Northern Students

Federal Aid FAQ

1.  Where can students find the VFAO Online Federal Aid Interview Link?    

2.  What programs receive federal aid?

All students enrolled in a Master’s program may apply for federal student aid.

Students who are “Students at Large” or in the Graduate Certificate cannot receive federal loans for any academic term in which they are registered as a student at large.

3.  What can federal student loan money be used for?

Your loan funds automatically pay your tuition and fees. The funds can then be used to pay other account items, but you must give us permission to do so by selecting them on the Title IV Student Loan Disbursement Agreement. The student can choose to use the remaining funds however he or she decides.

4.  What is the VFAO Online Federal Aid interview?

VFAO stands for Virtual Financial Aid Office.  The VFAO online Federal Aid Interview is the online application/interview that students must complete as part of the federal student aid application process at Northern Seminary.

5.  What if student is going to receive aid outside of Northern Seminary and has not specified it in their interview?

Please inform the Federal Student Aid Office if there are any changes in outside support, as the award amount may need to be adjusted and may require a R2T4 Form.

6.  What is R2T4?

R2T4 stands for Return of Title IV funds.  R2T4 is required by law when students change their enrollment status to less than half time, i.e. drop classes or drop out of the program. This form is obtained through the Federal Student Aid Office.

7.  What is COA?

COA stands for Cost of Attendance.  COA includes tuition, fees, books, personal expenses, housing, transportation, etc.  It is an estimate of what one year will cost at Northern Seminary.

8.  What is EFC?

EFC stands for Estimated Family/Financial Contribution.  EFC is the amount the government determines the student could contribute for their studies in a year.  The EFC is calculated after a student completes the FAFSA.

9.  Can students receive federal student aid when they are going to receive full tuition scholarships?


10.  What is the verification process?

The Department of Education selects approximately 30 percent of all submitted FAFSAs to undergo a process called Verification. It is the student’s responsibility to gather the necessary information to complete this verification process. Please contact Marilyn Mast Hewitt if you need assistance on this.

If selected, you will need to submit the requested materials by one of the following three methods.

1. Upload your Verification/Tracking documents at, under the Tracking Documents Tab. If you upload your Verification/Tracking documents, you will receive an immediate, system-generated acknowledgement via email.

2. Email your Verification/Tracking documents, along with a cover letter that includes your full name to If you email your Verification/Tracking documents, you will receive an immediate, system-generated acknowledgement via email.

3. Fax your Verification/Tracking documents, along with a cover letter that includes your full name, to 1.888.536.5916. If you fax your Verification/Tracking documents, your fax machine should provide you with notice of successful transmission.

The Verification/Tracking documents that you submit will be reviewed within one business day of receipt and will be considered in determining your federal student aid eligibility. The Federal student aid file review process takes a minimum of four to five weeks once all documents are received by our third party servicer.

11.  What is entrance counseling?

It is information given to the student during the VFAO online federal aid interview regarding federal loan repayment.  It gives data about the “real” cost of federal loans.

12.  What is exit counseling?

Similar to entrance counseling, exit counseling gives students information about the “real” cost of federal loans. Exit counseling is completed when a student withdraws, graduates, or is removed from the program. Exit counseling may be completed online at

13.  What is a MPN?

MPN stands for Master Promissory Note.  The MPN must be digitally signed by anyone who has never taken out federal loans or hasn’t done so in the past 10 years. To complete your MPN, please go to

14.  What are disbursements?

Disbursement is a term used to describe when funds from the federal government are released to Northern Seminary (and students).

15.  When do we disburse funds to student accounts?

Funds are disbursed to student accounts after the add/drop date of the term. Students can view their balance on the student PORTAL.

16.  What is a credit balance?

A credit balance occurs when a student has more money on their student account than will be used for the current term’s tuition and fees. Students may view their balance on the STUDENT PORTAL. A credit balance will be written in parentheses, i.e. ($100).

To access these funds, please submit a check request to Student Accounts.

17.  What is the maximum amount students can receive from unsubsidized Stafford loans?

Depending on eligibility, students may receive up to $20,500 in unsubsidized Stafford loans

18.  What are unsubsidized Stafford Loans?

Unsubsidized Stafford awards are low interest loans for students enrolled at least half-time. The borrower owes interest as soon as the loan is made.

19.  What if a student doesn’t want all the money for which they qualify?

The student may indicate that they want less money by entering the specific dollar amount that they would like to receive for that academic year during the VFAO online Federal Aid Interview. The student needs to enter the exact dollar amount instead of selecting “999,999 or maximum” and Uncheck the box that’s underneath “Total Loan Amount Requested.”

20.  What does a student need to do if they requested the incorrect amount on the VFAO Online Federal Aid Interview?

A student must click on the “contact us” link located at the top of the VFAO web page and specify the correct loan amount in the message box.

21.  Are additional loans available on top of Stafford Loans?

Yes, graduate students may apply for Direct Plus Loans. To apply for a  PLUS Loan go to More information on these loans is available here.

22.  What if a student’s Federal Aid Interview needs to be changed after he/she has submitted it?

Anything that needs to be changed on a VFAO online Federal Aid Interview, after the student has submitted the interview, will need to be made by Northern Seminary.  In some cases, a student will need to completely redo and submit another interview. Please call Northern Seminary’s Federal Aid Office at 630.620.2196 with any questions.

23. Where can I find the In-School Deferment Request Form for a Federal Student Loan?

The In-School Deferment Request (SCH) form can be found at After completing this form, please submit the form to Northern’s Registrar,