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Most Frequently Asked Financial Aid Questions

General Questions about Financial Aid

I probably don't qualify for aid. Should I apply for aid anyway?

Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don't qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. In addition, there are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need.

Do I need to be admitted before I can apply for financial aid?

No. You can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.  We encourage students to apply early, regardless of acceptance, to ensure that their financial aid is processed in a timely fashion.

How long does it take to process my student loan application?

When a student applies for federal financial aid, it may take up to 8 weeks for the student’s file to be completely processed and for funds to post to their account.  The Student Accounting Office may require additional processing time if a refund is due.

Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?

Yes.  Your financial circumstances can change year by year, which may cause you to qualify for more or less aid.  After your first year you will receive a "Renewal Application" which contains preprinted information from the previous year's FAFSA. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on your making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, such as earning a minimum number of credits and achieving a minimum GPA.

How do I apply for a Pell Grant and other types of need-based aid?

Note:  Federal grants are only available to students seeking their 1st Bachelor’s degree.

Submit a FAFSA. Grants will be awarded to qualifying students based on their FAFSA results and cost of attendance. 

How do I apply for federal student loans?

To indicate interest in student loans and parent loans, you should check the appropriate boxes on your FAFSA.  Checking these boxes does not commit you to accepting these types of aid.  You will have the opportunity to accept or decline each part of your aid package later. 

How much money can I request?

The amount of money a student can request depends on his/her estimated cost of attendance. The estimated cost of attendance is the estimated cost for attending the Medical University.  This includes tuition, fees, living expenses, etc.  Each year a copy of the estimated budgets is posted on the Financial Aid website. You may request financial assistance up to your estimated cost of attendance. We encourage students to construct a budget to review their expenses before completing the loan request application.  Also, please see our “Loans” section to determine the amount of federal loan money you are eligible for.

If I run of out of money before the school year ends or if I have an emergency, can I request additional financial aid?

If you have not borrowed up to your total cost of attendance for the year, you may submit another loan request application for the additional amount of funds you need.  Make sure you also apply for the loan with your lender and/or sign a Master Promissory Note if applicable. 

If you have borrowed the maximum amount of funds available to you in your budget, you will need to contact the Office of Financial Aid Services to obtain a Budget Adjustment Form.  You will need to return this completed form along with documentation of your expenses.  We will review your request for additional funds along with your documentation. A budget adjustment can only be made for expenses which occur during the current school year.  If approved, you will need to submit a loan request application for the additional amount.  You may also need to apply for the loan with your lender and/or sign a Master Promissory Note.

I applied for an additional loan with my lender.  Should I notify the Office of Financial Aid Services?

Yes.  Each time you apply for a student loan with a lender, you must submit an MUSC loan request to notify us.  We will not certify the loan with your lender until you have submitted this document to our office.

Can I send funds back or reduce my loans?

Yes.  You will need to submit a written request to your financial aid counselor telling them how much you want to send back, from which semester, and from which type of loan.  If the funds have already been released to you in the form of a refund, you will need to bring a check to the Student Accounting Office for the amount of funds you are returning.  If the funds have not come in for the current semester or are for a future semester, a written statement requesting a reduction or cancellation is all your counselor will need.  Please do not personally return funds to your lender. 

Do I need to report my parents’ information on the FAFSA?

When filling out your FAFSA, you will be asked a series of questions that will determine your dependency status.  Only dependent undergraduate students are required to complete the parents’ section of the FAFSA. 

However, there is an exception. Students who are interested in applying for Health and Human Services (HHS) funds are required to complete the parents’ section of the FAFSA and submit a signed copy of their parents’ federal income tax return. There is no exception to this requirement. The HHS programs include:

- Health Professions Loan (Dental and Pharmacy Students)
- Loan for Disadvantaged Students (Medical and Dental Students)
- Primary Care Loan (Medical Students)

What scholarships are available at MUSC?

Each of the Colleges at MUSC has its own scholarship committee.  Please review our “Scholarships” section for links to each College’s scholarship information page.  Students are also encouraged to seek outside scholarships from local community organizations and through scholarship search engines.

Are my parents responsible for my educational loans?

No. Parents are, however, responsible for Federal Parent PLUS loans. Parents will only be responsible for your educational loans if they co-sign your loan. In general you and you alone are responsible for repaying your educational loans. 

PLEASE NOTE:  The Office of Financial Aid Services may not speak with a student’s parents or spouse about the student’s financial aid without written permission from the student on file. 

If I take a leave of absence, do I have to start repaying my loans?

