Financial Aid: FAQ

We understand that navigating Financial Aid and the Admission process can be a big task, so we put together an FAQ to help address some of these question, uncertainties, and anxieties.

Students in Lounge

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is a combination of educational funding sources, federal, state, institutional and/or private.

Types of funds may include scholarships and grants, work study, federal student and parent loans and student private loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only application required at Cornish to be considered for any and all funding eligibility.

How and when do I apply for financial aid?

Complete the FAFSA annually at using Cornish School Code 012315 as early as January 1.

Cornish practices rolling admission and provides financial aid packages for qualifying admitted students who complete a FAFSA.

What is the current estimated cost of attendance at Cornish?

The 2019-20 estimated cost of attendance or budget is not yet published. The 2018-19 estimated cost of attendance or budget was:

  • Tuition/Fees $36,840
  • Room/Board On-Campus: $10,680 (average)
  • Books/Supplies $1,800
  • Personal Expenses $2,000
  • Transportation $800
  • Student Loan Fees (estimated) $150

Total $52,670

* Computer Allowance (Art and Design) $3,000 (once in the first semester at Cornish)
* One-time computer allowance for Art, Design, Film students to borrow as needed for the purchase or lease of a computer.

When will I know how much and what financial aid I will receive for next year?

Aid offers are mailed the day after a student is admitted to the college and major. A student with a valid FAFSA will receive an official award including a Cornish Scholarship and an Assistance Grant, if eligible, federal and state aid, as applicable. Some financial aid assistance is based on FAFSA need analysis and funding availability. A student with an incomplete FAFSA will receive an estimate award only and must complete his/her financial aid file promptly to get an official award. A student without a FAFSA will receive a Cornish Scholarship offer based on audition or portfolio.

If you are selected for verification by the Department of Education or, if your financial aid file has inconsistencies that must be resolved, the Office of Financial Aid will request additional documentation from you and send only an estimate award letter. New students only receive estimate awards to help them in their decision process. Estimated aid packages can contain inaccuracies as funding types and amounts may change once the file is complete. Providing a response and the required documentation within ten days of initial notification will ensure the on-time delivery of funds to your tuition account for fall attendance.

What can I do if I have extenuating circumstances or if my family’s reported income for 2015 does not reflect current income? Can I receive more financial aid?

The FAFSA formula calculates your ability to contribute to the cost of your education based on your prior-year family earnings and financial situation. A documented loss of income or increase in your cost of attendance may increase your need-based aid eligibility or make room in your budget for additional private loans.

If you have extenuating circumstances that are not reflected on the FAFSA, please contact the Office of Financial Aid for a Special Circumstances Review form. The Office of Financial Aid will inform you of the documentation needed to process your application. Request for Special Circumstances Reviews will be considered June 1, 2016 at the earliest. A complete verified FAFSA, official award and completed Acceptance of Loans form are required before considering a family’s special circumstances.

What are the steps and timing for my financial aid refund?

Make sure:

  • Your financial aid file is complete
  • You have an official award
  • You provided a completed Acceptance of Loans form
  • Your aid is ready to disburse and exceeds your direct costs to Cornish
  • You are eligible for a refund at the end of your first week in attendance


Your refund is processed at Cornish end of first week of attendance as an electronic funds transfer to your personal account – student must be registered for e-refund – contact Office of Student Account at 206.726.5024 for details.

Is there a source of temporary funding at Cornish College of the Arts?

A short-term loan may be obtained if additional funding that would be a refund to the student is expected to be disbursed within the semester. The short-term loan is secured with the upcoming fund disbursement to the student tuition account. A student must be enrolled full-time to qualify. Funds are not available during breaks or between semesters. A separate application and promissory note are available in the Office of Financial Aid. A loan application must be received by noon Monday for a check pick up at the cashier’s office after 3pm on Wednesday.

How does a change in enrollment status affect my financial aid and what happens if I withdraw?

If you drop classes or withdraw from Cornish College of the Arts, the Office of Financial Aid will recalculate your financial aid award up to the end of add/drop on the 8th day of attendance. An early withdrawal beyond the 8th day and before you attend at least 60% of the semester will require a calculation of earned federal aid based on your ratio of attendance. Any unearned aid will be returned to the respective federal programs and, per regulations, you will owe a portion of the grant to be returned to the federal government. You also may owe Cornish as some of the funds used to pay tuition have now been returned. If you are a recipient of Washington State grant aid and attend less than 50% of the semester, you will be required to repay a portion of the grant equal to half of the semester grant aid times the percent of non-attendance. Not meeting the cumulative 2.00 grade point average and 67% pace of progression academic standards may be another outcome of an early withdrawal. Staying enrolled is best whenever possible as it is costly to withdraw before earning credits.

