Financial Aid Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly asked Student Questions and Answers

The Office of Financial Aid has compiled a list of common student questions and the answers to them. If your concern isn't addressed here, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who to Seek for Help

All students at the college are assigned to a professional financial aid counselor according to the first letter of the student's last name.  Current caseload assignments are as follows:

Staff Member First Letter of Student Last Name
Jennifer Burke, Interim Director  
Nancy Bessette, Senior Associate Director  
Helena Botelho, Financial Aid Representative  A - C
Amanda Tucciarone, Assistant Director of Financial Aid D - G, Loan inquiries A - L, Study Abroad
Pamela Forant, Associate Director of Financial Aid,   H - L, W - Z
Todd Brenner, Financial Aid Officer M - R
Paul Spears, Financial Aid Officer S - V, Loan inquiries M - Z 

Caseload assignments change periodically so you should check this page on at least an annual basis. 

Defining Financial Aid Needs

Most of the financial aid available at Rhode Island College is based on financial need. Financial need is simply the difference between your cost of attending Rhode Island College and the amount that your family is expected to contribute towards that cost. Your cost of attendance depends on such factors as whether you plan to live on campus or commute and whether you are a resident of Rhode Island or another state. Enrollment plans for full- or part-time study will also influence your cost of attendance and your eligibility for assistance.

Your family contribution is based on an analysis of the information that you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This analysis uses a Federal Methodology (FM) that has been mandated by the federal government for use in awarding federal student aid. The analysis considers a number of factors, such as taxable and nontaxable income, family size, the number of family members in college, and certain assets like savings and investments.

The analysis is designed to estimate a family's capacity for absorbing educational expenses over time. It is also designed to treat families with similar financial circumstances in similar ways, and families with different circumstances in proportional ways. As such, it is more complicated than a cash flow analysis, which would simply match current expenses to income.

Financial Need Formula

Cost of Attending Rhode Island College
Less: Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC (SAI - Student Aid Index); calculated by the FAFSA)

Summary of Financial Aid

Financial aid comes in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and part-time employment. Summary information on the various student aid programs is provided under Financial Aid Programs on the Home Page. The combined total of all awards made to an individual student is called a financial aid package. In some cases an award letter may only contain an award from one program; in others the award letter may list several programs. The mix of awards is based on a number of factors. These include your level of financial need, academic record, year in school, state of residence, and date of application and acceptance to the college.

Estimated Awards

Since an award letter may show estimated awards from federal and state sources, the college cannot guarantee that you will actually receive all the amounts indicated. For example, reductions in state grant formulas are sometimes made well after award packaging has been completed. The college can neither anticipate these reductions nor adjust Rhode Island College awards to make up for them. In addition, award estimates are only as accurate as the information that you provide on your application.

If you submit inaccurate information, it may be necessary to revise your financial aid package after the Verification process is completed. The college reserves the right to require documentation of all reported information and to withdraw or adjust awards that were based on inaccurate or incomplete information.

Books and Other Expenses

If you have financial aid which exceeds your direct charges (i.e., tuition, fees, room and board), you may be eligible to receive an advance of all or a portion of your anticipated credit refund towards your purchases in the Rhode Island College bookstore. If your application is approved, the amount will be applied to your campus points account on your student ID within one business day. Campus points can be used in the Bookstore as well as some copiers within the Adams Library and other locations on campus.

Credit Refunds

You may apply for a credit refund advance online through your MyRIC account under the Campus Finances section for Self Service.  You must have a MyRIC ID to use this service. Applications are accepted one week before the start of each semester, and the application period closes after the semester has been in session for three weeks. Many student aid refunds are available by the end of the first week of each semester, so an alternate approach would be to wait for the refund and use it for book expenses. More information about using the credit refund advance for books can be obtained by calling or visiting the Financial Aid Office.

Other Financial Assistance

You are responsible for notifying the Office of Student Financial Aid directly in writing if you receive any other financial assistance that is not listed in your award letter. Additional financial assistance would include (but is not limited to) the following: merit- and need-based scholarships and grants, tuition and fee waivers, tuition remission, need-based student employment, and long-term student loans.

If you receive additional financial assistance, the College reserves the right to revise or cancel its awards as necessary. The college encourages students to take the initiative in applying for outside financial assistance. Whenever possible, outside assistance will be first used to reduce the loan and/or student employment components of the financial aid package.

