Financial Aid FAQs

FAFSA

What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the application that the Department of Education uses to determine if a student is eligible to receive federal student aid to fund their undergraduate and graduate programs.

Where can the FAFSA application be found?
The FAFSA can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA is a FREE application so if a website is asking for a student to pay to complete the FAFSA then they've gone to the wrong website.

Do students need their parents’ tax information to complete the FAFSA even if they are living on their own?
If a student is applying for graduate school, they do not need their parents’ information to complete the FAFSA. If they are applying for an undergraduate program, they need to check out the dependency requirements to determine what additional forms may be required.

When should students complete the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is available every October for the upcoming academic year. If a student is planning to use federal student aid, they should complete their FAFSA while applying for admission. More information can be found here.

What constitutes an award year for federal student aid?
July 1-June 30

What Federal student aid is available for graduate students?
The type of Federal student aid graduate students are eligible to apply for include the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan.

Do students need to fill out the FAFSA each year?
Yes. Because eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one award year to the next, students will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for each award year in which they are or plan to be a student.

Who is eligible for the Federal Pell Grant?
The Department of Education awards Federal Pell Grants to eligible undergraduate students who have not yet completed their bachelor degrees.

Who is eligible for the Federal Subsidized loan?
The Department of Education awards subsidized loans to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. 

Direct Unsubsidized Loan

How do students apply for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan?
To apply for a Direct Loan, students must first complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Their school will use the information from their FAFSA to determine how much student aid they are eligible to receive. Direct Loans are generally included as part of their financial aid package.

What is the difference between a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and a Direct Subsidized loan?
Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on subsidized loans while students are enrolled in their undergraduate program. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan are available to undergraduate and graduate students; there is no requirement to demonstrate financial need. The Unsubsidized loan begins accruing interest as soon as funds are disbursed. More information on the difference between Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and a Direct Subsidized loans can be found here.

What is the aggregate loan limit?
The total amount that a student may borrow for undergraduate and graduate study.

How does a student find out if they’re near their aggregate loan limit?
Students can go to NSLDS.ed.gov to view their federal student loans borrowing history.

What is the Direct Unsubsidized loan current interest rate?
The interest rate for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan is determined at the beginning of each academic year and is available on the DoE site.

Do students have to pay their student loans back while they’re in school?
A student’s federal loans will be in a deferment status while they are enrolled at least half-time. Their federal loans will go into repayment 6 months after they have completed their program or dropped their enrollment status to less than half-time.

What criteria is used to determine eligibility?

  • U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • have valid SSN
  • registered with Selective Service if the student is a male (must register between 18-25)
  • enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in eligible degree program
  • enrolled at least half-time
  • maintain satisfactory academic program in college or career school
  • not currently in default on previous student loans borrowed through FSA
  • has not exceeded the maximum aggregate loan limit
  • Direct Unsubsidized loan is not based on income

More eligibility information can be found here.

Are there any additional loan fees?
There is a loan origination fee that is a percentage of the total loan amount. The loan origination fee is deducted proportionately from each loan disbursement a student receives.

What if a student is in default or has defaulted on a prior federal student loan?
Students should review their loan history in NSLDS.ed.gov and contact their lender for details on how to clear the default.

Direct Graduate PLUS Loan

What is the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
The Direct Graduate PLUS loan is a federal loan that graduate or professional degree students can use to help pay education expenses.

To be eligible to apply for the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, students must:

  • be U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen;
  • have valid SSN;
  • be registered with Selective Service if the student is a male (must register between 18-25)
  • be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in eligible degree program
  • be enrolled at least half-time
  • maintain satisfactory academic program in college or career school
  • not currently in default on previous student loans borrowed through FSA
  • Graduate PLUS loan is credit based
  • Must exhaust Direct Unsubsidized Loan eligibility

More loan eligibility information can be found here.

How do students apply for a Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
In order to apply for the Graduate PLUS loan, students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and visit studentloans.gov to begin the process. Once logged in, select "Request a PLUS Loan" from the menu options so that they can complete the credit check. Also complete the Grad PLUS Loan Agreement Master Promissory Note (MPN). The school's financial aid office will provide additional instructions about their process for requesting a Graduate PLUS Loan.

When should students apply for the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
Students can apply for the Graduate PLUS loan up to 180 days prior to the start of their program or at any time they are enrolled.

