The Application Process

Who is eligible for financial aid?

All admitted students are considered for financial assistance at PLU, with the largest funding source being our own merit scholarship program which recognizes academic excellence and artistic achievement.  Federal student aid through the U.S. Department of Education is also available to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents, while Washington residents with undocumented status may be eligible for assistance from the state of Washington.

How do I apply for aid and when will I be notified?

U.S. citizens or non-citizens with U.S. Permanent Resident status should apply for assistance by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which becomes available each October 1.  For optimal consideration and earliest possible notification, the FAFSA should be completed as early as possible after October 1.   (Please note separate deadlines for the merit and talent-based scholarships established by the Office of Admission).  Students who have been accepted for admission will receive their financial aid awards on a rolling basis beginning in December.

How do I apply for aid if I am an undocumented student?

Undocumented students who are residents of Washington state can apply for student aid assistance from the state of Washington by completing the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).  Application is made from the web site and should be completed as soon as the application is made available, beginning each October 1.  (Please note separate deadlines for the merit and talent-based scholarships established by the Office of Admission). Students who have been accepted for admission will receive their financial aid awards on a rolling basis beginning in December.

Do I need to complete a new FAFSA or WASFA every year?

If you wish to receive any financial assistance from federal or state student aid programs, you must file a new FAFSA or WASFA each year.  If you do not have any federal or state aid, but are receiving a need-based PLU scholarship or grant as a result of filing the FAFSA or WASFA, your eligibility will be contingent upon filing a new application each year.  PLU academic merit, artistic achievement, or legacy awards do not require the FAFSA or WASFA for renewal.

How do I apply for aid if I cannot get my parents to fill out the FAFSA?

Students who meet one of the conditions listed below qualify as independent on their FAFSA form and are not required to provide parental information:

• were an orphan at the age of 13 or older;
• were a ward of the court;
• are or were in foster care;
• were an emancipated minor or in a legal guardianship as determined by a court in the student’s state of legal residence; or
• are an unaccompanied homeless youth or unaccompanied, at risk of homelessness, and self-supporting.

If you do not meet one of the conditions listed above, but still cannot get parents to fully complete your FAFSA, you may be facing what the U.S. Department of Education calls Unusual Circumstances. Beginning in 2024-25, you can indicate on the FAFSA that you are facing unusual circumstances. However, you still need to complete a separate form with Student Financial Services and provide supporting documentation. Please visit our Special & Unusual Circumstances page for more information.

How is "Financial Need" determined?

Financial need is the difference between the cost of attendance (COA), which includes tuition & fees, housing and food, books & supplies, and an allowance for personal and transportation costs, and the FAFSA generated expected family contribution (EFC).  The simple equation is COA – EFC = Financial Need.

Note: Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, the EFC is being replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI), which is a different eligibility formula. However, the equation to calculate financial need remains the same: COA – SAI = Financial Need. For more information on the changes to the 2024-25 FAFSA, click here.

We attempt to meet as much financial need as possible with a financial aid package of scholarships, grants, student loans and work-study.  Any outside scholarships awarded to the student will further reduce the student’s financial need.

What happens if my marital status changes?

Your FAFSA is completed based on your current marital status (and that of your parents if you are a dependent student).  Marital status cannot be projected, including for those who are currently engaged. It can be updated in limited circumstances. If your marital status changes and you would like us to consider updating your FAFSA, please reach out to Student Financial Services.

What can we do if our financial circumstances have changed since filing the FAFSA?

If your financial circumstances have diminished since filing the most recent FAFSA , you are welcome to submit a Special Circumstances Form to be considered for additional need-based aid. Click here for more information about this process.

What happens if I receive an outside scholarship (not awarded by PLU)?

If you have been awarded outside scholarships, you must inform Student Financial Services, providing the name and dollar amount of each scholarship to be received during the academic year. Notification of your outside scholarships can be made by emailing us at Please attach to your email any written notifications or instructions you received from the scholarship provider regarding your outside scholarship. PLU may be required by federal regulations to adjust your need-based aid package when outside resources are received. If an adjustment is necessary, work-study and loans will be adjusted first. Grants and scholarships will be adjusted only if required by federal or state regulations and as a last resort.

What is verification?

The U.S. Department of Education randomly selects a number of FAFSAs each year for what is called verification, a process which requires schools to verify the accuracy of the information you reported on your FAFSA. You can click here for more information about this process.

