For Students New to the Financial Aid Process

These questions are designed to assist students who are new to the financial aid process, especially those who are first generation college students. The Office of Financial Aid takes pride in its ability to meet with students one-on-one to help them understand the complex financial aid process.

All students are encouraged to complete an application for financial aid. Once you complete your application, the Office of Financial Aid will calculate your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. All of the information you provide on your application is used to calculate your EFC. The EFC does not always mean that you have to pay the amount of your EFC out of pocket but is rather a standardized number that financial aid offices use to determine your eligibility to pay for college. 

Below is information to help you figure out which application is right for you:

Domestic Students

U.S. Citizens or Eligible Non-Citizens are encouraged to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for financial Aid. For more information on applying for financial aid as a domestic student at Soka please visit the Aid for Domestic Undergraduate page.

International Students

International Students who will be attending Soka on a F1 Visa with a valid I-20 are encouraged to complete the International Undergraduate Financial Aid Application to apply for financial Aid. For more information on applying for financial aid as an international student at Soka please visit the Aid for International Undergraduates page.

Dreamers

Soka University of America’s Office of Financial Aid partners with students and families in order to ensure that Soka education is accessible to all students who are admitted. In an effort to promote greater diversity and access, Soka has designed comprehensive merit and need-based financial aid program that ensures the fair distribution of State and Institutional grants, scholarships, and university loan programs for undocumented and DACA students. 

There are two different applications that are available depending on your state of residence. Please visit the Aid for Undergraduate Dreamers page to decide which application is right for you.

Soka awards multiple grants, scholarships, loans, and on-campus work to help students meet the task of funding their education. These awards are funded by the university, federal government, state government, and private agencies. Funds provided by Soka are available to any domestic, international, and dreamer students who qualify. Funds provided by the federal and state government are only open to domestic students who qualify.

For more information on the types of aid available at Soka, please visit our Undergraduate Types of Aid page.

Looking at the Cost of Attendance (COA) posted by a university can be overwhelming. When reviewing the cost of attendance, we recommend that you break it down into two major categories: Direct and Indirect Costs. 

Direct Costs

Direct costs refer to tuition, room and board, and health insurance. These are expenses that all students are required to pay to attend Soka. Some domestic students maybe be able to waive the University Health Insurance if they are already covered under a qualifying plan, which can lower your direct costs. For information on how to waive out of the university health insurance, please contact the Office of Student Affairs.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs refer to things that vary from student to student and are areas that have some flexibility to reduce educational costs.  Indirect costs include: books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses. Buying used books or deciding not to have a car on campus are examples of how to reduce your costs in relation to your indirect costs.

To visit the Cost of Attendance page to see Soka’s current COA.

No one is required to borrow a loan to attend Soka. However, if you need a loan to help cover the cost of your education, the Office of Financial Aid is available to assist you in deciding which type of loan is best for you. Our staff will also work with you to help determine the amount of loan needed in order to prevent you from borrowing more than your actual expenses.

 

Generally speaking, grants and scholarships are awarded to you based on either merit or financial need. Grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid if you complete the term in which they are awarded. Some grants and scholarships have specific requirements that may need to be met to continue receiving the award. At Soka, failure to meet specified requirements could result in the termination of future payments. However, in this case you would not be required to pay back awards that were already received. 

The Office of Financial Aid is dedicated to helping students and their families navigate through the financial aid process. We offer one-on-one budgeting appointments in person, on the phone, or over video conferencing. We will assist you with meeting your financial needs through the financial aid process by ensuring that you are minimizing debt, borrowing the best loans available when needed, and helping with strategies to pay off your debt as soon as possible.

To schedule and appointment please email us at financialaid@soka.edu 

Your parents can ask questions about your financial aid, but you will need to grant them access to speak with us beyond general information. Once you pay your deposit to indicate that you will be attending Soka, you will be covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is a law that governs the access to educational information and records by public entities, including your parents. Soka has a FERPA release form that allows you to grant access to your educational records to a third party. The release form can be completed with the Office of the Registrar.
 

