How To Apply To Financial Aid

Student applying for financial aid

Explore All the Ways to Pay For Your Education

Looking at tuition costs for college can be very daunting. However, there are many resources out there to help you pay for college and assist you in reaching your goals.

Step One:  Understand tuition costs

Colleges post their tuition and fees on their websites and it is important  to educate yourself about the costs of the schools you plan to attend.  Note that tuition may vary depending on wether you are moving into a new community college district or state.  Make sure you review tuition residency policies if you plan to attend a school away from your home.

COCC Tuition & Fees

Step 2: Learn About Financial Aid Opportunities to Help You Pay for College

Financial aid is money to help pay for college. There are many options available regardless of income, GPA or citizenship.

Students can get financial aid based on need or merit. Need is what your family can contribute to college costs. Merit refers to achievement in academics, sports, or other areas.

Financial aif types


Explore the tools below for an overview of financial aid opportunities and instructions for completing financial aid applications.

In order for a student to receive financial aid they need to have a high school diploma or complete a GED program.  Students needing assistance with completing the GED program should contact the COCC Adult Basic Skills program. High school students wanting to take college classes while they are in high school, should contact their high school counselor for options as well as check out the COCC High School Options webpages.

STEP 3: Apply for Financial Aid - Complete the FAFSA or ORSAA

Students apply for financial aid by completing either the FAFSA or ORSAA. Students complete these applications for each year they are in college.  Applications are FREE. Students complete one application and include all the colleges or universities they are applying for.

When to apply:  The FAFSA and ORSAA applications open up on October 1st each year.  Students are encouraged to complete their FAFSA or ORSAA applications as early as possible since some grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no deadline for the FAFSA or ORSAA; however, students need to be aware that application processing can take weeks.  Therefore, applications completed close to the date of college enrollment may not be processed in time for tuition deadlines.

Assistance with completing applications: Please don't be alarmed if you get confused when filling out financial aid applications.  Most families have questions and want support.  Contact the COCC Financial Aid Department for individual assistance.

What to expect: You will receive an award notification from all the schools you applied to and included on your FAFSA or ORSAA.  Students and families are encouraged to contact the school's Office of Financial Aid for assistance with understanding financial aid offers so they can make informed choices before accepting awards.

Submit the FAFSA or ORSAA

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Who completes it: U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and eligible noncitizens

Types of aid:  The FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for all federal and state aid programs: Grants (including Pell, Oregon Opportunity and Oregon Promise), scholarships, loans, work-study.

ORSAA: Oregon Student Aid Application

Who completes it: Eligible undocumented and DACA students (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)  in Oregon

Types of aid: Grants from the state government including the Oregon Opportunity Grant and the Oregon Promise grant.

Step 4: Apply for Additional Grants

Grants include money from the government (state or federal) or the college that is awarded based on financial need. They do not need to be paid back. Many grants are awarded based on the FAFSA or ORSAA application. However some grants require a separate application in addition to the FAFSA or ORSAA such as the Oregon Promise Grant.

  • Oregon Promise
    Oregon Promise was created by the Oregon legislature to provide the financial means for more high school graduates to attend post-secondary education, with an emphasis on community colleges as a starting point. The amount of the Oregon Promise grant varies by student.

    Oregon Promise eligibility:

    • Be a recent Oregon high school graduate or GED recipient.
    • For the 2022-2023 academic year, a high school GPA of 2.0 or a GED score of 145.
    • Enroll in a community college certificate or degree program within six months of graduation or GED completion.
    • Have been an Oregon resident for at least 12 months prior to enrolling at an Oregon community college.
    • Completed the Oregon Promise application by appropriate deadline.
    • Completed the FAFSA® or ORSAA and include one Oregon community college. See: Oregon Promise Deadlines.
    • Accepted all federal or state grants.
  • Information about Additional Oregon Grants

Step 5: Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are a great resource to help students pay for their education expenses and unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. Thousands of scholarships are offered to students each year who meet specific qualifications designated by the private donor(s). These qualifications could be but are not limited to: field of study, academic record, volunteer service, athletic ability, artistic talent, financial need, club associations and members of under represented groups. Scholarships require a separate application and have specific deadlines.

School Scholarships:  Students should research scholarship opportunities at the individual schools they are wanting to attend. Many colleges offer scholarships

Step 6: Work Study Opportunities

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program provides employment opportunities to students who apply for financial aid and are eligible for the program. Availability is based on federal fund limits. In addition to providing income, students may acquire work experience in jobs related to their academic interests. Many students help finance their education by securing part-time employment on-campus. The work-study program gives students the opportunity to earn money while in school. Since students work in order to receive funds from employment, this kind of assistance is considered a form of self-help aid. 

Step 7: Learn About Loan Options

Paying for your education is a significant financial commitment and investment. Before taking out student loans, make sure that you exhaust all other types of funding such as scholarships and grants. Once these options are exhausted, you may still have a gap in funding for which student loans may fill.

Student loan funds are borrowed and will need to be repaid.  It is important to understand all the terms, conditions, and language that is associated with your loans. Learning about student loans will help you make smarter loan borrowing decisions.

Understanding Student Loans: COCC

Step 8: Maintaining your Financial Aid

In order to continue receiving financial aid, you must maintain satisfactory academic progress. This means you need to uphold a good GPA and complete classes while making progress towards successful completion of a degree/certificate.