How do I apply for summer financial aid?

Only federal and state financial aid is available to traditional undergraduate students who register for summer session. Students with a current FAFSA on file who register for summer session will automatically be considered for any federal or state grant eligibility. Students who wish to borrow Federal Direct Loans in the summer should contact our Loan Coordinator at

How do I apply for a full-time job in the summer State Work-Study program?

To determine your eligibility for the 2024 summer state work study program, you must complete the 2024 -25 FAFSA or the 2024-25 WASFA (if an undocumented Washington resident). State Work-Study is available only to Washington residents returning to PLU for the 2024-25 academic year with sufficient financial need. Employment is available wherever a state work-study employer is found in WA state.  If interested, complete the Referral Agreement for SWSP with your employer and return it to Student Financial Services.

The Awarding Process

How will enrolling as a part-time student affect my aid award?

Full-time enrollment is required to receive any PLU gift aid.  Remember that tuition is calculated on a per credit basis if you enroll for fewer than 12 credits. Depending on the size of your scholarship, your out-of-pocket cost could be higher or lower as a part-time student.  Additionally, the Federal Pell Grant, SEOG, Washington College Grant, and Washington College Bound Scholarship programs are all prorated for part-time enrollment and could affect your final cost.  We can help with a cost comparison if you wish.

What happens if I drop a class during the semester?

Dropping a class will have a different impact depending on a variety of factors such as when you drop the class, what type of aid you are receiving, and your student type. It is best to contact our office directly if you are curious how dropping a class will impact your financial aid or billing.

Why is my financial aid award lower this year?

If your family’s financial situation remains the same from year to year, then you should experience little change in your annual grant and scholarship eligibility. The main reason students lose eligibility for need-based grant assistance is because there is a decrease in family size or an increase in income or assets. Also, if you move off campus, remember that you will no longer be eligible for the Housing Grant. Finally, if you are a recipient of the 253 PLU Bound Scholarship, you must remain eligible for the Washington College Bound Scholarship in order to continue receiving the 253 award.

If I accept work-study, am I obligated to work?

No, but remember that work-study is part of your financial aid package to help meet your educational expenses (and in some cases, reduce the amount you might need to borrow in student loans). In most cases, students use their monthly work-study paychecks to pay for their indirect, ongoing personal, miscellaneous or transportation expenses.

Can I receive financial aid to replace a declined work-study award?

If you decline work-study, it can be replaced with a scholarship that has been awarded to you by an outside organization or by increasing the Federal Subsidized Direct Loan (if you have not yet already borrowed your annual maximum). Additionally, you could decline the work-study award in order to increase your eligibility for a Federal Parent PLUS loan.

I declined my work-study, but have now found a job. Can I get it back?

If you still have work-study eligibility and funds are still available, federal and state work-study can be reinstated, even if you had previously declined the award.

If I decline my loan(s), can I get them back later?

If you decline the Federal Direct Loans, they can be reinstated, but only if we have enough time (at least one week) to disburse the loan prior to end of your enrollment period. Funding for the Federal Nursing Loan is limited to the amount of loans repaid by prior borrowers of the fund during the academic year and could vary from year to year. The Federal Nursing Loan has no origination fee and is subsidized (interest accrual doesn’t begin until after school) so it is preferable to the Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan in terms of cost.

What expenses will my financial aid cover?

Financial aid funds are applied to direct expenses first (tuition and fees as well as housing and food, if living on campus).  Financial aid in excess of your direct expenses will appear in parentheses as a credit on your account and can be refunded back to you so that you can use it for your indirect expenses, such as transportation, books and supplies, and other personal items. Students may request (with documentation) additional assistance for child care costs, a computer, and other educationally related expenses.

What if the amount I receive falls short of the cost?

PLU will do its best to provide sufficient financial aid to meet the financial need, as calculated by the FAFSA.  Regardless of your financial need, if the amount of assistance that has been provided plus the family’s own financial resources are insufficient to meet your educational expenses (as determined by the cost of attendance), contact us to determine if there are options to supplement your aid award.

How will my financial aid change if I do study away?

