Financial Aid

January 11, 2019


The need to understand some of the implications of using types of financial aid for study abroad programming is growing as more and more students go abroad each year. This page and the EARP’s Financial Aid Subcommittee are here to provide resources for professionals in the field of education abroad to better traverse the complex world of federal and state financial aid, as well as other unique funding programs for aid students.

Not finding an answer to your question? Read our frequently asked questions about financial aid, or contact our Education Abroad Services team.

Resources by Topic

Financial Aid and Study Abroad 101 - The Basics

Using Federal Financial Aid for Education Abroad
In principle, financial aid can be used for credit-bearing education abroad programs. Students must fill out a FAFSA and work with the financial aid office at their home institution.

Students must be financial aid eligible and meet all requirements (credits, degree eligible) in order to use their aid for study abroad. This includes understanding the timing of aid disbursements.

What do we mean when we talk about federal financial aid?
Financial aid refers to any money a student receives to help pay for post-secondary or college expenses; the source of this funding is independent of the student or his/her family. The federal government is the largest source of financial aid. NASFAA identifies three primary categories of financial aid:

  • Grants: this is financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Examples include Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOGs).
  • Loans: this is financial aid that needs to be repaid and generally comes in one of two types
    • Direct loans: students or their families borrow directly from the US Department of Education via participating schools. These loans include Subsidized, Unsubsidized, PLUS, and Consolidated loans.
  • Work-Study: this describes a program that provides part-time employment while the student is enrolled. This type of aid cannot be used on study away programs as the student is not on campus to work and earn the funds.

Consortium Agreements
In order for financial aid to pay out to students, home institutions must complete at consortium agreement with the program/provider to ensure the transfer of credits, payment options, and other logistical items.

Institutions seeking to enter into new/update current agreements are encouraged to seek opinions from their legal council/signature authorities on campus, as well as other departments such as financial aid and any offices that process transcripts.

Major Funding Options

In addition to federal, state, and institutional options to fund education abroad, there are also several scholarship programs that administrators should be aware of and promote to students. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Government Sponsors

Internationally Focused Organizations

Program Providers
Depending on the individual program provider a student is using for their education abroad program, there might also be additional funding students can apply for via that company.

Creative Funding Options
Crowdfunding has become popular among students. While administrators in education abroad offices might not want to participate in the building of the actual campaign without considering how to share the proceeds/parameters of involvement, providing students with reminders on reading the fine print and general tips on successful campaigns can be useful to students.

Platforms and their fine print change often, so please make sure to keep up-to-date if you or your office plan to be involved or provide students with information.

UCSD/NAFSA Tips Sheet:

NAFSA conferences often have sessions on how others are working with crowd or alumni funding, so check out the national or your regional conference schedule each year.

Veterans Benefits for Study Abroad
Veterans who wish to use their benefits to study abroad should work closely with their institution’s study abroad office, as well as their school certifying official. Each institution tends to interpret the rules surrounding VA benefits slightly differently, so it is important that students understand to which programs they can apply their benefits. For example, some school certifying officials will only certify benefits for programs in which the tuition is paid directly to the home institution. Other institutions have a history of working with program providers through direct billing options.

The Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet is a great source of information regarding these policies.

For institutions that allow programs in which students pay a host institution directly, students will need to ensure that there is a school certifying official at the host institution for their program of study. The Web Enabled Approval Management System, or WEAMS, is a database that provides information on school certifying officials around the world.

Finally, administrators may find it useful to read “Helping Military Veterans Study Abroad,” a great article in International Educator which outlines strategies to collaborate between study abroad offices and veterans affairs.

529 Savings Plans for Study Abroad
Some students may also have special education savings plans (529) set up for them by their family. These tax-advantaged plans may be able to be used for study abroad programs.

Government rules often mandate that the savings plan only cover tuition, mandatory fees, and housing. Institutions will have to review if they wish to allow the use of these funds as the transfer of funds can take some coordination with the savings plan coordinator, your institution’s accounts receivables, and the type of program the student wishes to go on.

Government Resources

The Office of Federal Student Aid provides publications, fact sheets, online tools, and other resources on preparing for college, applying for aid, consumer protection, and more.

The Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) is a resource that consolidates information and guidelines to administer Title IV federal student aid. Education Abroad professionals may look up federal guidelines and resources pertaining to federal funding. This also includes the most current version of the Federal Student Aid Handbook.

Stay Connected with Current Financial Aid Regulations
Our Financial Aid counterparts also subscribe to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA); their site has free content to keep current on current and upcoming legislation.

US Department of Education Policy Initiatives and Regulations refers to the US Department of Education's policies and regulations relating to international educators.

Relevant Regulations for Study Abroad
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) requires U.S. colleges and universities who participate in Title IV federal student financial aid programs to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses, in off-campus facilities as well as crimes committed in study abroad programs as described by the Act.

Past NAFSA Presentation: The Clery Act and Education Abroad: Understanding Crime Reporting Requirements

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."