Information Guide 2023 - 2024
|Your Rights and Responsibilities|
|Changes in Your Eligibility|
This information guide has been prepared to help you understand your financial aid offer from Montana State University. It will tell you how to respond to your aid offer, how your financial aid will be disbursed and what to do in unusual situations.
You are responsible for knowing the procedures described in this guide. You may need to and are encouraged to refer to this guide frequently and at least annually.
It is important that you respond to your Financial Aid Offer Notification promptly.
*Please note the portions of your offer that are limited in funding, may be cancelled if not accepted in a timely manner. Timely is generally by the beginning of a term. Accepting your offer does not commit you to attending Montana State University.
Your offer represents the most equitable offer MSU can make based on the information you submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the estimated funds the University will have for 2023–2024, and when you applied for financial aid. It is possible that your package may change if regulations or funding levels change or if your eligibility profile changes. Final federal funding is based on Congressional appropriations. If you have any questions, please let us know.
The three components used to determine your eligibility for financial aid are 1) Cost of Attendance (anticipated expenses), 2) Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and 3) other financial resources available to you.
COST OF ATTENDANCE: The cost of attendance for a student is an estimate of that student's expenses for the period of enrollment. These expenses reflect reasonable spending levels for an academic year which includes tuition, fees, food, housing, books and other miscellaneous expenses. Adjustments to these spending levels may be considered for items such as dependent care or computer purchase. Please contact our office to discuss these options.
Undergraduate and WUE tuition and fees are based on the standard cost of two-traditional semesters. This does not include specific program or course fees. The Aviation Program flight school expenses can be seen http://gallatin.montana.edu/programs/aviation.html.
Graduate, Gallatin College and Online tuition and fees are based on the average cost for students enrolled in those programs for an academic year (2 traditional semesters).
Tuition, fees, books and supplies will vary depending on your curriculum, residency status, and the number of credits carried each semester.
Food and Housing represent the average amount assessed to students living in the residence halls. It is the cost of a double room with a meal plan. For all other students, this figure represents an amount reasonably incurred for off-campus housing and food costs.
The personal and transportation costs provide for moderate transportation expenses, clothing, laundry, recreation, medical, and other personal expenses.
The Average Loan Fee represents an average for student Direct Loan fees incurred in the previous year.
Since cost of attendance reflects average costs, you may spend more or less than the amounts allowed. For example, you may only spend $500 on books and supplies but more for miscellaneous expenses. Your actual expenses will depend on your own individual lifestyle, student status, where you live, marital status, personal priorities and obligations, and numerous other individual choices.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: To qualify for most federal aid programs, you must be enrolled at least half-time (six credits) per semester. If attendance is other than nine months or if enrollment is less than 12 credit hours per semester, disbursed financial aid may be pro-rated or canceled (see the webpage) “Financial Aid Pro-ration Based on Enrollment Status”). Please remember, many financial aid offer packages may not meet all your (family) costs while you are attending MSU, it is very important for you to manage your financial resources wisely. If you need assistance with managing your financial resources or debt, schedule an appointment with a financial coach at the Office of Financial Education.
EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION: Financial Aid is designed to assist with your educational costs. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount that you and your parents (if applicable) are expected to contribute toward your costs. This amount is determined from information provided on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) according to a formula established by Congress. In most cases, if the expected funds are not available, they can be obtained in the form of loans offered in your financial aid offer.
OTHER FINANCIAL RESOURCES: This represents other known and expected financial resources you will have available to assist you with your educational costs, such as scholarships, tuition waivers, Vocational Rehabilitation benefits, etc. Please report all know resources to the Financial Aid Office as you learn of them.
Your eligibility (financial need) is found by subtracting your Expected Family Contribution and other financial resources from your Cost of Attendance.
How Aid is Offered
Your offers are based on a combination of available funds and your eligibility. Your offers may not include funds from all aid programs. Some funds carry restrictions and some are limited as to amounts that can be offered.
If eligible, the Federal Pell Grant is the first program we put into your package. The next offers packaged are other grants (federal, state, and/or institutional) and/or scholarship(s). Some grant and scholarship funds have restrictions which limit awards to Montana residents. MSU grants and scholarships are limited but are offered to eligible undergraduate students until funds are no longer available. Work Study funds are offered next with student and parent loans are offered last.
