Financial aid error in my favor?
January 14, 2011 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Anyone good at financial aid related questions? I've started receiving financial aid starting from this semester. I got a check for $2,775.00 from City University of New York. I cashed it in. This semester I also transferred from College of Staten Island to Brooklyn College.

I checked online and realized that my tuition has been paid for already automatically on the CUNY portal through the computer system that manages it. When I was talking about this to my advisor in Brooklyn College, they told me that my financial aid should cover my tuition for one semester. From the Fall 2011 semester I will have to file another FAFSA.

So what should I do? Is this an error in my favor? Do I have to return the money back?

If anyone knows, it would be nice. I'm gonna go see a Brooklyn college advisor very soon about this anyways, but a quicker answer would be nice as well.
posted by antgly to Education (10 answers total)
It's hard to tell what happened, but if it is an error in your favor, they will almost certainly figure it out and will be entirely within their rights to ask for (and get) it back. So it is in your best interest to get it sorted out ASAP. I'm unclear what sort of advisor you've been meeting it, but be sure you're speaking to a financial aid-specific person, not just a college advisor.
posted by brainmouse at 3:45 PM on January 14, 2011

When I was in school, if my financial aid (from a mixture of federal grants and a school scholarship) exceeded the amount for tuition, they gave me a "refund" check. (This was supposed to go toward housing, in my case. They would not have awarded me more than the cost of tuition + some amount the school determined was a standard housing stipend.) Is it possible that's the case here? Did you get an aid package or award letter that you can look at?
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:48 PM on January 14, 2011

Call the financial aid office at CUNY and explain, and they should be able to direct you on what to do.
posted by anniecat at 3:48 PM on January 14, 2011

It is pretty common for financial aid to cover tuition and also costs like housing and food and books, for which the college would normally give you a refund cheque, but without knowing anything about your situation it's impossible to say. Definitely call your financial aid office and clarify.

(I used to work in financial aid in Canada, but I did deal with the US system a bit.)
posted by SoftRain at 4:06 PM on January 14, 2011

Got Pell grants thru my first two years of college and yes, you can get money back if your FA is over your actual tuition and books. Your tuition is taken out automatically, you may need to pay for your books with that money or your school may have let you "charge" them before they issued the check.

The additional money is supposed to be used for paper, pens, housing, gas, etc... things you need for school. However, they do not require you to keep track of it. They assume you're an adult and will spend it appropriately. (I bought a laptop and an iPod my first semester.)

My concern here is that I'm not sure if the three colleges you listed are connected. From what I understand, each college is given money that they divide up between their potential students. If you received money from CUNY, that would be to attend CUNY. Brooklyn College would need to award money to you rather than CUNY if you're attending Brooklyn College (and they're not interconnected).

I second the need to talk to your Financial Aid advisor, rather than simply your academic or program advisor. The financial aid department knows the ins & outs and will give you clearer answers, plus if anything needs to be fixed, you'll be talking to them anyway.
posted by aristan at 4:34 PM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: aristan: Brooklyn College and College of Staten Island are both part of the CUNY network.
posted by antgly at 4:36 PM on January 14, 2011

Thanks, antgly... then you should be fine. Talk to them, but I think you just got a very nice chunk of lunch money.
posted by aristan at 4:39 PM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: And I got it in the middle of the college year so to speak after the Fall semester. (Usually you get the money for the entire year - Fall and Spring - which is what the FAFSA covers. I will have to file a FAFSA for Fall 2011 - Spring 2012 year soon.)

I so hope that my financial aid advisor will tell me that the check money is mine to keep, because my MacBook Pro died completely due to a logic board failure and it is out of warranty (it's a three year old model). I could use a new laptop for my studies. Right now I'm down to my iPad.
posted by antgly at 4:45 PM on January 14, 2011

Definitely double check before you spend it...
posted by itheearl at 9:52 PM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: Okay thanks everyone! It was what I hoped. The Fall money is given as a refund. Thanks everybody!
posted by antgly at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2011

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