Financial Aid

Financial Aid Philosophy

Carleton’s tradition of extending educational opportunities to academically qualified students and meeting their financial need is based on a deep commitment to the belief that a true liberal arts education exposes students to varying backgrounds and points of view outside as well as inside, the classroom. For this reason, in addition to the more pragmatic one that many parents cannot afford the cost of education today, Carleton encourages high school students to apply for admission without regard to their financial circumstances. The basic philosophy underlying the student financial aid program at Carleton is that families have the primary responsibility to finance their children’s education to the extent that they are able. When a family cannot afford our costs, Carleton is committed to meeting a student’s need with various types of aid for all those admitted, for all four years.

How to Apply

Carleton is a member of the College Scholarship Service (CSS), a division of the College Board, which processes the confidential statements submitted by families in support of their application for financial assistance. The many colleges using the service join in the belief that financial aid should be awarded to students only after careful consideration of the family’s ability to contribute to the cost of their children’s education and determination of their demonstrated financial need. All families who wish to be considered for financial aid must complete the CSS PROFILE. In addition, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed to qualify for any applicable federal and state assistance. No separate Carleton aid form is required for students. However, all student applicants and their parents must submit completed copies of the appropriate year’s W-2's. Carleton reserves the right to request copies of tax returns from the family or directly from the IRS.

Terms of Assistance

When financial need is demonstrated, assistance will be granted under the following conditions:

All financial aid awards are made for only one year at a time. It is customary to meet the student’s total demonstrated need by utilizing a combination of Carleton grants/scholarships, student employment, and student loans. With the exception of student employment, financial aid is usually distributed equally at the beginning of each term (i.e. fall, winter, spring terms). Student employment earnings are direct deposited to the student and are paid according to the number of hours worked at the end of each pay period. The student may arrange with the Business Office to have all or part of these earnings applied directly to their tuition account.

Receipt of any financial assistance from sources other than Carleton College must be reported to the Office of Student Financial Services. These outside awards will result in an adjustment in the financial aid package in order to remain within a student’s calculated financial need and to utilize all resources available to that student. Under Carleton’s outside aid policy, outside or private scholarships first reduce the student’s self-help awards (student loans and/or student employment) on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This way, students benefit directly by reducing their loan debt and/or their work hours. It is the College’s policy to not reduce Carleton grants/scholarships until all self-help components of the award have been eliminated. The exception to this policy involves Federal Pell Grants, Minnesota State Grants, and other need-based federal or state grant programs. Adjustments to the student loan or student employment awards resulting from outside aid are made in succeeding years upon receipt of those funds.

It is the responsibility of the student to submit a complete financial aid application (CSS PROFILE, FAFSA, parent and student federal tax returns and follow-up forms) before established deadlines. Deadline dates are “priority deadlines” and will be enforced according to the availability of aid funding for that year. Those that meet the deadline will be given consideration for assistance first. Other applications will be considered according to the date received and current funding levels.

Renewal of Aid

Financial aid forms must be completed each year. A student and his or her family may assume that the College will continue to provide comparable assistance for subsequent years insofar as the family’s financial circumstances remain stable. As those circumstances change, financial aid may also change. It is important to understand that financial aid administered by the College is not renewed automatically. Parents and students must complete and submit the necessary forms and need analysis documents each year (i.e. CSS PROFILE, FAFSA, parent and student W2's and if requested, their federal tax returns). At Carleton, financial aid is related to demonstrated financial need rather than academic measures. However, students must make satisfactory academic progress toward graduation in order to have their aid renewed.

Types of Financial Aid Available

Merit Aid

A small proportion of Carleton’s financial aid is given as non-need or merit based aid. The scholarships that are merit based are the National Merit Scholarship, and the National Hispanic Recognition Scholarship. Those students who select Carleton as their first-choice college with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will receive a scholarship worth $2,000 per year, for four years. The Bailey Instrumental Music Scholarship is also considered merit based aid available to students majoring or intending to major in music and who study and perform on orchestra strings, woodwinds, or brass instruments. Auditions are required and the scholarship is worth a minimum of $2,000 per year, plus approved music lessons. Bailey scholars are eligible to apply for a summer of music study at a national or international music institute.