That depends on whether your study away is a Jterm program or a semester program, as well as the cost of that program compared to studying at PLU.  Jterm study away programs are generally an additional cost for which there is no PLU gift aid.  Semester long programs may require you to secure additional funding if their costs exceed the standard costs to study at PLU.  If a program has lower costs, financial aid may be similarly reduced.  If considering a study away program, talk to Student Financial Services to find out how your aid might be affected.

How will my aid be affected if I move off campus?

The financial aid budget (COA) for living in an off-campus rental is the same as the on-campus budget, so there would be no effect on your eligibility for aid.  However, the Housing Grant awarded for on-campus  living would be canceled.

How long can I continue to receive financial aid at PLU?

Most first year students entering PLU as new students should be able to graduate without having to worry about exhausting their eligibility for aid.  Transfer students who have utilized  aid to attend another school prior to PLU may run the risk of exhausting their Washington College Grant and/or Federal Pell Grant before they can complete their bachelor’s degree at PLU.  New first year students are eligible for eight semesters of PLU scholarships and grants (and the Washington College Bound Scholarship), ten semesters of the Washington College Grant, and twelve semesters of the Federal Pell Grant.  Transfer students are eligible for six semesters of PLU scholarships and grants.  Their limits on the Washington College Grant and College Bound Scholarship and the Federal Pell Grant are the same as first year students, but include funds received anywhere.

The Billing and Payment Process

When is the university's bill due each semester?

Summer term:  June 1

Fall semester:  August 25

Jterm:  December 25

Spring semester:  January 25

Where do I view my current balance (owing balance, past due balance, or credit balance)?

Click here.

What happens if I don't pay my bill on time?

If you don’t pay your bill by the due date, a financial hold is placed on your account.  A hold will prevent you from registering for classes or changing your class registration. Additionally, finance charges will be added to your account if still unpaid after 30 days of the due date.

When will finance charges be assessed or a financial hold put on my account?

A financial hold is put on your student account if you still have an owing balance the day following the semester due date (e.g., August 26th for fall semester).   Finance charges are assessed on the owing balance 30 days after that same due date at an annual rate of 18% (1.5% per month).  Therefore, make every effort to satisfy all financial aid requirements and have all your outside resources paid to your account by the due date to avoid these consequences.

What are my options if my financial aid is not enough to cover my bill?

If your financial aid and your family’s out-of-pocket resources are insufficient to cover your owing balance, we will attempt to address your shortfall by taking the following steps:  Find out first if your award is based on accurate FAFSA  information, or if the FAFSA information is still reflective of your family’s current financial circumstances.  If either situation is true, addressing either circumstance could increase your aid award.  If this does not apply to you, we would then suggest securing a private/alternative loan, or if you are dependent student, the Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan, or sign up for the monthly payment plan with Nelnet. If you do not have the financial resources to cover on campus housing costs, we may as a last resort, suggest living at home or off campus if you meet the university’s eligibility requirements to do so.

How do I change my Nelnet monthly payment plan?

To change your monthly payment plan with Nelnet, you need to call them directly at 1-800-609-8056.

Why can't I use my work study award to reduce what I owe on the university bill?

Work-study is paid directly to the student, just like a regular paycheck. Students can choose to use their paycheck to pay their account balance, or they can use the money for other indirect expenses such as books, transportation, or other personal items. In other words, it’s at the student’s discretion how these funds are used.

The Disbursement Process

When do I receive my financial aid funds?

In general, financial aid is disbursed ten days prior to your first date of class each semester. If you have accepted your award and completed all required additional paperwork, your scholarships, grants and loans will disburse onto your account on a semester-by-semester basis. If the disbursed amount exceeds your university charges, you may request a refund of that credit balance by completing a Refund Request Form from Student Financial Services.

Why didn't my financial aid disburse?

Your aid will NOT disburse if:

  • You still have funds “offered” status that need to be accepted.
  • You have been selected for verification and verification has not yet been completed.
  • You are a first time borrower of a Federal Direct or Direct Grad PLUS Loan and have not yet completed the Master Promissory Note (MPN) or the required Entrance Counseling.
  • Your award was made on the basis of full time enrollment and you are not registered for 12 or more credits.
  • Your Federal Nursing Loan requires documents completed with ESCI which are still incomplete.

Check Banner Web to determine if any of the above conditions apply to you.

How long does it take to get my refund check?

Refunds are issued on Fridays only and your account must have a credit balance (and we must have a Refund Request Form received) by Wednesday in order to receive a refund on Friday of that week.  The volume of refund requests at the start of each semester is very high so some refunds may not be ready until the following Friday.