Your Offer Package
Your financial aid offers are designed to meet as much of your educational costs (COA) as possible. All offers are contingent on:
1. Availability of funds from federal, state, and institutional sources.
2. Accuracy of information provided on your FAFSA by you and/or your parents or spouse.
3. Additional resources that exceeds your eligibility.
4. Receiving information that would affect your financial need or Exxpected Family Contribution.
5. Your meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy Standards toward your degree.
6. Your compliance with requests to send us additional documentation to support your application.
7. Your eligibility to receive funds, i.e., you are a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, you are not in default on a student loan, you have signed all required documentation, and you are enrolled in a degree-seeking program of study for the appropriate number of credit hours.
Accepting or Declining Your Offer
You will receive an email with instructions on how to reply to your Financial Aid offer through your MyInfo account. You must respond to the aid offered. *Please note the portions of your offers that are limited in funding, may be cancelled if not accepted in a timely manner. Timely generally means within two weeks but no later than the beginning of classes. Accepting your offer does not commit you to attending Montana State University.
The offers listed on your Financial Aid Offer Notification represent aid based on a minimum of 12 credits for undergraduate students or a minimum of 6 credits for advanced degree students for each semester of the school year. If attendance is other than nine months or if enrollment is less than these minimum credits per semester, disbursed financial aid may be pro-rated or canceled (see “Financial Aid Pro-ration Based On Enrollment Status”). A change in your enrollment status may affect your eligibility for certain offers. Please notify Financial Aid Services in writing if you will attend only one semester or cease to attend. Audit and reserved credits not applicable to your current degree do not count toward the credit requirements in determining enrollment status. You can only receive aid for one repeat of a previously passed course.
If you want to accept a lesser amount than the amount offered, indicate the amount you wish to accept. If you accept a lower loan amount than what was offered, please remember that the amount you accept will be split between two semesters.
Before deciding to accept or reject an offer, you should consider the following:
1. Think about the amount and type of loan being accepted. Do not borrow more than you absolutely need.
2. Think about the status of your loan debt. You can view your loan debt, by logging into the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at: www.nslds.ed.gov. You will need your FSA ID.
3. If you did not receive sufficient financial aid necessary to enable you to attend MSU, contact us to evaluate options.
4. If you have unique circumstances, we may be able to address them.
5. If you want to make a change to your aid, please notify us in writing as soon as possible. Adjustment requests for a specific semester must be received by our office two weeks prior to the end of that semester to allow for adequate processing time. Please include your full name and last four digits of MSU ID on all mailed, emailed or faxed correspondence.
Disbursement of Funds
If financial assistance is available at the time you are billed for University charges, your aid for the semester will be listed as estimated amounts (memo'd) on your bill and deducted from the total due. This will include billable charges (tuition, fees, and room and board if you live on campus), plus minor prior year charges of up to $200 or any other charges assessed by the University such as library or parking fines if authorized. If you choose not to accept certain terms and conditions, indirect charges may need to be paid to your account before federal aid can be released.
Be sure to check your bill carefully. Some types of financial aid are listed on your bill and others, such as Work Study, do not appear. Be aware that some donors do not release scholarship funds until after the beginning of the semester and therefore, you may need to pay your bill before your scholarship is received by the University.
Private loan checks and other alternative loan checks made payable to the student and the University need to be endorsed by the student at the Office of Financial Aid Services. These checks will then be applied to your University account.
At no time does Financial Aid Services disburse refunds. Information regarding your financial aid is submitted electronically to the Student Accounts Office for processing. All questions regarding your bill, the amount of any refund you may receive, and when refund or other checks will be released should be discussed with the Student Accounts Office.
BobCat Bridge (loan): This is a loan which permits a student, who may be experiencing temporary difficulties, to borrow a small sum of money for a short period of time. No collateral is required for a short-term loan, although the student must identify a reliable source of repayment. In addition, a student must have a cumulative grade-point average of 2.0 or better at MSU, be enrolled for at least six credits as a degree-seeking student and have a satisfactory repayment record with respect to any previous loan(s) received.
