead to changes in funding levels, cost increases, or regulatory changes.


What if I believe I am an independent student?

Congress defines dependency status for financial aid purposes. The FAFSA will walk you through a series of questions that will determine if you are an independent or dependent student for financial aid purposes.

Independent Student Policy

Independent student status is defined by federal law. The law defines an independent student as a student who:

    1. Is at least 24 years old by December 31 of the award year,

    2. Is a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States, or is engaged in active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training,

    3. Is a graduate student (pursuing a Master's or PhD.),

    4. Is married, at the time the FAFSA is signed,

    5. Since turning age 13 became an orphan, was in foster care, or was a dependent or ward of the court,

    6. Is currently in legal guardianship,

    7. Is verified as an unaccompanied youth who is homeless, or at risk of being homeless,

    8. Has legal dependents other than spouse (provides more than half of the dependent’s support),

Please note: The definition makes no reference to the student being or not being claimed for tax purposes by the parents or about any level of student earnings.

Use of Professional Judgment

Federal regulations permit SUNY Oneonta to exercise professional judgment in determining if unusual circumstances can be documented to make the student independent for federal student financial aid purposes. This determination is made on a case by case basis.

Student Procedure

If the student is dependent by definition but believes circumstances are present to establish him/her as “independent”, the student can request a review of his/her unusual circumstances by the Financial Aid Office at SUNY Oneonta. Students who are unable to provide parental data on the FAFSA may submit the application by indicating that they believe they have special circumstances. The following steps are required:

    A. Student must provide, in writing, a full explanation of his/her unusual circumstances with specifics.

    B. Student must secure written documentation from at least two appropriate persons, agencies, etc., confirming the specifics as identified by the student. It must be in writing and signed and dated by the appropriate party. One supporting letter should be from a disinterested third party.

    C. Student is responsible for providing full written documentation to the Financial Aid Office at SUNY Oneonta.

What Does Not Constitute Unusual Circumstances

SUNY Oneonta maintains that certain circumstances cannot be considered unusual. For example, a parent refusing to provide data, a student who does not want to ask parents for information, a student who is and has been “on their own” for several years, a student who does not communicate with parents. A student who has been independent in past years would not be considered independent unless he/she met one of the conditions of the current independent student definition.

Review of Unusual Circumstances

On a case by case basis, personnel in the Financial Aid Office will exercise professional judgment in determining if unusual circumstances exist and if adequate documentation has been provided. The student will be notified of the decision in writing. Other colleges may not accept SUNY Oneonta’s determination of independent status. Likewise, if another college has granted you independent status, SUNY Oneonta reserves the right to require the above documentation for our review and determination.

Note: Financial Aid Awards are contingent upon the College receiving adequate federal funds to support these programs. In the event of any changes, you will be notified. State and Federal budget discussions may lead to changes in funding levels, cost increases, or regulatory changes.




How is financial aid awarded?

Financial aid is awarded to students matriculated (accepted into) in an approved Degree Program/Program of Study based upon enrollment. The first step is the eligibility phase, which is represented by your award notification. The second step is turning eligibility into cash that you can use to pay your bill and/or be refunded to students/parents for indirect costs.  This second phase requires additional steps typically during the summer months.  For some kinds of financial aid, these steps are very easy; for others, they are more complex. You can rest assured that the staff in the Financial Aid Office will help you every step of the way.

In certain circumstances, such as when a student receives additional scholarship awards or becomes a Resident Assistant, we are required to make adjustments to financial aid awards. When a revision is made, we will notify you. Revised awards supersede all previous awards.

If some of your 12 credits are not required for your degree program, they are not degree applicable credits (DAC). Financial aid eligibility for any given semester is based upon enrollment. Enrollment for financial aid purposes includes any credits required/defined by your degree program. Students cannot receive financial aid for coursework that is not required by their degree program.


“Degree Applicable Credit” for New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and federal Title IV financial aid.

The rules and regulations, for federal aid programs (Pell, Student Loans, etc.) and New York State aid programs (TAP) are substantially similar and generally aligned, establishing 12 credits as the minimum credits required for “full-time” enrollment status.

