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Understand Your Award

Related Link: Online Financial Aid Office (Login credentials are provided with notification of admission.)

Report Outside Scholarships to the Office of Financial Aid

2020-21 Awarding Changes

The Office of Financial Aid updated aid packages to reflect the new academic calendar and changes to student living situations. Previously, we provided the total aid package for the year, divided into the fall and spring semesters. Aid packages are now split equally over four terms, Fall 1 and 2 and Spring 1 and 2.

Update: Now that the Residency Plan has been announced, need-based financial aid will be revised as appropriate to reflect changes to student living arrangements. The updates should be completed by Aug. 13, 2020, and students will be notified via email. In the meantime, you can use the information provided below to help anticipate what changes will be made based on which term you will be on campus.

Students living away from campus will not see charges for room, board, or the activity fee until they are approved to live on campus.

The following information explains changes to the financial aid awarding process.

Download this spreadsheet to help estimate your costs when the student is on-campus or studying remotely.

Cost Estimator Worksheet (xlsx)

Watch recordings of the Financial Aid Webex sessions:

New Students: Held on Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Presentation File (PDF)

Screenshot of financial aid webinar

Returning Students: Held on Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Presentation File (PDF)

Screenshot of financial aid webinar for returning students

Everyone is likely experiencing more fluidity than would be preferred. The Office of Financial Aid revised awards with the information available over the last two weeks. Is it all the same now? Probably not. However, our hope is that with the new make-up of need-based awards, students will have the information they need to plan for each term, whether they are on campus or off.

View the housing assumptions used for your award by clicking on the Documents and Messages tab in the Online Financial Aid Office.

  • Now that the Residency Plan has been announced, need-based financial aid will be revised as appropriate to reflect changes to student living arrangements. The updates should be completed by Aug. 13, 2020, and students will be notified via email. In the meantime, you can use the information provided below to help anticipate what changes will be made based on which term you will be on campus.
  • Some students are still making decisions for the Fall 1 term and petitions from new students to live on campus are under consideration. The Office of Financial Aid will again revise awards as soon as possible upon notification of deferrals, leaves, residency changes, etc.
  • Returning Students Approved by Residence Life to Live Off Campus — The COA used is the same for all four terms.
  • All awards assume full-time enrollment. If a student is approved for part-time enrollment, financial aid will be revised.

Prior to the start of each term, financial aid packages will be reviewed for changes to students’ living arrangements. If changes are necessary, students will receive notification by email.

A common misunderstanding is confusing the financial aid estimated cost of attendance/budget for what will be charged by the College.

The financial aid COA is used only for determining eligibility for aid.

Your direct charges are based on your living arrangements, on-campus or off-campus. If you are on campus, your bill will include tuition, the activity fee, room, and board. If you are not living on campus, you will not be charged the activity fee, room, or board.

Cost of attendance (COA) is the starting point for calculating financial aid eligibility and is determined by law (Higher Education Act, Sec. 472). The law specifies the types of costs that are included in the cost of attendance, but schools must determine the appropriate and reasonable amounts to include for each eligible COA category. Those categories are:

  • tuition and fees
  • room and board
  • allowances (estimated costs) for books, supplies, personal expenses, and transportation

The cost of attendance for a student is an estimate of that student’s educational expenses for the period of enrollment. Additional categories are allowed by law, such as dependent care, study abroad, and loan fees, and are added on a case-by-case basis with appropriate documentation.

On Campus

The cost of attendance for students living on campus remains unchanged.

Off Campus

The Federal Student Aid Division of the U.S. Department of Education instructs schools to use an allowance for off-campus room and board based on expenses reasonably incurred for each living situation. Utilizing market data, the College created budgets for students living off-campus: one for students living at home and one for students previously approved by Residence Life to live off-campus in Grinnell. 

What has not changed in the off-campus cost of attendance?

  • estimated cost for books and supplies
  • estimated cost for personal expenses
  • estimated cost for travel
  • tuition

What has changed in the off-campus cost of attendance (COA)?

  • living expense (room and board)
  • activity Fee
COA Changes - Students Living Away from Campus
9-Month Period At Home Approved Off Campus
Room $1,400 $6,548
Board $2,240 $4,816
Activity Fee $0 $0

Students living at home in almost every case have lower living expenses. An allowance is made for increased household utilities and food costs.

Students living off-campus will not be allowed to purchase a board plan to eat in the Marketplace. This is a change from prior years, and the reason for a reduction in the board allowance compared to previous years. 

All allowances must be reasonable based on the market. 

College-approved living arrangements fall into three categories:

  • On Campus
  • Previously Approved to Live Off Campus in Grinnell
  • Living at Home

Need-based aid eligibility will be determined using the Living at Home Cost of Attendance living allowances for all students who are not on campus and who were not previously approved to live off campus in Grinnell.

Additional student loan will be available for students who plan to make other living arrangements.  No additional grant will be awarded.

Cost of Attendance — Estimated Family Contribution = Demonstrated Financial Need

This is the basic formula used to calculate eligibility for need-based financial aid. When students live at home, day-to-day living expenses are typically lower compared to paying room and board to live on campus or paying rent, utilities, and preparing food as a single person in an approved off-campus situation. Because expenses are lower, demonstrated financial need is lower.  When students transition from remote learning (living with parents) to on-campus learning, expenses are higher, therefore, demonstrated financial need is higher. The reverse is also true. When students transition from on-campus living to living at home, expenses are assumed to be lower and demonstrated need is lower.

To provide as much information as possible, the Office of Financial Aid has reconfigured the need-based aid package in a way that allows for planning due to the fluidity in living arrangements caused by the global pandemic.  The increase in need-based aid eligibility when a student lives on campus versus living at home will now be designated as a Grinnell Residency Grant. Note: this is not an increase to your overall financial aid eligibility, for which you received notification earlier this year. A portion of the need-based grant has been separated out so you will know how your aid package changes when living arrangements change.

Students receiving need-based financial aid and living on campus for the Fall 1 term will see this residency grant as part of the aid package.

Students receiving need-based financial aid and living at home for the Fall 1 term will see an overall reduction to grant assistance due to decreased expenses.

Students previously approved by Residence Live to live off campus in Grinnell will not experience these same changes from term to term.  Therefore, their aid package will remain consistent all year.

To view the amount of the Grinnell Residency Grant you can expect to receive per term, for the terms with on-campus room and board, click on the Documents and Messages tab in the Online Financial Aid Office. There you will also find the COA used and the residency assumptions made.

Every enrolled student will receive a COVID-19 Grant for up to $2,500 for the 2020-21 academic year. This will be divided over the four terms so that each term enrolled, students will receive $625. This grant is intended to replace summer earnings students intended to save and use toward educational expenses and replaces part of need-based aid recipients' self-help expectation.

A limited number of student employment opportunities (on-campus or remote) will be available. Students living outside the U.S. are not eligible for remote work.

In most cases, students' need-based financial aid package included student employment eligibility. Due to limited positions and changing living situations, we are no longer including work awards in aid packages. Grinnell will apply institutional grant (Work Replacement Grant) toward 50% of a need-based work award and make optional student loans available for the remaining 50%. This additional aid will not preclude earning wages through approved on-campus or remote work.

Students who received non-need-based work eligibility as part of a merit-only award will not be awarded the work replacement grant. Loan options are available. The removal of the work eligibility as part of the aid package does not preclude earning wages through approved on-campus or remote work.

Students receiving outside scholarships, employer benefits, etc., in excess of their self-help expectation (loan and work eligibility), are not eligible for the work replacement grant.

Numerous essential student employment opportunities will be available due to low density on campus, and students are encouraged to help fill these positions.

In prior years, students could choose to use earnings to pay the remaining balance of their student account, up to the amount of the work eligibility. Because student employment is no longer part of the financial aid package, this option of starting the term with a balance equal to that amount will no longer be allowed.

Merit scholarships are not affected by changes to cost of attendance as long as they do not exceed the total costs. However, current awards are based on full-time enrollment. If a student is approved to enroll part-time, scholarships will be pro-rated.

Part-time enrollment is defined as less than 6 credits per 7.5 week term. Students approved for between 3 & 5 credits may still be considered for financial aid, however it will be adjusted. Students with less than 3 credits generally will be not be eligible for aid, but should speak to a financial aid counselor regarding their specific eligibility.

Need-based aid packages for students approved for part-time enrollment prior to the start of the term will be revised to reflect a lower cost of attendance.

Students with merit aid only will see their award reduced by 50% if approved for enrollment of 3-5 credits.

Students planning to drop below full-time status after the beginning of the term should speak with a counselor in the Office of Financial Aid to see what impact, if any, it may have on eligibility and billing.


Prospective Students/New Admits

Notification of Aid Eligibility

If you have applied for financial aid by the appropriate deadline, your award notification will be included with your admission acceptance letter.

Each letter will inform you which of the types of aid you are eligible to receive. Some forms of aid, like loans, you may accept or reject.

The amount you have been awarded is split out by semester, and your award total is the combined amount of all financial aid offered to you for the year.

Evaluating Your Cost

The Evaluating Your Cost worksheet is designed to help you estimate your total cost at Grinnell College. It is based on direct charges billed by Grinnell and does not consider indirect expenses for books, supplies, travel, and personal expenses. You will need to plan for these costs as well as the direct costs.

The total direct expenses less the total financial aid awarded will tell you your estimated amount due.


Maximum Federal & State Aid

Federal Aid Maximums
Federal Programs Annual Maximum
Federal Pell Grant $6,345
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) $4,000
Federal Subsidized Direct Loan $3,500 (1st year); $4,500 (2nd year); $5,500 (3rd & 4th year)
Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan for Dependent Students (Except Students Whose Parents Cannot Borrow a PLUS Loan) $5,500 (1st year); $6,500 (2nd year); $7,500 (3rd & 4th year) less any subsidized amounts received for the same period
Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan for Independent Students and Dependent Students Whose Parents Cannot Borrow a PLUS Loan $9,500 (1st year); $10,500 (2nd year); $12,500 (3rd & 4th year) less any subsidized amounts received for the same period
Federal PLUS Loan Cost of education minus other aid
State Aid Maximums
State Programs Annual Maximum
Iowa Tuition Grant $6,200
State Higher Education Agency Search varies

Note: Most state grants will not travel outside the state of legal residence. The Iowa Tuition Grant is only available to Iowa residents who meet the Iowa College Student Aid Commission’s eligibility requirements. If you are not from Iowa and would like to determine if your state offers grant assistance that travels to Iowa, please contact your State Higher Education Agency.

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