What is the credit criteria for the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
One of the eligibility requirements to receive a Graduate PLUS Loan is that the applicant must not have an adverse credit history. A credit check is performed to determine whether a Graduate PLUS Loan applicant meets this requirement. A list of what constitutes "adverse credit history" can be found at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/plus-adverse-credit.pdf 

What are a student’s options if I'm denied the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
If a student is denied the Graduate PLUS loan, he/she may reapply with an endorser or follow instructions on the Department of Education's website to appeal the denial. More information on loan denials can be found here. 

What is the Direct Graduate PLUS loan current interest rate?
The interest rate for Graduate PLUS loans are determined at the beginning of each academic year.

Does the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan affect a student’s aggregate loan limit?
No. Only Direct Subsidized/Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Federal loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program count toward the $138,500 aggregate loan limit. More information on how a loan can affect loan limit here. 

When do students have to repay their Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
Students are not required to pay back their student loans while they are in school. Their Grad PLUS will go into repayment 6 months after they have completed their program or drop below half time.

How much can a student borrow from the Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?
If approved for the Grad PLUS Loan, students can borrow up to the cost of attendance budget as determined by the school/program. 

Military Education Benefits

How do students apply for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) educational benefits?
Prospective students should request a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA at (888) 442-4551 or apply for benefits online. If approved, the COE will list the remaining entitlement of the eligible individual and the ending date of the individual’s eligibility.

What are current rates of benefits?
Current rates of benefits are available on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

What is the Yellow Ribbon Program, and how does it work at Peabody College?
At Vanderbilt, all students who qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program are entitled to receive a yellow ribbon award. Peabody College and the VA will award yellow ribbon funds up to $6,000 based on unmet need.

The percentage of eligibility (POE) must be 100 percent for the student to be considered for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Dependents (spouse or children) receiving the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship are not eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Service members and their spouses are not eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program if the service member is on active duty. Children of a service member who is on active duty are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

How are Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits calculated at Vanderbilt?
Because Vanderbilt University is a private university, students who receive Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits are subject to a maximum tuition and fee reimbursement per academic year (August 1 through July 31). You can learn more on the University Registrar page.

How is my Post-9/11 GI Bill® monthly housing allowance (MHA) calculated?
The MHA rates are determined at the beginning of each academic year on August 1. You can also learn more about how your MHA will be paid if you are not a full-time student or if you receive an MHA while enrolled in distance learning.

How do I determine if a program at Peabody College is full-time?

  • Fall and spring semesters: Students must be enrolled in at least 9 credit hours.
  • Summer session: Students must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours.

Is the Peabody Online program considered to be a distance program?
Yes, these online classes are certified as distance classes.

Are the activity fee and health insurance fees covered by VA educational benefits?
The activity fee and health insurance fees are not covered by VA educational benefits because those fees are not mandatory for all students at Vanderbilt. Additional information regarding the waiver of these fees may be found at activity fee waiver or student health insurance waiver.

What documents are required for the VA file?

  • A copy of the most recent Certificate of Eligibility (COE) issued to the student.
  • A Member 4 copy of the DD-214 documents (the service member’s discharge papers).
  • Transcripts from all previous institutions (required even if veterans’ educational benefits were not used at other institutions).
  • Joint Services Transcript (JST), Air University Transcript, and/or Community College of the Air Force Transcript (if a transcript has been issued to the veteran).
  • Students who have previously used veterans’ educational benefits at another institution must file a Request for Change of Program or Place of Training (VA Form 22-1995) to list Vanderbilt University as their new school.

What is the deadline to apply for VA education benefits?
To expedite the processing of VA education benefits, it is recommended that students who wish to use VA education benefits adhere to the following deadlines.

  • Fall semester: Submit all required documents by July 1.
  • Spring semester: Submit all required documents by November 1.
  • Summer semester: Submit all required documents by March 1.

Students who cannot provide all documents by these deadlines should consult with a VA school certifying official in the Office of the University Registrar prior to the deadline.

Due to the extended processing time of the VA, it is not recommended that students rely on VA payments to arrive prior to Vanderbilt’s payment deadline. We suggest that all students have a plan to cover their expenses until VA education benefits are paid. The VA can take as long as six to eight weeks to process certifications for VA education benefits.