Lack of attendance does not constitute an official withdrawal from classes nor does lack of attendance cancel the student’s financial obligations to pay tuition charges or repay federal and private education loans.

Enrollment status for an undergraduate student is as follows:

  • Full-time: 12 or more credits hours
  • Three-quarter-time: 9-11 credits hours
  • Half-time: 6-8 credits hours

If your status drops below full-time, your financial aid funds and amounts are affected. Also a half-time financial aid package is the same at 6, 7 or 8 credit hours whereas your tuition cost increases with each additional credit when enrolled less than full-time. Students enrolled for fewer than 6 credit hours are not eligible for federal or state aid. You may contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information.

Dropping Classes

Please read the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy before dropping classes during the semester. Financial aid funding from both federal and state programs requires that students maintain basic standards of academic progress in order to remain eligible for financial aid.

Is my financial aid renewable each year?

Financial aid awards are affected by annual income, tax paid and other factors such as class level and therefore are not renewable directly.

Named or endowed scholarships from the departments are not renewable. Only the Cornish Scholarship is renewable for up to three years if the student maintains Satisfactory Academic Progress.

I plan to study abroad. How will this affect my financial aid?

You will be eligible for financial aid only if you work with the director of financial aid on a formal written agreement called a consortium agreement between Cornish (home institution) and the host institution (where you plan to study abroad). Without a completed agreement, you will not qualify to receive federal, state or institutional aid. You will need a completed financial aid file at Cornish and an official award. Your budget and your financial aid may be affected based on your educational costs at the host school.

Selecting a person to hold power-of-attorney during your absence may be helpful in the event a document or check requires your signature. Your questions or concerns during your away period can be addressed to Sean Drew, Student Accounts Coordinator at sdrew@cornish.eduor at 206.726.5084.

Is financial aid available for summer classes?

Your annual eligibility for financial aid funds is used during the fall and spring semesters unless you declined some of your aid for either of the two semesters. You may qualify for a PLUS or Private Educational Loan. If you plan to attend summer classes, please contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information. Your request for summer aid can be submitted as early as May 1, 2016.

What is Cornish College of the Arts’ school code for filing the FAFSA?

The school code for Cornish College of the Arts is 012315.

What are the eligibility requirements for federal and state financial aid?

Students applying for admission to Cornish College of the Arts or students currently enrolled in a degree program can apply for financial aid. The following are requirements to receive federal and/or state financial aid:

  • Student must be a US citizen, permanent legal resident or eligible non-citizen with a valid I-551 card.
  • Student must not be in default on any government loan or owe a repayment on any federal/state aid program.
  • Student must be enrolled at least half-time (six to eight credit hours).
  • Student must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.00 and cumulative 67% pace of progression at the end of every semester.
  • An international student may qualify for a Cornish Department Scholarship and, a private educational loan with a credit-worthy co-borrower who is a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen with a valid I-551 card.

How do I create an FSA User ID to electronically sign my FAFSA?

Go to Federal Student Aid and follow instructions. Guard your personal FSA ID as it is your personal secure identification and can be used for signing legal documents such as Federal Master Promissory Notes and the annual FAFSA.

How do I complete the FAFSA if I and/or my parents have not completed our taxes yet?

You may complete your FAFSA online beginning January 1, 2019 using your most accurate 2018 estimates.

What are some reasons for FAFSA rejection by the Department of Education?

There may be a number of factors. Here are some of the most common:

  • Not using the name or SSN recorded with the Social Security Administration Office
  • Parent not e-signing FAFSA with FSA User ID
  • Parent not e-signing subsequent FAFSA with FSA User ID

If you have one of these problems, you may request assistance from the Office of Financial Aid at 206.726.5014.

Where can I find information regarding Education Benefits for filing my taxes?

What should I do if my status changes after I file the FAFSA?

