What’s included in the “cost of attendance”?

The cost of attendance is an estimate of all expenses you are likely to incur over the academic year. It includes tuition, room, board and mandatory fees for which you are billed by the college. For financial aid purposes, it also includes an estimate for books, supplies, and personal and miscellaneous expenses.

How is eligibility for financial aid determined?

The need-based financial aid program at Wheaton assumes that the family has primary responsibility for paying college expenses; financial aid then supplements the family contribution. Wheaton’s program also considers a student’s academic history and potential when awarding funds.

Using a uniform and equitable formula, we first calculate a family’s ability to contribute toward college expenses. We then compare this amount to the total cost of attendance. If the calculated family resources are less than the total cost, you have demonstrated eligibility for need-based assistance. Based on the demonstrated need of the entire pool of admitted applicants, Wheaton distributes institutional grants and campus-based federal and state aid funds. These resources are finite; demand and demonstrated need across the pool prevents the college from meeting 100 percent of the calculated need of all students.

Wheaton also offers merit-based scholarships and awards at the time of admission. If you are the recipient of an award or scholarship, it is included in calculating your remaining eligibility for need-based funds.

Why does a financial aid package differ from one school to another?

While it used to be true that most schools used one standard methodology to determine need and award need-based aid, this is no longer the case. Wheaton uses Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data and the Federal Methodology (FM) to determine eligibility for most federal- and state-funded financial aid. To determine eligibility for federal and state campus-based and institutional funds, Wheaton also uses the Wheaton Application for Financial Aid and Institutional Methodology (IM).

Other colleges may choose to use FM to administer all of their funds, or might use FM only for some students. Some colleges use IM but have modified the formula to be more or less stringent. Colleges’ aid policies are generally based on institutional philosophy, resources and priorities. Some offer only need-based aid, while others incorporate merit into their awarding policies.

If you believe that your aid differs because of errors in your aid application or a significant change in family circumstances, please send the Office of Student Financial Services (SFS) updated information to assess the impact on your aid offer.

Why does Wheaton require financial information from the non-custodial parent?

Wheaton believes that both parents are responsible for supporting their child’s education, regardless of their marital status. In order to determine eligibility for campus-based and institutional funds, Wheaton first considers all resources available to the student and their family. Regardless of the marital status of the student’s biological or adoptive parents, each parent’s ability to contribute to college costs is calculated before we commit need-based institutional dollars. By completing the Wheaton Application for Financial Aid, that parent helps the student to complete the aid application to determine eligibility for funding; it does not bind either parent to paying a specific amount toward the student’s education.

Will my financial aid package stay the same every year?

Recipients of need-based financial aid must reapply each year, providing updated family financial information. To the extent that your family’s financial situation does not change, your aid will be consistent from year to year. This means that your Wheaton grant and scholarship funding would be renewed at the same amount from one year to the next. For financial planning purposes, families should expect an increase in comprehensive fees each year in the range of 3–4 percent. This is not covered by Wheaton’s institutional need-based grant program. Federal Direct Loan limits do increase from the first year to sophomore and sophomore to junior years, enabling students to cover some of the increase in comprehensive fees through the Federal Direct program loan limits. Wheaton scholarships and awards do not change from one year to the next; renewal is contingent upon the student remaining in good academic and social standing.

The greatest change in a student’s aid eligibility occurs when the number of people in the student’s household or the number of siblings in college changes. Families often do not anticipate the impact this has on aid. Because a student’s aid eligibility is significantly higher with siblings in college, it can be dramatically reduced as those siblings graduate or choose not to enroll for a period of time. If you anticipate that a sibling will start or leave college during your enrollment at Wheaton, we would be glad to forecast the impact of that change on your expected family contribution. Contact SFS to set up an appointment to speak with a counselor.

How will receiving private scholarships impact my financial aid?

Outside sources of funding can significantly reduce your debt burden and work commitment over the years. For those reasons we encourage students to investigate as many alternative funding sources as possible. If Wheaton has not been able to meet the full amount of your eligibility, outside scholarships may be used to replace any unmet eligibility. If the scholarships exceed the amount of unmet eligibility we will reduce the amount of loan funding and employment funding (self-help) in your aid package. Only after all self-help has been eliminated will we reduce Wheaton grant funding.

How would participation in a dual-degree program affect my award or scholarship?

Your award/scholarship is extended for a maximum of eight semesters of study at Wheaton. If you are accepted to a dual-degree program that involves fewer than eight semesters at Wheaton, please contact SFS regarding your program’s eligibility.

How would transferring Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) credits affect my eligibility?

Many credits acquired while you were in high school may be transferable and will not impact your award or scholarship. However, if you use your AP, IB or college credits to accelerate your graduation—completing your degree requirements in fewer than eight semesters—you will forfeit any remaining award or scholarship eligibility.

How would transferring college credits affect my eligibility?

You may transfer up to one semester of college credits and still be considered a first-year student, therefore eligible for an award or scholarship. Please note: Your award or scholarship will be credited on a semester basis and will apply only to the semesters in which you are enrolled. If you accelerate your graduation and complete your degree requirements in fewer than eight semesters, you will forfeit the remaining award or scholarship. If you are a transfer student, the Office of the Registrar will provide you with an evaluation of course credits that may be transferable.

Our family’s financial situation has changed. What should we do?

First, try to determine the financial implications of the new situation. Is it temporary/voluntary? Is the impact one-time or sustained? Once you determine the overall effect on your family’s income, write or send an email to SFS. We will request supporting documentation and ask you to complete a Request for Review form. We will review your new information and determine if there is eligibility for additional financial assistance for the academic year. Financial aid increases are contingent on the availability of funds.