Who can I contact if I have questions?
Questions regarding the certification of VA educational benefits should be directed to one of the VA school certifying officials in the Office of the University Registrar at university.registrar@vanderbilt.edu or (615) 322-7701. This will enable the first person who is available to respond.

Questions regarding eligibility should be directed to the VA at (888) 442-4551.

Loan Repayment

When do students have to pay back their loans?
After a student graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment, they will have a six-month grace period before they are required to begin repayment. During this period, the student will receive repayment information from their loan servicer, and they’ll be notified of their first payment due date. Payments are usually due monthly. Students are not required to pay them while in school, however if they choose to, there is no penalty to pre-pay.

Can students consolidate with undergraduate loans?
A Direct Consolidation Loan allows students to consolidate (combine) multiple federal education loans into one loan including both graduate and undergraduate loans. The result is a single monthly payment instead of multiple payments.

What are the repayment plan options and how do students select one?
The Department of Education offers multiple options for repayment. Students can check out the DoE website for more information.

Is there a repayment calculator or estimator that students can use?
Yes, there is a repayment calculator housed on the Department of Education website.

Are there any loan forgiveness options available?
Students can review the Department of Education website for more information on loan forgiveness programs.

Vanderbilt Specific FAQs

Can students use financial aid to pay their deposits?
No, financial aid cannot be used to pay a deposit. 

Do students have to pay their tuition deposits before they can receive their award packages?
No, financial aid award packages will be sent to those who have completed the appropriate FAFSA.

Once admitted, how long will it take for students to receive their FA award packages?
Students will be notified of their financial aid eligibility within 7 – 10 business days after the processed FAFSA is received by Vanderbilt.

How will students receive their financial aid award letters?
Students who are admitted to the program and have completed the FAFSA will receive an award notification letter by mail as well as an email from the Office of Student Financial Aid indicating federal financial aid eligibility.

Students who pay their tuition deposit will view their initial and revised financial aid (FA) award through YES. The FA link in YES contains their complete FA offer, cost of attendance (COA), checklist(s), and anticipated aid disbursement information.

How do students accept their student loans?
Once the appropriate loan applications are completed the Office of Student Financial Aid will process the loan at the amount indicated on the award package. Students need to actively decline or request a reduction in loans by emailing loans@vanderbilt.edu. 

What is the minimum number of credit hours required to receive federal student aid?
Students must be enrolled at least half time to receive federal student aid.

Are students required to accept the full amount that they’re offered on their award letter?
No, students are encouraged to borrow as little as possible. Students may email loans@vanderbilt.edu to reduce or decline their loans.

Can students use loans to cover any additional expenses (housing, books, etc.)?
Students may borrow up to cost of attendance for each term which includes books, housing, etc.

How soon will loans disburse to the student account?
Loans are disbursed on the first day of each term.

Will students receive a loan disbursement each term?
Students may receive loans for each term they are enrolled at least half time.

Does Direct Loan eligibility cover the entire cost of the program?
Loans may cover the entire cost of the program as long as students are enrolled at least half time each term and the student has not reached their aggregate loan limit. 

Are there any supplemental financial aid forms that students need to complete?
Vanderbilt Office of Student Financial Aid may need to request additional verification forms, but they will communicate directly with the student if needed. 

Billing

How do a student's employers go about paying the school?
If a third party (i.e. outside agency, corporation or State Prepaid Tuition Plan) will be paying all or part of a student’s tuition and fees, and the third party requires a bill or invoice to be mailed directly from the Office of Student Accounts, a written authorization must be received from the third party thirty days prior to the beginning of classes.

Please note: The University requires a Financial Information Release Form completed by each student requiring Third Party Billing. 

Students should fill out the form and send it directly to:
Tracy Pine, tracy.pine@vanderbilt.edu, 615-322-6694

How does billing work?
All billing notices will be emailed to the student's Vanderbilt email address. Student Account E-Bills are updated the first of each month. An up to date schedule of fees and charges can be found on the Office of Student Accounts website.

Can any fees be waived for online students?
Students can submit waivers for the Activity and Recreation fees if they live more than 60 miles away. Students will need to submit the waiver forms every semester in order to waive these fees. The deadline for waiving these fees is when tuition for that term is due.

If students have questions about the fee waiver they can contact Kelley Beasley at 615-322-3963 or kelley.beasley@vanderbilt.edu

How do students pay their bill?
Detailed information on payment options can be found on the payment methods section of the Office of Student Accounts website.