Financial Aid Resources

How to Apply for Financial Aid

To apply for federal student aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal student loans, grants, and work-study.

Many states and schools (including SFAI) also use FAFSA information to determine eligibility for state and institutional aid. You may submit your FAFSA beginning October 1 of the prior year you expect to start college. March 1 is SFAI's financial aid priority deadline. To be considered for the California State Grant Program (Cal Grant), the FAFSA and GPA Verification Form must be filed by March 1 of each year.

After you apply for federal student aid, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR contains the information reported on your FAFSA and usually includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an index used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Review your SAR information and make any corrections or changes necessary. Designate SFAI as a recipient of the processed FAFSA information by providing our school code, 003948.

Approximately 30% of all FAFSA applicants are randomly selected for a verification process. If you are selected, SFAI’s Financial Aid Office will request additional information, along with other supporting documents, to complete the process.

Important: Financial aid is awarded for one year only. You must reapply each year by completing the renewal FAFSA.


Eligibility criteria for Federal Financial Aid

The most basic eligibility requirements are that you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen,
  • Have a valid Social Security number,
  • Register (if you haven’t already) with Selective Service, if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25,
  • Be working toward a degree or certificate,
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or graduate school, and show you’re qualified to obtain a postsecondary education.

For additional information about federal student aid, visit or contact the Financial Aid Office.

Federal Work-Study

Eligible students with demonstrated financial need can receive an award of part-time employment as part of their financial aid package. Funded by the federal government, the program offers both on- and off-campus employment opportunities, with annual awards ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident and be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program.

For additional information and questions, please contact the Financial Aid Office.


What aid directly reduces tuition and fees?

Fellowships, grants, and scholarships are considered “gift” aid that does not need to be repaid and that directly reduces your billed tuition and fees each semester. About 80% of students at SFAI receive some form of aid that helps them with college costs. However, only fellowships, grants, and scholarships contribute directly to your net cost.


How do I determine my net costs?

It’s pretty easy: determine your tuition, fees, and room/board costs (if on campus). These are your directly billed costs. Next, subtract the amounts for any fellowships, grants, or scholarships you receive. The remaining amount is your net cost.


Can you calculate my net costs for me?

We are happy to help you figure out your net costs as well as how to manage those costs.


Is “gift” aid renewable?

Fellowships and scholarships are renewable provided you have been notified of renewal eligibility at the time you receive the award and you meet this criteria. For instance, renewable SFAI scholarships require maintaining a specific grade point average and continuous study.

Grants—federal, state, and SFAI—all require that you reapply for financial aid each year. The renewal deadline for completing the FAFSA is March 2 of each year.


What is a Direct Loan?

The Direct Lending program provides low-interest loans to students and parents. Direct Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans are for students and do not require a credit check. Direct Federal Parent PLUS Loans are for parents of dependent students and require a positive credit history. Direct Federal Graduate PLUS Loans are for graduate (MA, MFA) students and require a positive credit history.


What are the interest rates for Direct Loans?

Visit the Federal Student Aid website for more information on current interest rates and origination fee rates.

Processing Fees apply:  There is an origination fee charged by the Department of Education associated with all federal loans.


How do I get a Direct Loan?

SFAI has transitioned to Direct Lending. Students can complete the Master Promissory Note for the Direct Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans and the required Entrance Loan Counseling for new borrowers on the Federal Direct Lending website. The Master Promissory Note and application for the Direct Federal Graduate PLUS and Parent PLUS Loans can also be completed on the same website.


What is a Private Loan?

Private loans are intended for students who may need additional resources beyond their federal, state, or SFAI award eligibility. Generally, since interest rates may vary, private loans should be carefully researched prior to borrowing. Private loans are bank-based and lenders typically require a credit-worthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. Interest rates, fees, and repayment terms can vary from bank to bank. Repayment of private loans may begin immediately.


How much do I need to borrow?

Your award letter includes the maximum Direct Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized loan amounts available to you based on your program, grade level, federal need eligibility, and dependency status. Consider your individual needs carefully. You are not required to borrow the maximum loans as indicated on your award letter. You may choose to decline or reduce any source of loan based on your individual needs.

The Parent PLUS loan, Graduate PLUS loan, or Private Loan award letter likewise reflects the maximum possible amount that may be potentially borrowed. The actual amount available will depend on your needs, your (and/or parental) choice to borrow, and credit approval.


What is Federal College Work-Study?

The Federal College Work-Study Program permits eligible students to receive an award of part-time employment. Funded by the federal government, the program offers employment opportunities, both on and off campus, to students with demonstrated financial need. Annual awards range from $1000 to $4,000. To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident and be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program.


Can I request more funding?

The financial aid office will review individual circumstances on a case-by-case basis. To request an appeal, write a letter outlining your circumstances and complete the financial aid appeal form. Examples of appeal circumstances include parent or student loss of income due to prolonged unemployment or illness, or high out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Financial Aid and Admissions Policy

New, incoming students who have not submitted final official transcripts or transcripts showing degree conferral, if applicable, will have a registration hold placed on their account and will be unable to register for a subsequent term in their degree or certificate program until all outstanding documents have been received. Additionally, SFAI will return any disbursed Title IV funding to the Department of Education and the student will be responsible for any charges due to SFAI as defined by the financial policies in the Student and Campus Handbook.  

Summer-start students have until the last day of the fall semester following their term of matriculation to submit final, official documents.