Carnegie Mellon University

Understanding Your Award

Understanding financial aid eligibility and the financial aid award letter will help students and families navigate financing decisions that need to be made while attending Carnegie Mellon. Students completing a FAFSA and/or CSS PROFILE will receive an award letter, which outlines their financial aid package each year. Packages may include grants and scholarships, as well as Federal Work-Study and Federal Student Loan amounts for which the student may be eligible. We recommend reviewing your award letter carefully, paying close attention to the cost of attendance and whether there is a gap in your funding. 

It is important to note that merit-based scholarships and grants awarded may not be renewable each year and the amounts may be based on maintaining a certain QPA. Some scholarships may need to be applied for each year, so be sure to understand the specific criteria for each award. Additionally, you may need to complete specific steps (i.e., MPN signing and entrance counseling) before any awarded loan amounts are distributed to your student account. Federal loan amounts may be decreased or cancelled at the request of the student (view Loan Adjustment form).

Please remember that it is important to notify The HUB of changes in your circumstances (i.e., decreased or increased income, change in the number of undergraduates enrolled in college, or receipt of outside scholarships), as these may result in changes to your financial aid eligibility and award. In this case, The HUB will notify you that a revised award letter has been created. 

Eligibility and Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Federal financial aid eligibility is determined by using a Congressional formula called Federal Methodology. It uses information reported on a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine the amount a student or family is expected to pay toward education. This amount is called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) factors in the student's family's taxed and untaxed income, assets and benefits. Family size and the numer of family members attending college are also considered.

For undergraduate students, eligibility for institutional grant and scholarship financial aid programs is determined using Institutional Methodology. Carnegie Mellon uses information collected through the CSS PROFILE, which collects more comprehensive and detailed information than the FAFSA. Tax documents may also be requested.

A Combination Strategy to Meet Education Costs

Like any major investment, most families pay for education with a mix of current income, savings and borrowing. Finding the right balance among these resources can save money.

First, students should determine the difference between costs and any financial aid they expect to receive. This is a good estimate of the amount a family is expected to pay. Second, students and families may choose to enroll in a monthly payment plan to help budget payments of educational expenses and limit debt. And finally, students and families may choose to borrow a private loan

Some parents and graduate students may be eligible to apply for a Federal PLUS Loan to help finance educational costs, as well. 

Graduate Federal Aid Eligibility

A graduate student's federal aid eligibility is determined by financial circumstances. Students are considered for federal financial aid programs by completing the FAFSA. 

Graduate students who need additional funding after borrowing the Federal Direct Student Loan may wish to consider a Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan or private loan.

Maximum Graduate Loan Eligibility

Students can calculate their estimated loan eligibility using the cost of attendance, which varies depending on the school/college. For example: 

Cost of Attendance - Scholarships, Fellowships, Untaxed Tuition/Fee Stipends
= Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan Eligibility