However, due to the entitlement nature of such forms of assistance as Federal Pell Grants, state scholarships and grants, tuition waivers, and tuition remission, these forms of aid will normally be used to reduce the grant portion of the financial aid package.

Defining Full Time Enrollment

At the undergraduate level, full time enrollment is defined as a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester. For financial aid purposes, there are no exceptions to this rule. Some financial aid programs, such as academic scholarships, require recipients to be enrolled full time while other programs allow recipients to be enrolled half time. The federal Pell Grant Program has specific award levels for full time, 3/4 time, half time and less than half time enrollment.

Please Note: While taking 12 credits per semester is considered full time for financial aid purposes, in order to graduate in four years, students need to take an average of 15 credits per semester to reach the minimum required 120 credits for a baccalaureate degree.  Following a plan of 15 credits per semester saves both time and money in extra semesters and tuition.  Tuition is the same amount for 12-18 credits.

Undergraduate enrollment categories are shown below:

  • Full time = 12+ credit hours per semester
  • 3/4 time = 9 to 11 credit hours per semester
  • Half time = 6 to 8 credit hours per semester
  • Less than half time = Below 6 credits per semester

At the graduate level, full time enrollment is normally defined as at least 9 credit hours per semester. However, students holding graduate assistantships may be considered full time for assistantship purposes while enrolled for at least 6 credits per semester. Half time enrollment at the graduate level would require at least 4.5 credit hours per semester.

Considerations When Repeating Courses

Federal regulations allow repeated courses to be included in determining financial aid enrollment status as long as there is not more than one repeat of a previously passed course.  If a previously passed course is being repeated more than once, credits for the course will not count in the determination of financial aid enrollment status or cost of attendance. 

For example, a student who enrolls for 12 credits while repeating a previously passed 3 credit course for the second time would only receive financial aid as a 3/4 time student.  All repeated courses as well as the original attempt are included in determining satisfactory academic progress.

Enrollment and Housing Plans

Virtually all financial assistance awarded by Rhode Island College is limited to students who are enrolled at least half time (six credits per semester) in a degree program. Your financial aid package will be based on the housing plans that you report on the FAFSA. The assumptions used to develop your financial aid package will be listed on your award notice. If any of these assumptions change, your financial aid package will probably need to be revised.

For financial aid purposes, enrollment status is normally verified at the end of the Add period each semester, but any change in enrollment during the course of the semester has the potential to affect your financial aid eligibility. You should contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to discuss any changes in enrollment or housing plans.


Many scholarships require that students be enrolled full time to receive the awards.  A few examples would include Presidential Scholarships, Honors Scholarships and RI Academic Promise Scholarships ​(refer to the Financial Aid Award Guide for eligibility criteria for the various financial aid awards). Enrollment status each semester is determined at the end of the first two weeks. 

This is often referred to as the Add/Drop period.  You are charged for the number of credits that you remain enrolled in at the end of this period.  As an undergraduate student, if you are enrolled for at least 12 credits at the end of the Add/Drop period, you will be considered as a full time student for scholarship purposes.  If you subsequently withdraw from a course after the first two weeks, you will still be considered full time for scholarship purposes and no tuition charges will be refunded.

There is one exception to the above policy.  If you withdraw from all courses for the semester, both the charges and the financial aid may have to be prorated as explained in the question on this topic below.   In addition, it is important to remember that most scholarship programs are limited to a total of eight semester payments.  To complete a typical RIC degree program in eight semesters, you would need to complete an average of 15 credits in each semester.

How to Renew Aid

All financial aid awards, with the exception of some academic scholarships, must be reapplied for each year. There is no automatic commitment to a renewal of your financial aid package.

The deadline for renewal applicants is March 15 prior to the following academic year.

You are also required to maintain satisfactory academic progress in your program of study in order to be considered for continued financial assistance. Standards of satisfactory academic progress are explained in our web site sections for Prospective and Current Undergraduate Students.

During the freshman year, when academic success is at greatest risk, students receive the highest possible level of grant and/or scholarship assistance. As you progress through your college career, the percentage of loan and/or Federal Work-Study employment in the financial aid package will likely increase and the grant percentage will decrease. In addition, renewal levels of financial assistance may vary due to the changing nature of federal and state regulations and funding levels.

