What is Financial Aid?

Columbia College’s school code: 003430.

Financial Aid is support you may qualify for to help pay for college. Aid can come in the form of scholarships and grants from Columbia College, the state of South Carolina, or the federal government as well as other federal assistance like loans, work-study, or veterans benefits. The starting point for all financial aid is to apply to Columbia College and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online.

How do I Apply for Financial Aid?

1. Apply for Admission

Before your financial aid can be processed, you'll have to apply for admissions. Creating an account is easy and will allow you the option to save your application at any time and complete it at a later time.

2. Complete the FAFSA

File the FAFSA online. Undergraduate students, keep in mind that all South Carolina residents must complete the FAFSA no later than June 30th (of the year starting college) to qualify for the South Carolina Tuition Grant. 

The priority deadline for Undergraduate students is June 30th.

Columbia College FAFSA CODE: 003430

3. Receive your official award

If you need to make any changes to your award, you must return a signed copy to the Office of Financial Aid.

NOTE: If you accept private scholarships or grants, you need to send copies of the scholarship notification to the Office of Financial Aid so that those awards can be added to your aid award letter.

Requirements to Maintain Awards

Undergraduate Students

Your financial aid is awarded contingent on your maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress.

  • Undergraduate students must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0.
  • They must have passed sixty-seven percent (67%) of all attempted hours to retain their financial aid eligibility for the following academic term.
  • Additional information can be found in any of our academic bulletins.

Graduate Students

Your financial aid is awarded contingent on your maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress as stated in the appropriate academic bulletin. Graduate students must maintain a 3.0 and have passed sixty-seven percent (67%) of all attempted hours.

Types of Federal Financial Aid 

Students who are U.S. Citizens or permanent residents may receive the following financial aid from the Federal Government, which is determined by information students provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Be sure to also review your Columbia College and South Carolina scholarships and grant options to maximize your financial support package. 

Grants

Pell Grant 

Students who demonstrate financial need may qualify for a Pell Grant up to $6,345.

Supplementary Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)

Students who are eligible for the Pell Grant and demonstrate financial need which is determined by FAFSA may be eligible for up to $2,500. 

Federal Direct Loan

Federal Direct loans are federally regulated low-interest educational loans provided by lending institutions. Students must be degree-seeking, enrolled at least half-time (six hours for undergraduate; five hours for graduate) and maintain satisfactory academic progress. Financial need is not necessary, but the FAFSA is required. Available to undergraduate and graduate students. Loan repayment begins six months after graduation or departure from school.

A subsidized Direct Loan is awarded to undergraduate students only on the basis of financial need, as determined by the results of the FAFSA and other financial aid (such as grants and scholarships) that you receive. You will not be charged interest on the loan while you are in school at least half-time or during grace and deferment periods. The federal government “subsidizes” the interest on these loans.

An unsubsidized Direct Loan is not awarded on the basis of financial need. You will be charged interest on the loan from the time of the first disbursement until it is paid in full. If you allow the interest to accrue (accumulate) while you are in school (or during other periods of nonpayment), it will be capitalized. This means the interest will be added to the original principal amount of your loan, and additional interest will be based on the higher amount. Making interest-only payments while in school will result in a lower amount repaid in the long run.

Loan Amounts

The maximum amount you can borrow each academic year depends on your grade level and dependency status. See the chart for annual and lifetime borrowing limits. The amounts below are the maximum values — you might not be eligible for the maximum annual amounts because of other financial aid that you receive.

Year Dependent Undergraduate Independent Undergraduate Graduate
First $5,500
Including up to $3,500 subsidized
$9,500
Including up to $3,500 subsidized
--
Second $6,500
Including up to $4,500 subsidized
$10,500
Including up to $4,500 subsidized
$20,500
All unsubsidized
Third & Beyond $7,500
Including up to $5,500 subsidized
$12,500
Including up to $5,500 subsidized
--
Aggregate Loan Limits $31,000
Including up to $23,000 subsidized
$57,500
Including up to $23,000 subsidized
$138,500
All unsubsidized

How to Apply for a Direct Loan

The FAFSA is required for both subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans. By completing the FAFSA, we will automatically determine your eligibility for subsidized and unsubsidized loans and notify you of your eligibility. We will first process the maximum subsidized eligibility and then unsubsidized. 