Need-Based Aid

There are two major categories of need-based aid: gift aid and self-help aid. Gift aid is given to the student in the form of grants/scholarships and does not need to be repaid. Self-help aid needs to be either earned (student employment) or repaid (student loans).

Gift Aid

Gift aid includes grants and scholarships. The majority of the dollars received by students at the college is in the form of Carleton grants and Carleton scholarships. To the student, there is no difference whether they have received a grant or scholarship from the College. Any student who is eligible for need-based aid is reviewed to determine if they have the appropriate characteristics for one of the many Carleton scholarships (no separate scholarship application is required). Students receiving a Carleton scholarship are informed of the donor or source of their scholarship and may be asked to recognize them for their gift. All students are also reviewed for eligibility for federal and state grants.

To be eligible for gift aid, a student must apply for financial aid by completing the CSS PROFILE and FAFSA and submitting parent and student federal tax forms before the established deadline. The majority of gift aid that Carleton distributes includes the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Minnesota State Grant, and Carleton grants/scholarships. A description of each of these aid types may be found on the Student Financial Services website.

Self-Help Aid

Self-help aid comes in two forms. The first is student employment. Most students receiving need-based financial aid are awarded student employment, with first-year students authorized to work up to eight hours per week and returning students up to ten hours per week. The dollars awarded for the hours worked represent an opportunity for students to earn money toward college expenses, and represent a maximum that can be earned during the academic year. The exact dollars earned may be influenced by the hours available from the employer and student schedule for a term. Hours not worked and awarded dollars not earned may be converted to additional self-help aid (i.e. loans).

Students are usually assigned campus jobs, although some students are assigned off-campus jobs at non-profit organizations. Student employees may choose to apply all or a portion of their earnings to their tuition account through the Business Office website. Otherwise, earnings are directly deposited into the student’s checking or savings account at the end of each pay period.

The second form of self-help aid is student loans. Loans allow students to finance a portion of their education through utilization of future earnings resulting from and enhanced by the benefits of their college education. These loans must be repaid after the student has graduated or enrollment has ceased. Most student loans may be deferred if the student continues their education beyond their Bachelor’s Degree.

The self-help aid distributed most commonly at Carleton College includes student employment, Federal Direct Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) and Federal Direct PLUS (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students). A description of each loan, including eligibility, annual loan limits, current interest rates, and repayment terms can be found on the Student Financial Services website.

Other Financing Option

Families at Carleton College may participate in an interest-free monthly payment plan that allows for payment of the comprehensive fee for a particular academic year. Equal payments for a 12 month or 11 month period begin June 1 and July 1 respectively. The plan may be used to cover all or a portion of the annual tuition, fees, room and board charges. There is a $55 annual fee to enroll. The deadline to enroll is August 15. The exact terms and conditions of the monthly payment plan are determined annually and may differ from what is described here.

Additional information can be found on the Business Office website, or contact Carleton Student Accounts at

The monthly payment plan is administered by Cashnet and requires online enrollment.

Return of Title IV Federal Student Aid

A student recipient of Federal Title IV funds (i.e., Federal Pell, SEOG or TEACH grants or Direct Stafford or PLUS loans) who withdraws or takes a leave of absence from the school before completing 60% of the term is subject to the Return of Title IV Calculation to determine the percentage of Title IV funds required to be returned to the federal government. The Return of Title IV calculation is a federally mandated formula to determine how much federal funding was “earned” up to the time of withdrawal. The Title IV funds that were disbursed in excess of the earned amount must be returned to the federal government by the school and/or the student. If you received a refund/credit balance from financial aid, which was to be used for education-related personal expenses or housing expenses, you may be required to return a portion of those funds to the school. This portion represents funds that were intended to pay your education-related expenses through the end of the term. The amount to be returned to the school will be determined by your institutional costs, refunds you might have received for non-school expenses and the funds that must be returned to the government.