You do not need a FERPA release if you are part of the meeting and can verbally grant access during a meeting. We often meet in person, on the phone, or over video conferencing with students and their parents.  

The Office of Financial Aid currently hosts three debt management and Financial Literacy sessions each academic year. 

The sessions currently offered are:

Budgeting-  This session discusses debt management and other helpful tips on how to create and stick to a budget. The intent is to reduce your student loan debt and to help set you up for financial success in the future.

Understanding the U.S. Credit System- Having good credit in the United States empowers you to have financial independence.  It will allow you to be approved for an apartment, credit card, auto loan, mortgage, etc. This session will provide insight on what makes up your credit score and tips on how to improve it in the future.  

Loan Repayment Strategies- Students often think they do not need to think about loan repayment until they graduate. At Soka, however, we want all students to be active participants in the financing of their education. In this session, we will talk about in-school repayment strategies to minimize debt upon graduation. We will also discuss the different loan repayment options students have after they graduate.

Cost Of Attendance

  • The Cost of Attendance is a combination of direct and indirect costs. Direct costs refer to Tuition, Room and Board, and Health Insurance. Indirect expenses include Books & Supplies, Transportation, and Personal Expenses. Indirect costs are not paid directly to the university. They are also an estimate and can vary depending on the student.

    • Health insurance can be waived if the student already has their own health insurance, or if the student has coverage under their parents. The Health Insurance Waiver form is available through the Office of Student Affairs

Loans

Domestic Students

To apply for a federal student loan, you must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on the results of your FAFSA, we will send you a financial aid offer which may include federal student loans. If you choose to accept a loan you will be required to:

  • complete entrance counseling, a tool to ensure you understand your obligation to repay the loan; and
  • sign a Master Promissory Note, agreeing to the terms of the loan.
  • review your ‘To Do’ list via your SUA Learn Account and complete all required items.

Contact the Office of Financial Aid for details regarding our process.

International and Dreamer Students

To apply for a Soka Loan, you must complete and submit an International Financial Aid Application or Dreamer Financial Aid Application  Based on the results of your application, we will send you a financial aid offer which may include student loans. If you choose to accept a loan you will be required to:

  • Review your ‘To Do’ list via your Soka Learn Account and complete all required items.
    • Complete entrance counseling, a tool to ensure you understand your obligation to repay the loan
    • Sign a Master Promissory Note, agreeing to the terms of the loan.
    • Complete the Private Education Loan Application Self-Certification form.

Contact the Office of Financial Aid for details regarding our process.

We strongly encourage borrowers to carefully weigh the need for loans and to borrow only what is actually needed. We encourage you to estimate and plan your repayment obligations prior to borrowing. Borrowing in excess of what is actually needed means you must repay more at a later date. Your monthly payments will be higher and you may be paying over a longer period of time due to the interest that accrues on your loans.

For federal student and parent loans, borrowers should be aware of the repayment options that are available. In addition, there are a number of deferment or forbearance provisions available once the loan is in repayment. For some qualifying majors and professions, such as teaching, federal and state loan cancellation provisions can also be beneficial.

Remember, loans must be repaid even if you did not complete your program and/or degree.

Domestic Students

To keep track of your student loans or to contact your loan servicer for repayment, log onto the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at nslds.ed.gov or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID FREE (1-800-433-3243 FREE; TTY 1-800-730-8913). The PIN number that you used as your electronic signature for the FAFSA can also be used to gain access to NSLDS.

This website will not only show you all of the federal and private loans you borrowed but also who the servicer is for your loan(s). The servicer is the entity you will be corresponding with to coordinate repayment.

If you have borrowed private student loans, please reach out to the lender directly. 

We cannot stress enough how important it is to know your loan servicer.

International and Dreamer Students

To keep track of your student loans or to contact your loan servicer, Heartland ECSI, for repayment, or call at 1-888-549-3274.  For additional assistance please contact Soka’s Student Accounts Office at studentaccounts@soka.edu.

 

Domestic Students

You are required to complete entrance counseling to ensure that you understand the responsibilities and obligations you are assuming. If you are completing entrance counseling to borrow a loan as an undergraduate student, then the entrance counseling will fulfill counseling requirements for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. If you are completing entrance counseling to borrow a loan as a graduate or professional student, the entrance counseling will fulfill counseling requirements for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS loans.