The University reserves the right to reject or decline any application, to determine the amount and a date of repayment for any loan approved, and to require a guarantor. Applications and other information regarding the BobCat Bridge loan program may be obtained from Financial Aid Services. Allow a minimum of three (3) working days to process a loan application.
BOOK LOAN: This loan is designed to assist students with money to buy books at the MSU Bookstore before refund checks are distributed. Financial Aid Services verifies that each student requesting a book loan has adequate funds after University charges are paid to cover the costs of the loan. Funds borrowed are deposited to the student’s CatCard no earlier than 10 days prior to the beginning of the term. When the student’s financial aid is disbursed, it is applied to the book loan, as well as a non-refundable loan processing fee of $25.
Accept (Confirm) Your Bill
You must accept (confirm) your bill (pay your fees) each semester with the Student Accounts Office. If your aid is sufficient to cover your bill in full, you can accept your bill from MyInfo. If your aid is not sufficient to cover your bill in full, your bill will not be accepted (confirmed). You will receive detailed payment instructions with your bill. If you have questions about your bill or paying your fees, please contact Student Accounts at 406-994-1991.
If your financial aid exceeds your University charges, you will be refunded the difference. Disbursement of financial aid funds begins at the start of each semester and continues until the end of that semester. Please be aware the Student Accounts Office will not release a refund unless all required financial aid documents and promissory notes have been responded to as required and your bill has been paid or accepted with the Student Accounts Office.
If a loan has paid to your student account that you do not wish to receive, you have the right under federal regulations to cancel all or a portion of your loan(s). You will receive a notice with instructions after each loan disbursement.
TUITION PAYMENT PLAN: If you will have difficulty in meeting full payment of University charges by the due date, you may apply for the Tuition Payment Plan. This plan permits applicants to pay a minimum of one-quarter of the applicable University charges at the beginning of the semester with the balance being deferred until later in the semester. A nonrefundable processing fee is assessed for each approved application. Tuition payment installment loan applications or additional information may be obtained from the Student Accounts Office in Montana Hall or on the Student Accounts Office website: www.montana.edu/wwwbu/studentaccts.html.
Your Rights and Responsibilities
You have the right to privacy. All records and data submitted with your application for financial aid are treated as confidential information. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that protects the confidentiality of a student’s educational record, and Montana State statutes, specify that the University may not release information from a student’s record to anyone outside the University without the express written consent of the student. These confidential records include financial aid, scholarship, and billing/account information. If you wish to authorize University personnel to release confidential information to another person, such as a parent, you will need to complete the Authorization to Release Financial Information form. The form is available in Financial Aid Services or at: www.montana.edu/financialaid.
You have the right to examine your records. You may request a review with a financial aid administrator on a walk-in basis. Dependent students cannot review their parents' income information. Parents/spouses cannot view an independent student's information without written consent.
You have the right to information. Information about costs, aid programs, aid opportunites, program policies, etc., are available on the financial aid webpage or by contacting our office.
You have the right to an explanation of the offer process. Questions regarding your offer can be answered by the professional staff at the OFAS.
You have the right to appeal. You may request a review of any decision concerning your financial aid eligibility. If necessary, you may be directed to submit a written appeal and supporting documentation. This review may not result in a change to your offers.
You have the right to Fair Treatment. Montana State does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, physical or mental disability, veteran status or age.
It is your responsibility to provide accurate information and to provide additional documentation, tax transcripts, and any additional information requested by the Office of Financial Aid Services. Deadlines exist for various processes and it is your responsibility to know when those are.
It is your responsibility to read, understand and be accountable for all forms or agreements you sign. We recommend you keep copies for your records.
It is your responsibility to report all scholarships, grants, fellowships, tuition waivers, or any other educational resources not indicated on your Financial Aid Offers.
It is your responsibility to meet your college expenses. Financial aid is available to supplement yours (and your parents/spouse if warranted) own resources in meeting those costs and accepting your bill.
It is your responsibility to report changes that might affect your eligibility for aid. These include but are not limited to residency, enrollment (drops, withdrawals), other resources, and marital status.
It is your responsibility to use financial aid funds for educational related expenses at MSU.
It is your responsibility to repay all types of loan assistance. You must inform lenders or servicers of changes to name, enrollment and attendance changes during and after you leave school.
It is your responsibility meet Satisfactory Academic Progress standards for continued use of financial aid funds.
It is your responsibility to know university policy regarding updates and maintenance of physical and email addresses.
Changes in your Eligibility
Your aid may be reduced or canceled, or you may be required to repay aid that you have already received if you:
- withdraw or drop credits (see “Adding and Dropping Credits” and “Withdrawing from the University”).
- do not meet the stated minimum standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress.
- exceed your financial aid eligibility when other financial assistance is received such as scholarships, grants, fellowships, tuition waivers or other educational benefits.
- exceed the aggregate eligibility limits for the loan or Pell Grant programs or are delinquent or in default on student loans.
- become an in-state student after originally being considered a non-resident student.
- submit incorrect information on the FAFSA or other financial aid forms or documents.
- have been selected for the Verification Program and submit documentation that results in reduced eligibility, or you fail to submit requested documentation to our office by the prescribed dates.
- do not use financial aid received during the academic year solely for expenses related to your education such as tuition and fees, books, supplies, and reasonable living costs.
- Minimum enrollment levels not met. See Financial Aid Pro-ration Based on Enrollment Status.
Adding and Dropping Credits
When a Financial Aid offer is prepared for you, Financial Aid Services assumes you will be enrolled for 12 or more credits as an undergraduate or 6 or more credits as a graduate student. It is understood, however, that not all students enroll in a full-time course of study. The Registrar’s Office officially verifies the number of credits for which all students are enrolled at MSU. Financial Aid Services uses this information to determine your enrollment status based on the 15th class day of University instruction.
CHANGE IN ENROLLMENT STATUS ON OR BEFORE THE 15th CLASS DAY: Disbursement of your aid is contingent upon the number of credits for which you are enrolled at the time your aid is disbursed. If your enrollment status changes on or before the 15th class day of University instruction due to your dropping credits after financial aid funds have been disbursed, including any retroactive drops with an effective date within the first 15 class days, you may have received funds that you were not entitled to receive. You will receive a bill from the Student Accounts Office for any overpayment made to you.
WITHDRAWAL FROM CLASSES AFTER THE 15TH CLASS DAY: If you withdraw from some, but not all, of your classes after the 15th day of University instruction, earning a “W” (withdraw) in the class(es), and if your aid has already disbursed, your current financial aid may not be affected. However, grades of “W” are not considered passing for purposes of the Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy and may affect your future financial aid eligibility (see below).
Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy
To be eligible for federal and state aid programs and most scholarships and tuition waivers, a student must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy standards regardless of whether the student received financial aid previously. The standards represent minimum requirements and may not coincide with academic program requirements. In addition to meeting the standards, students must fulfill all other financial aid requirements. You can view the full policy www.montana.edu/financialaid/SAP.html. Violation these standards will result in loss of financial aid eligibility.
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Withdrawing from the University
If you have confirmed your bill (paid your fees with the Student Accounts Office) and you decide to stop attending classes at MSU, you must officially withdraw from the University by contacting the Registrars Office in Montana Hall (undergraduate students), or the Graduate School (graduate students). If you withdraw from the University and are assigned no grade prior to the 15th class day or a grade of ‘W’ after the 15th class day, then an official withdrawal has taken place.
For financial aid purposes, the withdrawal date will be assessed by your first date of contact to the respective offices listed above. If you never attend any class, make this known upon completing your University withdrawal.
If you earned all non-passing grades (“F, I, N, W, NR”) at the end of the semester, it is determined that you unofficially withdrew and the amount of Title IV aid to be returned for the payment period will be calculated based on the latest date recorded as “last date of attendance” by your professor(s). If your “last date of attendance” cannot be determined, the amount of Title IV aid to be returned for the payment period will be calculated as if you withdrew at the 50 percent point of the semester.
If you received a combination of passing and non-passing grades, and your schedule includes courses with start and/or end dates outside of the standard course calendar, it may be determined that you unofficially withdrew if you did not complete your last scheduled class.
The date of official or unofficial withdrawal, the type and amount of financial aid received and the amount of your original charges are factors used to determine the aid repayment amount. For more complete details on the calculation performed please contact our office.