Title IV Funds

Title IV funds are awarded to a student under the assumption that the student will attend College for the entire period for which the assistance is awarded. When a student withdraws, the student may no longer be eligible for the full amount of Title IV funds that the student was originally scheduled to receive.

Conditions Under Which Title IV Program Funds are Required to be Returned

If a recipient of Title IV grant or loan funds withdraws from the College after beginning attendance, the College must perform an R2T4 calculation to determine the amount of Title IV assistance earned by the student. If the amount disbursed to the student is greater than the amount the student earned, the unearned funds must be returned.

Conditions Under Which a Student is Owed Title IV Program Funds Upon Withdrawal

If the amount disbursed to the student is less than the amount the student earned, and for which the student is otherwise eligible, the student may be eligible to receive a post-withdrawal disbursement of the earned aid that was not received. If the post-withdrawal disbursement includes loan funds, the student may choose to decline the loan funds so that the student doesn’t incur additional debt. The college may automatically use all or a portion of the student’s post-withdrawal disbursement (including loan funds, if the student accepts them) for tuition, fees, and room and board charges. For all other college charges, the College needs the student’s permission to use the post-withdrawal disbursement. If the student does not give permission, the student will be offered the funds. However, it may be in the student’s best interest to allow the College to keep the funds to reduce the student’s debt at the College.

Excess Funds

If the student receives excess federal student aid funds that must be returned, the College must return a portion of the excess equal to the lesser of: the student’s institutional charges multiplied by the unearned percentage of the student’s funds, or the entire amount of excess funds. The College must return this amount even if it didn't keep this amount (i.e. the money was refunded to the student).

When a Student is Considered to have Withdrawn: A student is considered to have withdrawn from a payment period or period of enrollment if the student does not complete all the days in the payment period or period of enrollment that the student was scheduled to complete. For students who officially withdraw, the withdrawal date is the date the student begins the withdrawal process. For students who unofficially withdrawal, the withdrawal date is the date of the deadline that the student had to respond by to document attendance.

Overpayment: Any amount of unearned funds that the student must return is called an overpayment. The amount of overpayment that the student must repay is half of the unearned amount. The student must make arrangements with the College or the Department of Education to return the unearned funds.

Notification of Overpayment: The College will notify the student of any unearned Title IV assistance by email and by regular mail to the address the College has on file for the student.

Refund: The requirements for federal student aid program funds when the student withdraws are separate from the refund policy at the College. Therefore, the student may still owe funds to the College to cover unpaid institutional charges. The College may also charge the student for any federal student aid program funds that the College was required to return. The College refund policy may be obtained directly from the Bursar's Office.

Grants and Scholarships: In the case of institutional grants and scholarships, the awards will be pro-rated in accordance with the percentage of institutional charges canceled. For example, if 50% of the student’s charges are canceled, 50% of the institutional grants and scholarships will be canceled. Treatment of grants and scholarships provided by the state governments varies by state. In the case of the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority, grants and scholarships are pro-rated in accordance with the percentage of tuition charged. Students from other states should contact the Office of Student Financial Aid regarding specific adjustment policies.

Time-Frame for Return of Title IV Funds: The College must return the title IV funds as soon as possible, but no later than 45 days after the date of the College’s determination that the student withdrew from the College. If a student withdraws without providing notification to the College, the College must return the Title IV funds no later than 30 days after the end of the earlier of the: payment period or period of enrollment, as appropriate; the academic year in which the student withdrew; or educational program from which the student withdrew.

Order of Return of Title IV Funds: Unearned funds returned by the College or the student, as appropriate, must be credited to outstanding balances on title IV loans made to the student or on behalf of the student for the payment period or period of enrollment for which a return of funds is required. Those funds must be credited to outstanding balances for the payment period or period of enrollment for which a return of funds is required in the following order: 1. Unsubsidized Direct Loans (other than Direct PLUS Loans); 2. Subsidized Direct Loans; 3. Direct PLUS Loans; 4. Federal Pell Grants for which a return of Title IV funds is required; 5. FSEOG for which a return of Title IV funds is required; 6. TEACH Grants for which a return of Title IV funds is required; 7. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, for which a return of Title IV funds is required.

