Most types of financial aid are applicable toward the study abroad programs offered through Montana State University. Some of these include Direct Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized), Perkins Loans, and Pell Grants. With the exception of work study, tuition waivers and some miscellaneous scholarships you are entitled to use your financial aid towards your program fee, whether it is charged to your account by the Business Office or whether you are billed by an outside organization or university. However, do not assume that your aid will be applicable to your study abroad program. It is your responsibility to schedule a meeting early with the Financial Aid Office (FAO) in the Strand Union Building, Room 135, to answer any questions regarding your award, disbursement dates, signing of promissory notes, etc.
- The Financial Aid Office requires that you fill out a Study Abroad Budget Form, Agreement Contract and the Study Abroad Course Approval Form.
- Print out the forms here or on the Financial Aid web site. You can also pick them up at the Office of International Programs in Culbertson Hall or the Financial Aid Office.
Study Abroad Course Approval Form
The Study Abroad Course Approval Form lists your proposed coursework and the number of academic units you will be carrying at your host institution. The Financial Aid Office requires that you carry at least twelve credits per semester during your study abroad to be eligible to receive financial aid. By signing the financial aid contract, you agree to transfer back the full twelve credits. Failure to do this will result in loss of aid.
Study Abroad Budget Form
Also included on your approval form is your study abroad budget for your program. The Financial Aid Office requires this to ensure that you are not awarded too much (or too little!) aid. Federal law allows the use of aid to cover all "reasonable " costs of study abroad, INCLUDING roundtrip transportation, tuition and fees for the program, living costs, passport and visa fees, health insurance, etc. However, it is important to remember that there are maximum loan limits depending upon your year in school and other factors. Once these units have been reached, the Financial Aid Office cannot disperse any more aid to you. You must make certain that you have enough funds to cover your expenses while you are gone.
It is ultimately your responsibility to make sure all correct forms are filled out and returned to the appropriate departments on time. It is also your responsibility to check with each department to see that all paperwork is being processed correctly before you depart on your program. You cannot assume that everything will be done automatically.
Federal law prohibits your financial aid from being disbursed earlier than ten days before the start of the academic term. Still, some study abroad programs generally start before your fall semester disbursement is made. Frequently you will need to purchase your airplane ticket significantly earlier than your aid disbursement date. In short, you must not be completely dependent upon your aid for study abroad expenses, as it may not be available to you until after you have needed to pay some expenses. You are responsible for making any and all payments to the program sponsor that occur before your aid is available. However, most schools will allow you a grace period. You should check with your sponsor and the Study Abroad/Exchange advisor regarding the use of financial aid.
If you are paying your fees to MSU, the normal procedure of having your financial aid applied to your student account with a refund check subsequently sent out to your permanent mailing address applies.
Verification of Enrollment
After your first month of exchange you will need to send verification of your enrollment at the host institution back to the Office of International Programs that they will then forward to the Financial Aid Office (FAO). Failure to do so could result in the revocation of your financial aid and require repayment of all funds disbursed.
While on exchange you or your parents may receive a letter from the Financial Aid Office stating that you are on financial aid probation. In most cases, you can just ignore this letter. Unfortunately, the FAO computers do not have a way of determining that you are participating in an international exchange and the FAO manually pulls those letters out of the bin before they are mailed. Still, the possibility for human error always exists. It is important that while you are overseas you maintain some sort of web-based e-mail address that will enable you to communicate quickly with either the Financial Aid Office or the Office of International Programs should something occur.
Financial aid for the following year can be arranged from the host country. Normally you will receive a renewal FAFSA form at your permanent U.S. address. You should make arrangements for it to be forwarded to you overseas or leave a Power of Attorney form with a responsible person so s/he can fill it out on your behalf. This form would also enable them to conduct financial transactions for you while you are overseas, a good idea in general. If you are applying for financial aid for the first time, you may pick up a new FAFSA form at the Financial Aid Office or download one from the federal web page at http://www.montana.edu/wwwfa/ or www.fafsa.ed.gov. Remember to plan ahead when applying for financial aid, as these things tend to take time to process. The Financial Aid Office deals with thousands of students and the more organized and prepared in advance you are the easier the process will be for everyone involved. In addition to consulting Financial Aid, there are a number of financial aid resource books and scholarship and grant applications in the Office of International Programs. See Appendix B for a list of financial aid sourcebooks.