How do I get my refund check ahead of leaving for my study away program?

Financial aid cannot be disbursed more than ten days prior to the first day of class each term. If the timing of aid disbursement and the start of your study away program will create a cash flow problem, you will need to have your own resources available until aid refunds are deposited into your checking account.  Be sure to provide the ACH electronic deposit and Refund Request forms in enough time for us to make this happen.

How do I use my financial aid to help with the purchase of my textbooks?

Financial aid cannot be disbursed more than ten days prior to the first day of class each term. Therefore, if you wish to make book purchases with financial aid funds, you will have to do so with your own resources and reimburse yourself once aid has disbursed.  Even if your refund is received on the very first available date, since most books are purchased online, waiting for a refund check to purchase your books may result in starting the term behind in your class. Check out the Lute Library to access textbooks and reading materials that can be borrowed on a short-term basis until your purchased or rented books are received.

Student Loans and the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans

How do I apply for the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan or an alternative student loan?

In general, alternative loans are credit-based loans in the student’s name; many students need a cosigner. To begin searching for a lender, we recommend starting here. Once you have identified a lender, go directly to your chosen lender’s web site and apply for the alternative loan. Your lender will notify PLU of your approved application. We will then certify your application and add your loan to your award on Banner web with a “CERT” (certified) status.

The Direct PLUS Loan is a credit-based loan in the parent’s name. The application resides here and requires the completion of Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note.

Do I apply for the Direct/PLUS loan for a semester, the academic year or for all four years?

You can apply semester by semester, or you can apply for a loan for the entire academic year. If you apply for a loan for the entire academic year, the amount will be split evenly over the fall and spring semesters. You cannot apply for any student or parent loan for more than one year at a time.

How much can my parents borrow in the Federal Parent PLUS Loan?

The maximum eligibility for the Federal Parent PLUS loan awarded is the difference between your cost of attendance (COA) and the amount of financial aid offered to meet that cost. The amount actually borrowed can be increased if you decline a portion of your aid award (like work study or one of your student loans), or reduced, if you secure additional outside scholarships or have other resources to meet your educational expenses not covered by financial aid. You can calculate the amount of PLUS Loan you will need by using the 2023-24 PLUS Loan Worksheet or contact Student Financial Services for assistance in determining the amount that works best for your financial situation.

Should I apply for an alternative loan or the Parent PLUS Loan?

It’s a personal choice that each family needs to make for itself. Here are a few things to consider about each loan:

  • Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan
    • It’s a credit-based loan with an origination fee of 4.228%.
    • For 2023-24, the fixed interest rate is 8.05%.
    • The loan is in the parent’s name only and cannot be transferred to the student.
    • The loan is funded by the federal government through the Department of Education
  • Alternative Loan
    • It’s a credit-based loan in the student’s name, and oftentimes, a parent must cosign.
    • There is not usually an origination fee, but interest rates can be either fixed or variable and they vary from lender to lender.
    • These loans are privately funded through financial institutions rather than the federal government.

How should I decide which lender to use for an alternative loan?

There are many private loans (also referred to as alternative loans) with different fees, different interest rates, interest rate caps, etc., so their costs will vary. If your financial circumstances require you to borrow a private loan in addition to your federal loan options (federal loans are typically your best loan option), you are free to choose any lender, based on your own selection criteria. Lenders are required to disclose cost of borrowing to you as an applicant so you can make an educated choice.  PLU does not recommend any lender, but the private loan providers on our website lists lenders who have approved loans to PLU students over the past three years.

Who would I talk to if I have questions or problems with my Federal Direct Loan?

Your first contact would remain with Student Financial Services. We should be able to resolved most “in-house” issues. Once you go into repayment, most of your communication will be with the loan servicing company assigned to your loan by the U.S. Department of Education. You can track your loans at If all your attempts to resolve your loan disputes are unsuccessful, contact the federal student loan Ombudsman Group.

Can I view all the student loans I've borrowed at PLU?

At the beginning of each academic year PLU notifies students of their borrowing history at the university, including anticipated monthly payments when in repayment and the total loan payoff amount.  During the academic year, if a loan amount is changed where the anticipated monthly payment or total loan payoff will increase or decrease, students will be notified via email and can view these changes on Banner web.