Not immediately. Stafford loans have a grace period of 6 months and the Perkins loan has a grace period of 9 months before the student must begin repaying the loan. When you take a leave of absence you will not have to repay your loan until the grace period is used up. If you use up the grace period, however, when you graduate you will have to begin repaying your loan immediately. It is possible to request an extension to the grace period, but this must be done before the grace period is up.

If your grace period has run out in the middle of your leave of absence, you will have to start making payments on your student loans.

I received an outside scholarship. Should I report it to the Office of Financial Aid Services?

Yes. If you are receiving any kind of financial aid from university, government or outside sources, you must report the scholarship to the Office of Financial Aid Services. The university will adjust your financial aid package to compensate.

Are Federal Work-Study earnings taxable?

The money you earn from Federal Work-Study is generally subject to federal and state income tax, but exempt from FICA taxes.

Federal Work-Study earnings during the calendar year should be included in the totals for AGI and reported on the FAFSA. The student should be careful to report amounts based on the calendar year, not the school year.

How does Federal Work-Study fit in with my financial aid awards package?

Federal Work-Study is treated just like your other financial aid awards.  Funds earned from Federal Work-Study count toward your total cost of attendance.  If you have received the total amount of aid available to you and would like to participate in Federal Work-Study, you will need to speak with your counselor to have your other awards reduced.

What should I do if I am getting close to or have exhausted my Federal Work-Study award?

If you are getting close to or have exhausted your Federal Work-Study award, you will need to speak with your counselor about increasing your Federal Work-Study and possibly reducing your other awards if you are at your total cost of attendance.

How does a fellowship affect financial aid?

A fellowship that is given to a student to assist with academic or living costs is considered financial aid. If a student has already received, federal or MUSC financial aid based upon the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the fellowship must fit into the aid package, which may result in other aid being reduced or removed.

Most fellowships are granted to assist with the same costs that are covered by financial aid, such as tuition and fees, books and materials, and living expenses. Since a student may not receive assistance in excess of the budget for these costs, a fellowship may trigger a revision of the financial aid.

A fellowship granted for other expenses such as conference attendance may be accommodated by a budget increase to cover the additional costs.

The student must request a budget increase from the OEM/Student Financial Aid and supply documentation from the department listing the expenses to be incurred that match the amount of the fellowship.

How does a stipend affect federal aid?

There are two types of stipends. How a stipend affects aid depends upon the type of stipend.

  • Stipends given to students without requirement of work in kind are considered financial aid. These stipends are reported on a 1098-T statement at the end of the year as financial assistance. These may need to be reported on the tax return depending upon tax law.
  • Stipends paid to a student in return for work performed for the university are not considered financial aid. These are wages and are reported on a W-2 statement at the end of the year as income. These stipends are reported on the tax return as wages and on the next year’s FAFSA. This may affect the student’s financial need and award eligibility for the following aid year.

How does a graduate assistantship affect federal aid?

A graduate assistantship is employment with the university to perform some service (teaching or research) in exchange for wages and benefits.

Assistantships generally include both stipends and tuition waivers. Stipends are not considered aid (see above). Tuition waivers are considered a form of financial aid, since graduate student budgets include aid for the purpose of paying tuition. Graduate Assistants will have their federal financial aid adjusted to remove the tuition and fee component and the health insurance allotment. Aid will be offered for books and living expenses only. A graduate student who receives an assistantship late in the processing cycle may already have a full financial aid award. The award will be reduced and the student may be required to repay some aid already received.

Loan Denial

My Graduate PLUS or private student loan application was denied.  What should I do?

The Federal Graduate PLUS loan and private student loans are credit-based loans.  If your Graduate PLUS or private student loan application is denied, we encourage you to reapply with a credit-worthy cosigner. 

I am a dependent undergraduate student and my parent was denied a Parent PLUS loan.  What should I do?

If you are a dependent undergraduate student and your parent is denied the Parent PLUS loan, you may qualify for an additional Stafford unsubsidized loan.  A copy of the denial letter must be submitted to the Office of Financial Aid Services.  You will be notified if you are awarded the additional Stafford unsubsidized loan.  Please note, only one parent needs to be denied.  If two parents apply and one is denied, but the other is approved, the student may not receive the additional Stafford unsubsidized loan.

Disbursements and Refunds

How do I receive my funds?

Once you have submitted an MUSC loan request application we will process your request for financial aid. Once Student Accounting receives the funds, they will apply the money to your account to pay your tuition and fees. Any remaining funds will be issued to you as a refund. We encourage you to sign up for direct deposit through WebAdvisor, otherwise you will receive a paper check at your permanent mailing address.

How are my funds split? 

The total amount you request will be split evenly between the semesters you are enrolled for during the current school year.  For example, if your program runs summer, fall, and spring, your funds will be split evenly into three disbursements. 

Where can I pick-up my financial aid refund check?

All federal financial aid funds are received and processed by the Student Accounting Office. Student Accounting also receives scholarship checks. The Student Accounting Office is located on the third floor of the Harper Student Center at 45 Courtenay Drive and can be reached by telephone at 843-792-2170. Student Accounting also handles tuition and fees billing. The office hours for Student Accounting are 8:30 am to 5:00pm. You must have your MUSC ID to pick up a check.

Financial aid checks are released to students during the first week of classes. The Colleges submit attendance dates for each program at MUSC and this information is used to develop a schedule to release funds.  MUSC students have the option of receiving a paper refund check which is mailed to the student’s permanent mailing address or having the funds electronically transmitted to their bank account.

Where can I get additional information about federal student financial aid?

Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-800-730-8913 (if hearing impaired) and ask for a free copy of The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the US Department of Education. This toll free hotline is run by the US Department of Education and can answer questions about federal and state student aid programs and applications.

You can also write to:

Federal Student Aid Information Center
PO Box 84
Washington, DC 20044

FAFSA Questions

Where can I get a copy of the FAFSA?

The Office of Financial Aid Services only keeps copies of the FAFSA Web Worksheet on hand.  This can be a useful tool when filling out your FAFSA.  You can receive the paper version of the actual FAFSA form by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID. The online version of the form is available at  We advise students to complete the online version of the FAFSA as this can greatly decrease the amount of processing time for your application.

How soon after January 1st should the FAFSA form be sent in? Is it better to wait until the income tax forms have been completed?

Send in the form as soon as possible after January 1st. You do not have to wait until your taxes are done, however it is better to do your taxes early.  If you estimate on your FAFSA and your estimates are incorrect, you will have an opportunity to correct any errors later.

I sent in my FAFSA over four weeks ago but haven't heard anything. What should I do?

If you haven't received a Student Aid Report (SAR), call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (toll free) or 1-319-337-5665. You must provide them with your Social Security number and date of birth as verification.

You can also write to:

Federal Student Aid Programs
PO Box 4038
Washington, DC 52243-4038

I was selected for verification.  What does this mean and what should I do?

If you see an asterisk (*) next to your EFC on your Student Aid Report (SAR), this means your FAFSA has been selected for verification.  You will also be contacted by the university regarding this. 

Verification is a process used to verify certain information on the FAFSA to ensure its accuracy. Some students are selected for verification by the U.S. Department of Education. Others are selected by the school.


Why is my file being verified?

There are several possibilities for being selected for FAFSA verification, but the most common reasons for selection are:

  • You were selected randomly.
  • The submitted FAFSA application has incomplete data.
  • The data on the FAFSA application appears to contradict itself.
  • The FAFSA application has estimated information on it.

What needs to be done after the selection?

After you receive notification that you have been selected for verification, you should first read any messages from the Department of Education appearing on your SAR. Contact the Office of Financial Aid Services if you have any questions. Next, you should collect copies of documents that the Office of Financial Aid Services requests. These documents may include a Marriage Certificate, a Social Security Card, an Alien Registration Card, and any Federal Tax Forms. The type of documents required will vary from student to student, and not all students selected for FAFSA verification will have to submit the same documents. Once you have collected all of the required documents, take them to your Office of Financial Aid Services. Do not turn in any documentation that was not requested. Only turn in what is requested. You will also need to fill out an Institutional Verification Form to turn into the Office of Financial Aid Services.

What happens if there are discrepancies in the application?

After you turn in all required documents, the Office of Financial Aid Services will compare them with your Student Aid Report. If errors are found, corrections will be made. If the errors are significant enough to change the amount of financial aid that you were awarded, the Office of Financial Aid Services will send you a revised award letter showing increased or decreased amounts. 

If you are selected for FAFSA verification, you need to return the information and requested documentation as soon as possible. Processing usually takes two to three weeks, but it can take longer during the peak season. Because verification must be completed in advance of disbursing any money from any financial aid program, it is vital to send complete and correct information as quickly as possible.

A verification worksheet is required of all students selected for verification who are interested in federal financial aid.  If you, your spouse, or your parent(s) (dependent undergraduate student only) did not file a tax return, please complete and submit the “Statement of Non-Filing” form.  If you did file a tax return for the previous year, please submit a signed copy of ALL pages of your tax return.  We require a physical signature and date on the signature page of your tax return, along with ALL schedules and forms that were included in your tax return.

To access the forms, please visit the Financial Aid Forms Website at

After Graduation

Who is my lender and how much loan debt do I have?

The National Student Loan Data System will have a list of all federal loans you have ever borrowed, along with the lender’s name and contact information for each lender.  You will need your FAFSA PIN to log into this system. 

What types of repayment plans are available?

Standard Repayment - Under this plan you will pay a fixed monthly amount for a loan term of up to 10 years. Depending on the amount of the loan, the loan term may be shorter than 10 years. There is a $50 minimum monthly payment.

Extended Repayment - This plan is like standard repayment, but allows a loan term of 12 to 30 years, depending on the total amount borrowed. Stretching out the payments over a longer term reduces the size of each payment, but increases the total amount repaid over the lifetime of the loan.

Graduated Repayment - Unlike the standard and extended repayment plans, this plan starts off with lower payments, which gradually increase every two years. The loan term is 12 to 30 years, depending on the total amount borrowed. The monthly payment can be no less than 50% and no more than 150% of the monthly payment under the standard repayment plan. The monthly payment must be at least the interest that accrues, and must also be at least $25.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) - Payments under the income contingent repayment plan are based on the borrower's income and the total amount of debt. Monthly payments are adjusted each year as the borrower's income changes. The loan term is up to 25 years. At the end of 25 years, any remaining balance on the loan will be discharged. The write-off of the remaining balance at the end of 25 years is taxable under current law. There is a $5 minimum monthly payment. Income Contingent Repayment is available only for Direct Loan borrowers or borrowers who have consolidated their loans into a Direct Loan.

Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR) - As an alternative to income contingent repayment, FFELP lenders offer borrowers income-sensitive repayment, which pegs the monthly payments to a percentage of gross monthly income. The loan term is 10 years.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR) - The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 introduced income-based repayment as a more generous alternative to income-sensitive and income-contingent repayment, starting on July 1, 2009. Unlike income-contingent repayment and income-sensitive repayment, it is available in both the Direct Loan and FFEL programs. Income-based repayment is like income contingent repayment, but caps the monthly payments at a lower percentage of a narrower definition of discretionary income.

*All six plans are available for student loans, but only the first three plans are available for parent loans.

What is deferment?

Most federal loan programs allow students to defer their loans while they are in school at least half-time. For Perkins Loans and Subsidized Stafford Loans, no interest accrues during the deferment period because the federal government pays the interest. For other loan programs, such as the unsubsidized Stafford loan and the PLUS loans, the interest still accrues during the deferment period. Students can postpone the interest payments on such loans by capitalizing the interest, which increases the size of the loan. (Capitalizing the interest adds it to the loan principle. This increases the amount of the debt, which means you'll be paying interest on interest, in addition to interest on the principal.)

Deferments are commonly granted for:

  • students who are enrolled in undergraduate or graduate school
  • disabled students who are participating in a rehabilitation training program
  • unemployment
  • economic hardship

These deferments are for the FFELP and Direct Loan programs, not the Perkins loan. Other deferments may also be available; contact your lender for details.

Deferments are not granted automatically. You must submit an application to your lender and provide documentation to support your request for a deferment. Do not stop making payments on your student loans until after you are notified that your deferment has been granted.

What is forbearance?

Forbearances are not granted automatically. You must submit an application to your lender and provide documentation to support your request. Forbearances are granted at the lender's discretion, usually in cases of extreme financial hardship or other unusual circumstances when the borrower does not qualify for a deferment. Do not stop making payments on your student loans until after you are notified that your forbearance has been granted.

What is consolidation?

Student loan consolidation combines several student or parent loans into one bigger loan from a single lender. Consolidation loans are available for most federal loans.  Some lenders offer private consolidation loans for private education loans as well.

Most FFELP lenders are no longer offering consolidation loans. Students can still consolidate their loans with the US Department of Education's Federal Direct Loan Consolidation program at even if their college does not participate in the Direct Loan Program.

Interest Rates

The interest rate on a consolidation loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of a percent and capped at 8.25%.

If you are consolidating loans with different interest rates, the weighted average interest rate will always be in between. Please be aware that consolidating does not mean that you will save money.  The interest rate may be lower than the highest of your interest rates, but it is also higher than the lowest of your interest rates. More importantly, the amount of interest you pay over the lifetime of the loan may be about the same.

Who May Consolidate?

Both student and parent borrowers may consolidate their education loans. (Students and parents cannot combine their loans through consolidation, since only loans from the same borrower can be consolidated.)  Married students are no longer able to consolidate their loans together.

Students can only consolidate their education loans during the grace period or after the loans enter repayment. (Loans that are in default but with satisfactory repayment arrangements may also be consolidated.) Students can no longer consolidate while in school. Parents, however, can consolidate Parent PLUS loans at any time.

Which Loans May Be Consolidated?

The following federal education loans may be consolidated:

Federal Stafford Loans

Federal Perkins Loans

Federal PLUS Loans

Health Professions Loans

Loans for Disadvantaged Students

You may consolidate multiple loans, a single loan, or a previously consolidate loan.  However, you may consolidate a consolidation loan only once.

Can my student loan debt be forgiven?

Under certain circumstances, the federal government will cancel all or part of an educational loan. This practice is called loan forgiveness. To qualify, you must:

  • Perform volunteer work;
  • Perform military service;
  • Teach or practice medicine in certain types of communities; or,
  • Meet other criteria specified by the forgiveness program.

Volunteer Work

These volunteer organizations offer loan forgiveness:

AmeriCorps Call 1-800-942-2677.

Peace Corps Contact the Peace Corps at 1111 20th St., NW,Washington, DC 20526 or call 1-800-424-8580 or 1-202-692-1845.

Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) Call 1-800-942-2677 or 1-202-606-5000.


Students who are in the Army National Guard may be eligible for their Student Loan Repayment Program. (Note:  Military and veterans' associations also provide many scholarships and tuition assistance programs.)


Students who become full-time teachers in an elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families may be eligible to have a portion of their Perkins loan forgiven under The National Defense Education Act. Contact your school district's administration to see which schools are eligible.

The American Federation of Teachers maintains a list of other loan forgiveness programs for teachers.

Medical Studies

The US Department of Health and Human Services offers loan forgiveness programs through the National Health Service Corps and the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program. These programs offer loan forgiveness to physicians and registered nurses who agree to practice for a set number of years in areas that lack adequate medical care (including remote and/or economically depressed regions).

The US National Institutes of Health's NIH Loan Repayment Programs may repay a portion of student loan debt for US citizens who are conducting clinical medical research.

Many hospitals and private healthcare facilities use loan forgiveness to recruit occupational and physical therapists. Contact the American Physical Therapy Association (1111 North Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1488; 1-800-999-2782) or the American Occupational Therapy Association (P.O. Box 31220, 47200 Montgomery Lane, Bethesda, MD 20824-1220; 1-301-652-2682).

Other loan repayment programs for medical school students include:

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) maintains a database of state and other loan repayment programs for medical school students.

Federal Government Loan Forgiveness Programs

Perkins loans and Stafford loans can be cancelled for full-time service as a teacher in a designated elementary or secondary school serving students from low-income families, special education teacher (includes teaching children with disabilities in a public or other nonprofit elementary or secondary school), qualified professional provider of early intervention services for the disabled, teacher of math, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or other fields designated as teacher shortage areas, employee of a public or non-profit child or family service agency providing services to high-risk children and their families from low-income communities, nurse or medical technician, law enforcement or corrections officer, staff member in the educational component of a Head Start Program, service as a Vista or Peace Corps Volunteer and service in the Armed Forces (up to 50% in areas of hostilities or imminent danger).

See also the US Department of Education's pages on Cancellation/Deferment Options for Teachers and Cancellation for Childcare Providers, as well as the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Form.

The US Department of Education maintains a database of low-income schools eligible for teacher loan cancellation for Perkins and Stafford loans.

Secondary school math and science teachers, and elementary/secondary school special education teachers who commit to working in high-need schools for five years can obtain up to $17,500 in Stafford loan forgiveness. They must teach full time for five consecutive years in a qualifying low-income school and be "highly qualified".

Visit the HRSA web site for information on Nursing Education Loan Repayment

The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program allows federal agencies to establish loan forgiveness programs to help recruit and retain employees. This is technically a loan repayment program and not a loan forgiveness program, as the agencies make payments directly to the loan holder and the payments represent taxable income to the employee. The agencies can repay up to $10,000 in federal student loans per employee per calendar year, with a cumulative maximum of $60,000 per employee. Employees must agree to work for the agency for at least 3 years. For more information, see the Student Loan Repayment Program FAQ.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program discharges any remaining debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service. The borrower must have made 120 payments as part of the Direct Loan program in order to obtain this benefit. Only payments made on or after October 1, 2007 count toward the required 120 monthly payments. (Borrowers may consolidate into Direct Lending in order to qualify for this loan forgiveness program starting July 1, 2008.)

This contrasts with the loan forgiveness of the remaining balance after 25 years of repayment under the income-contingent and income-based repayment plans for borrowers who are not employed full time in public service jobs.

Office of Enrollment Management
Financial Aid
45 Courtenay Drive
MSC 203
Charleston, SC 29425-2030
Fax 843-792-6356


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