Future Students - Funding Your Education

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At Sacramento State, we want to assist you in understanding how the financial aid process works, what services are available, and how we can assist you in setting and reaching your educational goals. This web page is meant to provide preliminary information and guidance for parents and students interested in attending the University.

Once you have a basic understanding, you will be ready to begin the financial aid process.

Financial Aid Basics

“Financial aid” refers to any program that provides money to help with the financial costs associated with being a student. Such aid is usually provided by federal and state agencies, colleges themselves, lending institutions, charitable organizations such as college foundations, and private donors (corporations, businesses, individuals). Financial aid funds are designed to help students cover the cost of higher education—tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. To make a long story short, financial aid is available to help fund your education if you apply and qualify for that aid.

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There are four main types of financial aid available for college:

  1. Grants 
    Grants are provided by the federal government, the state government, or the University system (the CSU). They do not need to be paid back by students, but students must maintain eligibility.
  2. Student Loans
    Student loans are provided by the federal government, accrue interest at a generally low rate, and must be paid back.  There are several types of loans: some that students can borrow, some that parents can borrow, and other private loans that may require students to obtain a co-signer. Each type of loan has different interest and repayment requirements, so it is important to review student loan information carefully before accepting the funds.
  3. Federal Work-Study
    Federal Work-Study is a special type of student employment at Sacramento State that helps eligible students earn funds for their educational expenses while getting worthwhile job experience. In addition to Work-Study, there are many other types of student employment on and off campus that give students the opportunity to earn money and gain job skills.
  4. Scholarships
    Scholarships are provided by a variety of sources including charitable organizations, corporations, businesses, and individual donors. Scholarships do not need to be paid back by students, but students usually need to meet and maintain special eligibility requirements.

How to Apply for Grants, Loans, and Federal Work-Study

The most important thing you need to do on your way to receiving financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through the U.S. Department of Education website online. The FAFSA application for the following academic year becomes available each year on Jan.1 (that means you start applying on Jan. 1, 2013 for the 2013-2014 school year that begins in Fall 2013).

You must file an accurate and complete FAFSA form by March 2 of each year you’re in college to be considered for most of the financial aid mentioned above including grants, student loans, and federal work study.


  • Request a Personal Identification Number (PIN) at www.pin.ed.gov.
  • Fill out your FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
  • Use school code 001150 for Sacramento State

How to Apply for Scholarships

A scholarship is a form of financial aid that may be awarded based on need, academic merit, or a combination of factors. Like grants, scholarships do not need to be paid back. They fall into three categories:

  • Institutional scholarships are competitive and open to Sacramento State students with various talents, interests, or educational goals who meet criteria specific to each particular scholarship. Students must apply for each scholarship separately. To apply, complete the online scholarship application between mid-January and mid-March each year.
  • Departmental scholarships are competitive and are awarded by various departments on campus, usually to students majoring in a particular field. Check with the department for more information.  A list of departmental scholarships with links to each department’s information page is available on the Financial Aid & Scholarships web site.  To apply, complete the department application between mid-January and mid-March each year.
  • Community scholarships are competitive, and may be awarded to students at any university. They are administered by organizations other than Sacramento State (e.g., local Rotary Club, local Chambers of Commerce, local fraternal organizations), and students must apply for those in various ways (often online) and meet various deadlines to be considered.  A list of community scholarships with links to the organization’s information page is available on the Financial Aid & Scholarships web site.

To search and apply for scholarships, click here.

What is the overall process to receive financial aid?

Here is a quick overview of the financial aid application and awarding process.

  • File your FAFSA by March 2 of each year
  • Submit any necessary verification documents or other financial aid forms
  • Wait a bit while Sacramento State determines your financial need (This means that the Financial Aid & Scholarship Office reviews your FAFSA and supporting documents)
  • Check for your Award Notification
  • Clear any financial aid holds
  • Receive your financial aid disbursement


What is my financial need?

"Financial need” is defined as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) subtracted from your Cost of Attendance (COA).


COA is determined by adding up all of the direct and indirect costs associated with attending college.

EFC is determined by a federal formula that takes into account income, size of household, number of household members in college, and other factors. The EFC calculation is the result of your FAFSA.

NOTE: to get financial aid, you must apply. The first application to complete is the FAFSA.  File early to ensure you don’t miss any deadlines.

What is the Cost of Attendance at Sacramento State?

There are generally two types of costs associated with going to college: direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are the kinds of costs you can expect to see on a bill from the university—they include tuition and fees, and are determined by the University each year. Indirect costs include living expenses such as housing, food, transportation, and books.  These costs can be controlled since they vary based on decisions that you make (e.g., living at home, on-campus, or off-campus, taking public transportation instead of commuting by car).  You can get a good estimate of your total Cost of Attendance by looking at common college costs:

  • Tuition & fees are set by the University. In some cases, they may vary based on your academic program and the number of credit hours you take each term.
  • Food & housing costs are determined by choice you make. If you live and eat your meals on campus, the college bills you for these expenses. The charges vary depending on the room and meal plan you choose. If you plan to live at home or off-campus, estimate these expenses. When comparing on-campus costs with off-campus costs, try to compare “apples to apples.” For example, rent at an “all-inclusive” apartment or residence hall room might be more expensive than rent elsewhere. It is important to calculate all of the incidentals of housing (e.g., electricity, gas, cable or satellite TV, Internet,) to make an accurate comparison.
  • Books & supplies costs are associated with your course and study materials. You can sometimes choose to buy new or used textbooks, or even rent textbooks.
  • Transportation costs will vary depending on how you choose to get to and from campus. Whether you live on campus or commute from home, there are costs associated with how you get to and from your college—by bus, train, plane, car, bike or whatever your mode of travel.
  • Misc personal expenses you should consider and estimate laundry costs, cell phone service, cable television, disability and medical related costs.

Sacramento State includes direct costs and average estimates of indirect costs when calculating your annual cost of attendance. Doing this provides students with flexibility in making personal expense decisions and determining how much financial aid they need to attend college.

Estimated Annual Costs of Attendance at Sacramento State

Tuition Fees (Direct Costs)
$6,628 $6,628 $6,628
Food & Housing $11,874
Books & Supplies $1,754 $1,754 $1,754
Food & Housing $4,518 $12,090
Transportation $1,400 $1,210 $1,358
Misc. Personal $1,338 $1,338 $1,338
Total Estimated Cost of
$15,638 $22,804 $23,168

Note: The cost associated with all items that are italicized and underlined will depend on choices you make.

Note: Tuition and fees can change and the actual costs will be finalized once the state budget is approved. Non-resident students add $372 per unit for non-resident enrollment fees. Budget figures are for estimating purposes only and subject to change without notice.

How can I learn more about managing my financial aid and my finances?

Students can learn more about money and college through the resources below, or by clicking the links to the top right of this page.

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