The Office of Financial Aid is available to answer questions about the information presented to you while completing the required entrance counseling.

International and Dreamer Students

You are required to complete entrance counseling to ensure that you understand the responsibilities and obligations you are assuming. If you are completing entrance counseling to borrow a loan as an undergraduate student, then the entrance counseling will fulfill counseling requirements for the Soka Loan. If you are completing entrance counseling to borrow a loan as a graduate student, the entrance counseling will fulfill counseling requirements for the Soka Graduate loan.

The Office of Financial Aid is available to answer questions about the information presented to you while completing the required entrance counseling.

Domestic Students

The Master Promissory Note (MPN) is a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to the US Department of Education. It also explains the terms and conditions of your loan(s); for instance, it will include information on how interest is calculated and what deferment and cancellation provisions are available to you.

International and Dreamer Students

The Master Promissory Note (MPN) is a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to Soka University of America. It also explains the terms and conditions of your loan(s); for instance, it will include information on how interest is calculated and what deferment and cancellation provisions are available to you.

Exit counseling provides important information you need to prepare to repay your federal/Soka student loan(s). If you have received a subsidized, unsubsidized or PLUS loan under the Direct Loan Program, or if you have taken out a Soka Loan you must complete exit counseling each time you:

  • Drop below half-time enrollment
  • Graduate
  • Leave School

At SUA, we have additional entrance counseling requirements for both Federal and Soka Loan Borrowers.  

Default and Repayment

Loan default is a failure to repay a loan according to terms of the Master Promissory Note. There can be serious legal consequences for student loan defaulters.

Deferment - a postponement of payment on a loan that is allowed under certain conditions and during which interest does not accrue for subsidized loans. This request can be made if you are returning to school and are enrolled in at least half-time status. Please contact your loan servicer for more information.

Forbearance - a period during which your monthly loan payments are temporarily suspended or reduced. You may qualify for forbearance if you are willing but not able to make loan payments due to certain types of financial hardships. A complete list of Direct Loan forbearances and their eligibility criteria can be reviewed here.

Repayment Plan - Changing repayment plans is a good way to manage your loan debt when your financial circumstances change. For example, you can usually lower your monthly payment by changing to another repayment plan with a longer-term to repay the loan. There are no penalties for changing repayment plans.

If you default, it means you failed to make payments on your student loan according to the terms of your promissory note, the binding legal document you signed at the time you took out your loan. In other words, you failed to make your loan payments as scheduled. Your school, the financial institution that made or owns your loan, your loan guarantor, and the federal government all can take action to recover the money you owe. This will also affect your credit score and the ability to obtain future loans.

  • National credit bureaus can be notified of your default, which will harm your credit rating, making it hard to buy a car or a house, for example.
  • You will be ineligible for additional student aid if you decide to return to school.
  • Loan payments can be deducted from your paycheck.
  • State and federal income tax refunds can be withheld and applied toward the amount you owe.
  • You will have to pay late fees and collection costs on top of what you already owe.
  • You can be sued.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re caught in this situation is that there is a solution; having a defaulted status on your student loans can be avoided entirely simply by communication to your loan servicer, regardless of whether or not you are able to afford your monthly payments.

  • nslds.ed.gov/nslds/nslds_SA - NSLDS is a helpful resource in federal student loan management, as it allows students to view a summary of all of their federal student loans, as well as the contact information for the holder(s) and servicer(s) of their loans.
     
  • https://heartland.ecsi.net/ -Heartland ECSI is the loan servicer for Soka loans and can assist borrowers with repayment questions.
     
  • studentloans.gov – Provides information on loan entrance and exit counseling, financial awareness, and student loan repayment.
     
  • Repayment Estimator via studentloans.gov
     
  • www.annualcreditreport.com - Students should request a free annual credit report. This will allow you to pull your credit report from all three credit reporting bureaus.
     
  • www.MyMoney.gov - This is the US government’s website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics about financial literacy.