Financial aid eligibility is the difference between the contribution students and their families are expected to make toward tuition and VCU’s estimated yearly cost of attendance. Students with an expected family contribution less than the COA are eligible for need-based financial aid. If the EFC exceeds COA, the student is eligible for financial aid not based on need.

Private scholarships may impact financial aid awards, since the combination of all financial aid and scholarships cannot exceed a student’s need or COA. Students who have received scholarships not listed on their award letter or eServices Financial Aid page should provide this information to the Office of Financial Aid as soon as possible.

Additionally, when changes are made to a FAFSA application, we will conduct a secondary review of the student's financial aid package. If we are required to reduce aid because of these changes, we will adjust loans or work-study awards before reducing grants. 

While federal and state financial aid is need based, students must maintain satisfactory academic progress requirements to retain financial aid eligibility.

When there is more than one undergraduate-level child in college at the same time, family contribution is generally prorated among the college students. Parents attending college at the same time as their children are not included. 

Dependency status

Even if parents don’t contribute money toward education, students are considered dependent unless they meet one or more of these conditions:

  • Will be 24 years old before Jan. 1 of the academic year
  • Are an orphan or were a ward of the court until age 18
  • Both parents are deceased
  • Someone other than their biological or adoptive parents are their court appointed legal guardian
  • Are a veteran
  • Currently serve on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training
  • Will be working on a master’s or doctoral degree or graduate certificate
  • Are married
  • Have a legal dependent other than a spouse that they support more than 50 percent
  • A court in their home state of legal residence determines they are an emancipated minor
  • At anytime during the during the school year they were documented as at risk of being homeless or were homeless

Subsidized direct loan maximum eligibility period

Federal law limits a first-time borrower’s eligibility for direct subsidized loans to a period of no more than 150 percent of the length of the borrower’s educational program. For example, students enrolled in a four-year bachelor’s degree program can receive direct subsidized loans for a maximum of six years.

Under certain conditions, first-time borrowers who exceed the limit will lose the interest subsidy on their direct subsidized loans. Only first-time borrowers on or after July 1, 2013, are subject to the provision.

The maximum eligibility period is based on the published length of an academic program and can change if a student changes programs. Direct subsidized loans received for previous programs will generally count against the new maximum eligibility period.

Accelerated programs

VCU offers several degree programs where students may earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Many of these accelerated degree programs allow students to enroll in graduate courses before an undergraduate degree has been conferred. Students’ financial aid eligibility depends on their student classification. 

  • Undergraduate aid: Accelerated degree students are considered undergraduate students and are eligible to receive undergraduate scholarships and grants until they have matriculated into the graduate portion of the program.
  • Graduate aid: Once a student enters the graduate portion of the program, they are no longer eligible for undergraduate scholarships and grants. Federal loan eligibility increases for most students because of the higher graduate student borrowing maximum.