To complete the loan process, you will need to:

  • Complete entrance loan counseling at studentloans.gov if this is your first loan at Clemson.
  • Complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) at studentaid.gov if this is your first Direct Loan.

Promissory Notes

An electronic loan application will be created and transmitted to the U.S. Department of Education. First-time borrowers through the Direct Loan program will be directed to complete a promissory note. This can be done electronically at studentaid.gov. The promissory note is a legal, binding document whereby you agree to repay the loan.

Parent PLUS Loan

Parents of dependent undergraduate students can apply. Students must enroll at least half-time (six hours) and maintain satisfactory academic progress. Financial need is not necessary, but the FAFSA is required.

Through this program, parents can borrow up to the annual cost of attendance minus any other financial aid that the student receives for the year. Students must be enrolled at least half-time and maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to be eligible. Eligibility for a PLUS loan is based on a parent's creditworthiness and not on financial need. Repayment of PLUS loans begin 60 days following the final disbursement of the loan each year.  Parent borrowers may defer repayment while the student is enrolled at least half-time and for an additional six months beyond the student's graduation or when the student drops below half-time enrollment. Deferment periods must be corrected by contacting your Direct Loan servicer.

In order for funds to be available for payment purposes, applications should be submitted by:

  • June 15 for the fall semester
  • November 1 for the spring semester
  • April 1 for summer sessions

How to Apply for a PLUS Loan

  1. Submit the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  2. Complete the Federal Parent PLUS Loan application for the appropriate academic year on studentaid.gov.
  3. Complete a PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note for parents at studentaid.gov.
Private Loans

Private (or alternative) loans help bridge the gap between the cost of education and the limited amount of financial aid available through federal programs.

Private or alternative loans are designed to help students who need additional assistance with educational costs. In most cases, it is advantageous for students to pursue Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans and for parents to pursue Federal PLUS Loans (or Grad PLUS Loans for graduate students) before seeking private loans. A major advantage of these federal programs is that the federal government caps the interest on the loans. Additionally, alternative loans typically do not offer the same benefits as federal loans, such as consolidation, service cancellations, and military repayment.

If assistance beyond what is available through the federal loan programs is desired, there are a number of private lenders who offer alternative loans to cover educational expenses. Loan approval is generally based on creditworthiness and ability to repay – for students, a credit-worthy, employed co-signer might be required (and is strongly encouraged to get the best rates and terms). 

Applying for a Private Loan

In order for funds to be available for payment purposes, we recommended that applications be submitted by these priority dates:

  • June 15 for the fall semester
  • November 1 for the spring semester
  • April 1 for summer sessions

Please note that the credit check performed by many lenders expires after 90 to 120 days. Therefore, you should not apply for a private loan more than three months prior to the start of the loan period. However, because of processing time, you should apply as soon as possible within the three month-window.

Disbursement

Most private loan disbursements are made via Electronic Funds Transfer from your lender to Columbia College. These funds are applied to the student's account with any excess – after all University fees are satisfied – being released to the student.

SC Teacher Loan Program

The South Carolina Teacher Loan Program was established by the State of South Carolina through the Education Improvement Act of 1984 to entice talented and qualified students into the teaching profession. This loan is canceled by teaching in South Carolina public schools in an area of critical need.