  • Do not update your own FAFSA unless the Office of Financial Aid makes a direct request that you do so.
  • If parent marital status changes between FAFSA application and verification, notify the Office of Financial Aid to update household size to include step-parent.
  • If marital status was reported incorrectly, notify the Office of Financial Aid to make the correction.
  • If your FAFSA projections concerning enrollment plans, family size and number in college change for the upcoming year, contact your Financial Aid Advisor.
  • If you estimated your tax information, do not make or submit FAFSA corrections without first contacting your Financial Aid Advisor.

How is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated and how does it affect my financial aid?

The Department of Education uses a complex formula to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), based on the information you submitted on your FAFSA. The following are included in your EFC calculation:

  • parent income and assets
  • paid taxes
  • age of your older parent for asset protection
  • number in the family
  • number in college
  • student wages (including work-study)

The Office of Financial Aid uses the student budget and EFC to calculate eligibility for financial aid fund types and amounts. The student budget or estimated cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, estimated room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other educational expenses. Budget minus EFC equals estimated financial need. Grants, scholarships, work study and loans are offered based on student eligibility and funding availability.

What is verification and why was I selected?

Verification is a standard process established by the Department of Education to confirm a student’s financial aid eligibility. The Department of Education selects students for verification based on their Student Aid Report (SAR). The Cornish Office of Financial Aid notifies the students who have been selected for verification.

To verify that the information on the FAFSA is true and accurate, a request is made for certain family and student documents. The document request may include IRS Free Tax Return Transcripts, W2s, and a completed Verification Worksheet. Current Cornish students receive financial aid packages when all their documents are received and their financial aid file is complete.

Verification documents must be received promptly to observe federal requirements. A financial aid offer is made once verification is complete.

Why am I considered dependent when my parents do not help me financially and I file taxes independently claiming my own exemption?

The federal dependency guidelines for filing taxes and the federal dependency guidelines for financial aid eligibility are different. If you are younger than 24 years of age, you are still considered a dependent according to the FAFSA, even though you may claim an exemption on your own taxes and may not receive financial assistance from your parents. As a dependent, your parents’ income and assets are calculated in the FAFSA Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Exceptions are rare but may be considered with official documentation if you are an orphan or ward of the court, if you are married or have dependents. Students who are 24 years of age or older are considered independent students and are not required to include parent information on the FAFSA. Married students are also considered independent and must include spouse information on the FAFSA.

How do I apply for scholarships?

Institutional Scholarships

There is no separate application to be considered for a Cornish Scholarship. All new students are considered and awarded based on their audition or portfolio review. The scholarship is renewable for up to three years if the student maintains a cumulative grade point average of 2.00 and a cumulative pace of progression of 67% at the end of every semester.

New students who complete a FAFSA are also evaluated for an Assistance Grant based on need. It is not uncommon for a student not normally having FAFSA need to be awarded an Assistance Grant. We recommend that all students complete a FAFSA with Cornish School Code 012315.

There is an annual departmental scholarship process for continuing students. Individual departments make an announcement in spring concerning this process and students are encouraged to follow through on the specific requirements to qualify for named or endowed scholarships awarded for demonstrated artistic and academic excellence. Recipients must also meet donor-specific criteria for eligibility.

  • Please note: Scholarships are merit-based and awarded for full-time enrollment only.

Outside Scholarships

Financial Literacy Advocate Margaret Murray performs research to assist students who want to apply for outside scholarships and maintains a database of scholarships. You can select a category in the pull down menu and generate the report or click on individual links to go to the outside scholarship site. Scholarship information is also updated periodically on our Main Campus Center (MCC) bulletin board in the Office of Financial Aid lobby.

Outside scholarships are considered an additional financial resource and are coordinated with other types of financial aid. Please notify the Office of Financial Aid of any outside scholarships or grants you may be receiving that do not appear on your award letter. If you have more than one outside scholarship, their combined total will appear on the same line in your award letter. If your donor needs a statement of your account in order to disburse funds to the college on your behalf, please notify the Office of Student Account in writing. Be sure to include your donor’s billing address.

All AmeriCorps benefit recipients and National Guard recipients must notify the Office of Financial Aid of their benefits eligibility each semester. Your financial aid award letter may refer to these as outside scholarships.

  • Please note: Qualified Tuition Programs such as 529 plans or Washington State Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) are no longer reported as a resource in the student award letter. Plans in either the parent or dependent student’s names are reported on the FAFSA as parent assets. All plans owned by the family of a dependent student must be reported as parent asset. Married students must report their spouse’s and their own plans as assets on the FAFSA.

