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Do I have to pay FAFSA® back?

Maddie Moore
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One of the trickiest parts of the financial aid process is understanding your unique award package. What is a Pell grant? What’s the difference between a grant and a loan? Do I have to pay FAFSA® back?

Here’s the difference: grants are free money from the government that you do not have to pay back. Loans must be paid back in full and with interest.

Grants, as defined by the Federal Student Aid website, are financial aid, often based on financial need, that do not need to be repaid. You are automatically considered for grants when you file your FAFSA®.

However, you can’t just take the money and run: if you receive a grant, you will have to pay FAFSA® back if…

  • You withdraw from college
  • Your enrollment status changes (ex: going from being a full-time to part-time student)
  • You received outside scholarships or grants that reduce your need for federal student aid.

You’ll also have to pay FAFSA® back if you receive a loan, defined as borrowed money for college or career school. Before you take out a loan, it’s important to understand that you will be legally obligated to repay it with interest. You should avoid taking out loans if you can, but if loans are your only option, make sure you understand your responsibilities as a borrower.

Always remember: financial aid should help you, not hinder you. If you have any questions, Frank is here to help.

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We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at