The loan is canceled at the rate of 20 percent or $3,000, whichever is greater, for each full year of teaching in a critical subject or critical geographic area within South Carolina. If you teach in both a critical subject and a critical geographic area your loan will be canceled at the rate of 33.33 percent or $5,000, whichever is greater, for each year of full-time teaching. The subject areas deemed critical at the time you apply, or subsequently, will be honored for cancellation when you begin teaching; a critical geographic area must be deemed critical at the time of your employment. If you decide not to teach, the interest rate will be the interest rate charged on Stafford Loans plus 2 percent. This variable rate is capped at 10.25 percent.

For more information regarding cancellation benefits and current critical geographical and subject needs, visit the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation's website at http://www.scstudentloan.org/.

Note: Because of limited funding, meeting all criteria and deadlines does not mean you will be accepted into the Teacher Loan Program.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Must be a United States citizen.
  • Must be a resident of South Carolina.
  • Must be enrolled in good standing at an accredited institution on at least half-time basis.
  • Must be enrolled in a program of teacher education or have expressed an intent to enroll in such a program.
  • Entering freshmen must have been ranked in the top 40 percent of their high school graduating class and have a SAT or ACT score equal to or greater than the South Carolina average for the year of graduation from high school or the most recent year for which such figures are available.
  • Enrolled undergraduate students, including enrolled freshmen, must have taken and passed the South Carolina Education Entrance Exam (EEE) and have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.75 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Entering graduate students must have at least a 2.75 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Graduate students who have completed at least one term must have a grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale or better.
  • Must be seeking initial certification in a critical subject area if you already hold a teaching certificate.

Loan Amounts

Freshmen and sophomores can borrow up to $2,500 per year. Juniors, seniors, and graduate students can borrow up to $5,000 per year.

Application Process

Applications for the South Carolina Teachers Loan / Career Changers can be obtained in the Financial Aid Office when available, generally around late January or early February for the upcoming academic year. The application may also be downloaded from the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation website. The priority application deadline is April 30. However, because of limited funding, we suggest that you apply as soon as the application for the new academic year is available because these funds are limited by the state each year. Priority is given to renewal applicants. Incomplete applications are not guaranteed priority processing.

Federal Work-Study

Students may qualify for up to $1,500 in Federal Work-Study, depending on a student’s overall financial need which is determined by the FAFSA. The Federal Work-Study program provides students part-time jobs on-campus. There are limited jobs on-campus, so students are encouraged to seek work-study employment early. Money earned through work-study positions can be used for educational or other personal expenses.

Financial Aid Forms

The links below will direct you to the respective resources that may be needed to complete the financial aid award process.

2021–2022 Documents & Forms

2020–2021 Documents & Forms

Federal Links

How to create an FSA User ID instructions
Create a FSA User ID
Complete the FAFSA
Entrance Counseling
Master Promissory Note for Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan
Apply for the Parent Plus Loan
Parent Plus Loan Master Promissory Note

Completed documents may be returned one of the following ways:

  • Email: fa@columbiasc.edu
  • Fax: 803.786.3560
  • Mailed or Dropped Off to: 
    Columbia College - Office of Financial Aid
    1301 Columbia College Drive
    Columbia, SC 29203


The Gramm Leach Bliley Act,

also known as GLBA, is a federal law that protects customer non-public personal information, otherwise known as NPI.

How does GLBA apply to the Columbia College?

GLBA applies due to the College's financial relationship with students. A critical part of GLBA is the Safeguards Rule, requiring administrative, technical, and physical safeguards for NPI.  NPI is any personally-identifiable financial information that a customer provides to obtain a financial service or product from the Columbia College. NPI includes Social Security number, credit card number, account balance, passport information, tax return information, bank account information, driver’s license number, and date of birth. 

The following tips may be useful when dealing with NPI, though these tips alone do not ensure compliance.

  • Access to NPI should be limited to only authorized personnel who require access.
  • NPI computers and systems should not be used for non-work related activities. 
  • If collecting NPI online directly from students, automate the transmission.

For more in-depth information about the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), visit the Federal Trade Commission's GLBA Website.