What is the Washington State Need Grant and am I eligible for it?

The State Need Grant (SNG) is gift funding from the State of Washington to qualifying legal state residents who are matriculating students attending full-time. Funding is affected by an applicant’s total income and enrollment status. The Office of Financial Aid reviews student records at the beginning of each semester to determine applicant eligibility, based on various criteria defined by both the state and the institution. Additional forms and documents may be required from eligible participants. Funding is limited and awarded on a first-come first-serve basis to qualifying FAFSA applicants.

State Need Grant funds are disbursed to the school by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). A completed Student Directive form must be on file in the Office of Financial Aid indicating whether you are requesting direct deposit to your personal bank account or to your tuition account. If you are requesting that funds be deposited to your personal bank account, please contact the Office of Student Account to enroll in e-refund. Students are responsible for their balance due to Cornish no matter which SNG deposit option they select.

What is the Pell Grant and am I eligible for it?

The federal Pell Grant is a need-based grant that does not need to be repaid unless the student withdraws early from the semester. It is available for students who have minimal resources and is calculated based on FAFSA need analysis. A student who has obtained a prior B.A. degree does not qualify for the Pell Grant.

What is Federal SEOG and am I eligible for it?

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is awarded to needy Pell Grant recipients. Funding is limited and awarded on a first-come first-serve basis.

What loans are available and how do I apply for them?

Stafford Loans

Fixed-interest Stafford loans are available and will appear in your financial aid packages. Stafford loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. Payment on either of these two loans is not required while a student is enrolled at least half-time working toward a degree.

Stafford subsidized loans are awarded on the basis of need with no interest accruing while the student is enrolled at least half-time working toward a degree. Interest accrual begins at the end of the six-month grace period following graduation, withdrawal or enrollment at less than half-time or, on the day following the last date of college attendance. Currently the subsidy is in effect during the grace period of six months.

A Stafford unsubsidized loan of $2,000 is awarded annually for four years to all undergraduate students. In addition, an unsubsidized loan of $4,000 is available for independent freshmen and sophomores and $5,000 for independent juniors and seniors. This unsubsidized loan is also available to dependent students whose parent PLUS Loan (see below) is denied by the lender. Interest begins to accrue on the loan at disbursement.

Parent PLUS Loans

An annual fixed-interest rate Parent loan (PLUS) is available for the biological parents and/or the step-parent whose income information appears on the FAFSA of an enrolled dependent student. The parent/step-parent combined PLUS loan eligibility is equal to the remaining cost of attendance after other financial aid. PLUS loan repayment begins 60 days after the lender makes the second disbursement to the student tuition account around the end of February. Payment deferment on a PLUS loan may be obtained by contacting your servicer directly. You may contact Financial Aid Staff at 206-726-5014 or at for additional information.

Private Educational Loans

Private educational loans are another funding source to cover a balance due or pay for educational expenses. Students can borrow up to the remaining cost of attendance after other financial aid. Students can begin their search for a lender and loan product, at and apply online with their selected private educational lender, usually a bank or credit union. The lender will require Cornish to certify that the student is enrolled and qualifies for the requested loan amount. Lenders typically require a co-borrower or cosigner for undergraduate students with limited credit history or less-than-perfect credit. Interest rates for private educational loans are variable but they offer a viable funding resource for some students.

Private educational loans have interest accruing on them at all times until the loan is repaid in full. There is typically a six-month grace period after graduation or last date of attendance before repayment begins. Private loan funding for a student is added to the student award and will appear on a revised award letter from the Office of Financial Aid. You may apply for all your loans with any selected lender.

I am a transfer student, and would like to know how the loan process works at Cornish?

Cornish is a participant in the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program for students and their parents. The federal government is the direct lender of the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. If you are a current student with existing Stafford loans at Cornish College of the Arts, it is not required that you reapply. Simply complete the mandatory Acceptance of Loans form, accepting, decreasing or declining the loans offered in your 2016-17 award letter.

All new, transfer and current students who are first-time Stafford Loan borrowers must complete an Entrance Counseling session at An in-person session is available at New Student Registration Day in June or July or during Orientation Week prior to the start of classes.

What is an Entrance Counseling session?

An Entrance Counseling session is an informational meeting that tells you about your rights and responsibilities as a Stafford loan borrower. According to federal regulations and Cornish policy, all first-time Stafford loan borrowers must complete an Entrance Counseling Session before receiving Stafford loan proceeds into their tuition accounts.