If a student has an existing Title IV credit balance, the 14-day payment requirement is put on hold while Carleton College determines the final amount of the Title IV credit balance with consideration of the R2T4 calculation. The amount to be returned to the federal government will be calculated from the date you officially withdrew from classes or, in the case of an unofficial withdrawal, the last date you were involved in an academically related activity. An official withdrawal occurs when a student follows the published process for withdrawing from the school prior to the end of the term.

To determine the amount of aid you earned up to the time of withdrawal, Carleton College Student Financial Aid (SFA Office) will  determine the percentage of the term you attended. The percentage used to determine the return of federal student aid funds is equal to the number of calendar days remaining in the term divided by the number of calendar days in the term. Scheduled breaks of more than five consecutive days are excluded. The resulting percentage is then used along with your school costs and total federal funds that you received (funds that were disbursed directly to your school student account and possibly refunded to you) or that you were eligible to receive, to determine the amount of aid that you are allowed to keep.

Any unearned Title IV aid must be returned to the federal government within 45 days of the date of the determination of your  withdrawal. Carleton College SFA Office will notify you with instructions on how to proceed if you are required to return funds to the
government. Any funds returned after the Return of Title IV Aid calculation is completed and processed are then used to repay Carleton College funds, state funds, other private sources, and the student, in proportion to the amount received from each non-federal source, as long as there was no unpaid balance at the time of withdrawal. All aid sources are repaid accordingly before any funds are returned to the student.

Funds that are returned to the federal government are used to reduce the outstanding balances in individual federal programs. Financial aid returned by you and/or your parent or the school must be allocated in the following order: A student may be eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement if, prior to withdrawing, the student earned more federal financial aid than was disbursed. If a student is eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement for Title IV funds, it will be processed for the student and a refund will be issued within 14 days of the credit balance.

If the post-withdrawal disbursement includes loan funds, Carleton College must get the student’s permission before it can disburse the loan. Students may choose to decline some or all of the loan funds so that they do not incur additional debt. A notice will be sent out to the student, and the signed, original document must be returned to the School within 14 days. Carleton College may, at their discretion, still disburse if the signed document is returned after 14 days.

Carleton College may automatically use all or a portion of the post-withdrawal disbursement of grant funds for tuition and fees. However, the school needs the student’s permission to use the post-withdrawal grant disbursement for all other school charges. If the student does not give his/her permission, the student will be offered the funds. However, it may be in the student’s best interest to allow the school to keep the funds to reduce the student’s debt at the school. 

  • Federal Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loan
  • Federal Subsidized Direct Stafford Loan
  • Federal Direct Parent Loan (PLUS)
  • Federal Direct Grad Plus
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • Federal Teach Grant

It is also important to understand that accepting a post-withdrawal disbursement of student loan funds will increase a student’s overall student loan debt that must be repaid under the terms of the Master Promissory Note. Additionally, accepting the disbursement of grant funds will reduce the remaining amount of grant funds available to the student should the student continue his/her education at a later time.

Official Withdrawal Policy

Students must contact the Dean of Student Office to withdraw or take a leave of absence.

For tuition refunds and financial aid refunds, the date of withdrawing is the date the student notifies the Dean of Student Office they are withdrawing or requesting a leave.

Unofficial Withdrawal Policy

In the event a student leaves campus without notifying the institution, all efforts are taken to reestablish contact. In the unlikely event contact is not re-established, the institution will consider it an unofficial withdrawal. The last date of academic activity will be used as the effective date of the withdrawal.

If you have any questions about refund calculations, please contact Student Financial Aid at 507-222-4138 or