If you received funds for which you were not eligible, you will receive a bill from the Student Accounts Office and a Financial Aid Revision Notice from Financial Aid Services. If you have any student loans, your loan servicer(s) will be notified of the change in your enrollment status. In keeping with the terms of your loan promissory note(s), you are expected to notify your loan servicer(s) regarding any changes in address or enrollment status.
If you are eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement, you will be sent a letter of notification of your eligibility which must be returned within 14 days from the date of the notice, or the offer will be rescinded.
If you plan to return to MSU in a subsequent term during the academic year, please notify Financial Aid Services.
More information regarding this appeal can be found www.montana.edu/financialaid/SPC.html.
Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may be selected for review called verification to determine the accuracy of application data. Selection can be random or based on federal analysis on how questions were answered. Selection does not mean you did anything wrong. If you are selected, you will be required to provide additional documentation. Under federal regulations, your participation is mandatory, not voluntary, and we appreciate your cooperation. Failure to provide requested documentation can result in cancellation of aid offers or repayment of aid disbursed. More information regarding verification can be found www.montana.edu/financialaid/verification.html.
1. If your residency or student status classification changes, your aid eligibility may be affected. It may also be affected if you receive any new or any increase in vocational rehabilitation or other benefits, including scholarships, tuition waivers, or fellowships. If the assistance from any of these sources does not appear on your Financial Aid Notification or if the sources do appear but the amount is incorrect, it is your responsibility to report them when you respond to your notification or to contact this office in writing as soon as you know about them. This office will follow up on any changes made and, if necessary, recalculate your eligibility. If you want to know how additional resources will affect your financial aid, you may contact Financial Aid Services.
2. To avoid aid delays, respond to your Financial Aid Notification and all requests for additional information in a timely manner.
3. Complete all loan requirements at: www.studentaid.gov.
4. Financial aid and account information is accessible electronically on the Web by logging into the secure area through MyInfo. You may be able to find answers to many of your questions here.
5. Check out the Financial Aid Services homepage at: www.montana.edu/financialaid. The answers to most financial aid questions can be found here, throughout this document and the many other links on our homepage.
6. Monitor and maintain your email account on a regular basis as most offices and departments use electronic forms of communication, including Financial Aid Services and Student Accounts.
How to avoid problems
Come to the University with some money of your own. Even if your aid is prepared on time, funds may not be available until after classes begin. You will need money for housing, books, and other immediate expenses. If you can save money during the summer before school starts, these savings will be useful in meeting your beginning-of-the-semester expenses and protect you from hardships if your aid is delayed.
Pay your fees and other charges by the due date if your aid is delayed. Tuition and Fees are due prior to the beginning of each semester. If not paid when due, you are subject to late fees and/or cancellation of registration. Contact the Student Accounts Office regarding a Tuition Payment Plan if you cannot pay your entire bill upfront.
Do not drop any of your classes or withdraw from MSU without checking first with Financial Aid Services. If you drop below the required minimum credit load or fail to complete the appropriate number of credit hours, your financial aid may be reduced and/or canceled and repayment may be required.
Always communicate in a thorough and timely manner by responding immediately to all correspondence from our office. Always include your MSU Identification Number (ID) on written correspondence or telephone messages. Keep photocopies of all forms and documents you submit to all agencies and offices.
Keep your permanent, local and email addresses current. You can update your addresses from your MyInfo account or by submitting an Address Change Form to the Registrar’s Office at 101 Montana Hall. The form is also available from their website: www.montana.edu/registrar.
Information regarding academic programs, facilities, withdrawal and refund policies is available in the current MSU Catalog. Student graduation and retention rates can be obtained from the Office of Planning and Analysis. You can obtain additional information regarding financial aid programs and services by reviewing publications and fact sheets available on our website.
Staff are available on a walk-in basis to assist you. Office hours and phone lines are open from 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. weekdays. Please don’t hesitate to visit our office or phone us with your questions.
We are here to help you achieve your educational goals!
Policies and procedures governing financial aid programs are subject to change at any time without prior notification or publication due to changes in University, State, and/or Federal guidelines and regulations. Montana State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, or veteran status.