What is the Work Study program and how does it work?

The need-based federal work study program and the need-based state work study program for Washington residents provide financial assistance to eligible students through part-time employment opportunities on and off campus. Students receive valuable work experience and employers provide some scheduling flexibility to enable students to work while pursuing their course of study. Work study eligibility does not carry over year to year. A new FAFSA and official with work study are required annually.

Students must apply for available jobs and be hired to begin to earn their award. Employment opportunities on and off campus can be found online at College Central. In addition to major-relevant jobs, community service opportunities through various not for-profit organizations are available through Cornish. One of the opportunities is in the America Reads program where college students tutor preschool through elementary age children providing real-life teaching experience and the opportunity to make a positive impact in the community.

When you find one or more work study positions, you must complete all new hire paperwork as soon as the job is secured and before you begin work. This paperwork includes completing the federal form I-9, which requires the submission of a passport or social security card and picture ID (photocopies are not acceptable). Your supervisor is responsible for completing a Work Authorization form and submitting it to the Office of Financial Aid before you begin working. You may work up to your award eligibility (19 hours maximum per week) during enrollment periods and semester breaks. As a rule, new students are not permitted to work until their 8th day of attendance.

Work-study earnings are not applied directly to your tuition account balance. As a work study employee, you receive a paycheck from your employer according to your employer’s regular pay schedule. Your employer is reimbursed a percentage of your wage when you submit a timesheet signed by your supervisor to the Office of Financial Aid. If you do not qualify for a work study position but would like to work while attending Cornish, there is a job board in the Office of Student Life, listing non work study employment opportunities.

Work-study residency classification information

WA legal residency for state work study purposes means:

  • that you have established a bonafide domicile in the State of Washington primarily for purposes other than educational for the period of one year immediately prior to commencement of the first day of the semester for which you have registered at any institution and are considered financially independent (you are not required to provide parent information on the FAFSA) OR
  • are a dependent student, whose parent(s) or legal guardian(s) have maintained a bonafide domicile in the State of Washington for at least one year immediately prior to the commencement of the semester for which you have registered at any institution.
    What is the typical rate of pay for a work study student? What about employer benefits?Students must be paid on an hourly basis and the rate of pay must be equal to the entry level rate for non work study employees performing similar duties within the organization. The student must be paid at least the state’s minimum wage of $13.00 per hour starting January 1, 2016.The employer is required to pay all costs of employer benefits including federal withholding, worker compensation insurance, federal social security and any other benefits required by law. The employer is reimbursed 30 to 75 percent of the gross wages. Reimbursement is paid by the state or federal government in recognition of costs the employer bears for supervision, training and employee benefits.

What are some of the responsibilities inherent to hiring work study employees?

The student and the employer must make sure that the relevant timesheets are submitted in a timely manner to the Office of Financial Aid in order to receive reimbursement. Employers who have questions regarding work study procedures and guidelines should contact the Office of Financial Aid at 206.726.5014.

If I am a qualifying veteran, will my education benefits affect my financial aid award?

Veterans’ educational benefits are excluded from estimated financial assistance since July 1, 2010.

What is Satisfactory Academic Progress?

Students must maintain a 2.00 cumulative grade point average and a 67% cumulative pace of progression (earned over attempted hours, including transfer hours accepted by the college) at the end of every semester to be eligible for financial aid. Failure to meet standards the first time results in a semester on warning status where the student continues to be financial aid eligible.

When the student fails to return to good standing at the end of the semester on warning status, the student is placed on probation status or learning plan status and must appeal to the financial aid office providing documentation of extenuating circumstances that led to probation or learning plan status. An appeal that reaches approval provides one semester of financial aid at the end of which the student must return to good standing or repeat the appeal process.

The difference between the probation status and learning plan status is relevant to how long mathematically it will take for a student to return good academic standing. If a student is mathematically able to return to good standing within one semester, the student is placed on probation. If a student isn’t mathematically capable of returning to good standing in one semester, a learning plan must be prepared by the academic advisor and the student must follow the plan to reach good standing in the shortest period possible. Since the learning plan extends beyond one semester, the appeal must be repeated between semester with a review of the plan and possible adjustments to ensure a return to good standing in the briefest period.

Students enrolled full-time or at least 12 credit hours per semester must complete their degree program within six years.

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