“Credit-bearing courses in the student's minimum full-time course load (12 semester hours or the equivalent) must consist of courses applicable to the student's program of study as a general education requirement, major requirement, or elective. The only exception is in the student's final term of study: if the student needs fewer than 12 credits to complete the program, other courses may be included to determine full-time status even if not required to complete graduation requirements.” (NYS TAP Rules)


“For undergraduates, full-time status must be at least: 12 semester hours or 12 quarter hours per academic term in an educational program using a semester, trimester, or quarter system;” “If a student is enrolled in courses that do not count toward his degree, certificate, or other recognized credential, they cannot be used to determine enrollment status unless they are eligible remedial courses. This means you cannot award the student aid for classes that do not count toward his degree, certificate, or other recognized credential.” (Federal Student Aid Rules)

Likewise, SUNY Oneonta’s Scholarship Policy is generally aligned with the federal and state rules/regulations;

“Unless specifically noted in the individual scholarship description, recipients must be matriculated in a degree program and registered full time (12 credits); or negotiate a valid consortium agreement; or serve in a full-time internship; or be enrolled full time in a study abroad program.”

For most students, this general alignment functions appropriately and various sources of aid are consistently available - as expected - throughout their academic career.

However, in certain situations or combinations of circumstances, slight differences in the rules as well as more significant differences in guidance (or exceptions to the rules) issued by each respective federal or state agency make consistent application of the full set of relevant rules applicable to a given student’s situation challenging. Additionally, the complexity of these differences make easy answers/guidelines that can be applied in broad strokes to categories of students very difficult, impossible without a certain amount of training.

Program of Study

This concept is similar, but applied differently for federal and state aid programs:

• both federal and state rules require that a student be enrolled in an “eligible” or “approved” program of study. While the rules are slightly different, generally programs approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) are the same programs that are eligible for federal aid.

• for federal aid programs, a student’s program of study may include multiple majors or multiple degrees.

• for NYS aid programs, a student’s program of study may include only one major/degree – the student’s “primary” major/degree program.

• minors and non-required concentrations are not recognized by either NYS or federal rules as part of a student’s program of study although coursework included in a minor or non-required concentration is permissible as long as it satisfies a graduation requirement (usually a general education or elective requirement) in a student’s program of study. See also “Required Coursework”.

Required Coursework

This concept is similar, but applied differently for federal and state aid programs:

• both federal and state rules indicate that ONLY courses that are applicable toward the student’s degree/program of study can be used to determine a student’s enrollment status. The enrollment status which is then used to determine a student’s eligibility for aid according to the individual aid program’s rules. See also “Full-Time Status”

• for both federal and state aid programs, required coursework consists only of courses that satisfy a student’s general education requirements, major requirements and related coursework, or elective requirements.

NOTE: “elective requirements” are courses other than general education and major requirements which are required for graduation. Elective courses which are not applicable to a student’s program of study are not required coursework and cannot be counted in a student’s enrollment status. For undeclared students, required coursework generally consists of all non-repeat courses that satisfy a graduation requirements .

• for NYS aid programs, required coursework consists of courses in only one NYSED approved program of study - the student’s primary major/degree.

• for federal aid programs, required coursework consists of courses required for any of the student’s approved majors/degree programs.

Enrollment Status (i.e. definition and calculation of full-time status)

This concept is generally the same for federal and state aid programs – 12 credits minimum for an undergraduate student. However, coursework that may be counted in a student’s enrollment status may differ between federal and state aid programs. See “Required Coursework”.

• NYS aid programs generally require full-time enrollment to be eligible.

• federal aid programs have varying required enrollment statuses.

EXAMPLE: In order to receive a maximum Pell grant, students must be enrolled full-time but Pell can be pro-rated at three-quarter time (9-11 credits), half-time (6-8 credits), and less-than half-time (1-5 credits). Federal Loan programs require at least half-time enrollment.

• for NYS aid programs, only courses applicable to a student’s primary major/degree can be included in the enrollment status calculation.

• for federal aid programs, courses applicable to any of the student’s approved majors/degrees can be included in the enrollment status calculation.

• For NYS aid programs, a repeat of a previously passed course cannot be included in the enrollment status calculation unless the student has received a grade that is considered passing by the college, but unacceptable in a particular curriculum.

• for federal aid programs, a repeat of a previously passed course can be included one time in the enrollment status calculation.

• credits required only for minors or concentrations that are not required within a program of study cannot be included in either the federal or state enrollment status calculation.

SUNY Oneonta completely subscribes to all federal and state civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination at institutions of higher education. SUNY Oneonta aspires to provide an environment of inclusion for all its employees and students. It is the policy of our college to provide equal employment and educational opportunities for all qualified people. The college shall not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment or admission to the college because of race, color, gender, religion, age, pregnancy, national origin (including ancestry), disability, being a disabled veteran or veteran of the Vietnam era, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity, marital status or any other protected category.