Calculation of the Amount of Title IV Assistance Earned by the Student: The amount of title IV grant or loan assistance that is earned by the student is calculated by determining the percentage of title IV grant or loan assistance that has been earned by the student; and applying this percentage to the total amount of title IV grant or loan assistance that was disbursed (and that could have been disbursed) to the student, or on the student’s behalf, for the payment period or period of enrollment as of the student’s withdrawal date. The percentage of title IV grant or loan assistance that has been earned by the student is equal to the percentage of the payment period or period of enrollment that the student completed as of the student’s withdrawal date, if this date occurs on or before: completion of 60 percent of the payment period or period of enrollment; or 100 percent, if the student’s withdrawal date occurs after completion of 60 percent of the payment period or period of enrollment. The percentage of title IV grant or loan assistance that has not been earned by the student is calculated by determining the complement of the percentage of title IV grant or loan assistance earned by the student. The unearned amount of title IV assistance to be returned is calculated by subtracting the amount of title IV assistance earned by the student from the amount of title IV aid that was disbursed to the student as of the date of the institution's determination that the student withdrew.

Payment Options

Many families find it easier to pay college expenses on a monthly basis rather than all at once at the start of each semester. The Monthly Payment Plan at Rhode Island College allows you to make semester payments in four monthly installments. Under the plan, your financial aid from grant, scholarship, and loan programs is deducted from your semester charges for tuition and fees (plus room and board if you are a resident student). The remaining balance is then divided into four monthly payments of 25 percent each.

The first payment is due before the start of the semester, and the remaining three payments are then made on the 15th day of each month thereafter. Participation in the plan is on a semester basis. The cost for the service is $35 per semester. For additional information, contact the Bursar's Office at 401-456-8130​.

There are also long-term financing options that are not based on financial need. The Federal Direct PLUS Loan allows parents and graduate students to borrow up to the full cost of college less other financial aid received. Applicants must pass a credit review in order to qualify for the loan. Repayment may be deferred for up to six months after the student is no longer enrolled at least half time. However, interest does accrue on the loan and is capitalized into the loan principal before repayment begins. Up to date information about associated loan fees and interest rates can be found on the Financial Aid Programs page.

To apply for a Federal Direct PLUS Loan, both the FAFSA and the Rhode Island College PLUS Request Form must be completed. This form advises the office of Student Financial Aid of the amount you wish to borrow and authorizes the office to initiate a credit check with the federal processing service.  Once credit is approved, the college will originate the loan and request that you complete an electronic Master Promissory Note (MPN) online at the Federal Direct Loan web site.

There are also a number of private Alternative Loans available from various lending institutions. These loans are based on ability to repay rather than financial need. Although students apply for these loans in their own name, a cosigner is usually required unless the student can demonstrate an income history that would be sufficient to repay the loan. Most Alternative Loans do not require repayment while the student is in school. However, interest does accrue on the loan and is capitalized into the loan principal before repayment begins. Students may borrow up to their full cost of attendance less student financial aid.

Recommended lenders and comparison information may be viewed on our Financial Aid Program webpage in the alternative loan section.

Rhode Island College does not require lenders to provide any special benefits to the college or the financial aid staff in order to receive our recommendation. These lenders have been selected on the basis of their quality service, competitive interest rates, and ability to handle automated processing which is compatible with our information system. There are many different alternative loan products on the market.

We believe that our recommended lenders offer some of the best loan products in the business, but we do not claim to have evaluated all lenders and all alternative loan products. You are free to select any lender or loan product that you wish. If you select a different lender or loan product, we will do our best to process your loan as quickly as possible. However, if your selection requires us to use a manual paper process, the approval and disbursement of your loan will likely take longer.

Non U.S. Citizens

Almost all financial aid offered through the Office of Student Financial Aid requires the applicant to be enrolled at least half-time, in a degree program and be a U.S. Citizen or be an eligible noncitizen with supporting documentation. However, a limited number of need-based and merit-based programs are available for non-citizens. Please contact Nancy Bessette at in the Office of Student Financial Aid directly to set up an appointment to discuss your eligibility.

Average Amount of Debt

The average cumulative amount borrowed by undergraduate students who completed their degrees at Rhode Island College was $20,906 and the typical monthly payment was $222/mo*. This includes federal, state and private student loans that were borrowed while enrolled at Rhode Island College. It does not include parent loans and loans borrowed while enrolled at other institutions.

*Source: U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard