University of South Carolina

Financial Aid & Scholarships

The Awarding Process


Priority Awarding: Our priority due date for receipt of a complete financial aid application [Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other requested documents] is April 1 of every year. If we receive your complete application by the priority deadline, you are assured of consideration for the best financial aid award package available as outlined below. Due to funding limitations, the total maximum award students can receive from campus-based funds [Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), and Federal Work-Study (FWS)] will be $8,000. Awards from nursing and health professions loan programs may not be subject to the same limit. Federal Pell Grants and Federal Direct Student Loan eligibility will be awarded whenever your application becomes complete. Regrettably, funding is never sufficient to meet the total need of all students. Therefore, the total of your awarded financial aid may be less than your need. Remaining need may be met through other programs, generally through borrowing. If you find yourself in need of loans, please visit the loan section of our website for loan options.

How Your Eligibility Was Determined: Based on your FAFSA reported information, an analysis of what you and your family should be able to contribute toward your educational costs is determined. The determination of this expected family contribution (EFC) is uniformly applied to all aid applicants and is mandated by federal law. If, according to federal definition, you are dependent upon your parents, they are expected to contribute toward your educational costs based upon an analysis of the information reported on your FAFSA. The fundamental philosophy of federal financial aid is that the responsibility of paying for college rests with you and your family. If you are independent, you (and your spouse, if married) are expected to contribute a significant portion of your income and assets toward meeting your educational expenses. Federal law also prescribes the calculation of the independent student contribution.

When we receive your FAFSA analysis, an appropriate student educational expense budget, based upon your fee structure and housing status, is assigned. These budgets are carefully researched and developed each year. Your financial need is calculated by subtracting your EFC from the expense budget you were assigned. Most federal financial aid programs and some others require that the recipient demonstrate need. There are, however, private and federal loan programs as well as most scholarships where need is not a requirement.

Student Educational Expense Budgets: Your student educational expense budget is comprised of the various costs associated with your attendance for an academic year. It includes not only direct costs to the University such as tuition, fees, room and board, but it also provides allowances for books and supplies, personal expenses, and travel to campus. We use standard student budgets in order to efficiently process a large number of applications and to ensure equitable treatment. If you believe that you have costs that are significantly different than those allowed, you may visit our office and speak with a counselor who can help evaluate your circumstances.

You may go to the cost section of our web page to find more student budget information.

How We Award Federal and State Funds: The following describes the processes whereby campus-based and other need-based financial aid program funds are awarded, how all aid awarded is coordinated into a financial aid "package", and the additional steps needed to finalize certain aid awards. Generally, campus based program funds are completely awarded during our initial packaging in early April. After that, awards will be comprised of aid programs as requested and available at the time of packaging. The first step in creating an award package recognizes any scholarship, assistantship, fellowship, or Federal Pell Grant eligibility that may be scheduled and any outside aid about which we have knowledge. We attempt to estimate all sources of assistance the recipient is likely to receive and use these resources when determining eligibility for all types of federal and state financial aid.

For undergraduate, South Carolina residents, consideration for a LIFE or HOPE scholarship won't occur until Admissions Office records (for incoming freshmen) or Registrar's Office data (for continuing LIFE recipients) becomes final. Because of this timing, official LIFE and HOPE scholarships may not appear on an early award notification. There may, however, be an estimated LIFE scholarship listed. Once LIFE scholarships are official, earlier awards will be updated and you will receive a new award notification.

The next step is the awarding of Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) up to a maximum of $1,500 to students (both SC residents and nonresidents) who have Federal Pell Grant eligibility and the lowest Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This process continues until FSEOG funds are completely awarded. Generally, FSEOG funds are awarded very quickly and only to students who have met the priority deadline.

Next, our system will consider full-time undergraduate South Carolina residents and award State Need-Based Grants (SNBG) to students who meet established program requirements. Recipients must have unmet need, and after initial enrollment maintain a 2.0 GPA and earn at least 24 hours per academic year to be eligible. The Commission on Higher Education determines the appropriation of State Need-Based Grant funds for USC, and funding is limited.

Then, the base amount of Federal Direct Loan eligibility (subsidized and unsubsidized) up to the unmet need or the annual program maximums are awarded. If eligibility remains after this step, a Federal Perkins Loan and/or Federal Work-Study funds will be awarded. Awards can range up to a maximum of $3000 for Perkins and $3500 for Work- Study as long as remaining financial need less than these amounts and all other aid awarded is not exceeded. Perkins Loans must be targeted to students with exceptional financial need defined as those with the lowest EFCs. Work-Study is awarded if the student has indicated the desire to receive it on his or her FAFSA. Nursing or Health Professions Student Loans are also awarded subject to program policy limits in this step.

If you are an independent student (as defined by federal statute), an additional unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan will be processed for an amount up to the annual program maximum or the remaining difference between the total cost of attendance (student educational expense budget) and the total of all of your other aid. If this additional unsubsidized loan is noted, we strongly urge you to carefully examine your need for it and consider reducing or declining it if it is not absolutely necessary. Any remaining eligibility after the previous steps have been taken may be met through either a Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan for dependent students, a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan for graduate and professional students, or a variety of non-federal, private educational loan programs offered by various lending or financial organizations. You must make a separate request if you want to apply for any of these loans. We will not award these unless you ask for them.

We strongly urge you to carefully examine your need for any loan funding and consider reducing or declining your request to only what you absolutely must have.