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 their previous year’s federal income tax returns, including W-2 forms and all schedules, to finalize any financial aid award. In selected cases, Carleton reserves the right to request copies of tax returns 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 and outside scholarships, financial aid is 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. In this way, the 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 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, National Achievement 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. The gift aid is given to the student in the form of grants/scholarships and does not need to be repaid. The self-help aid needs to be either earned (student employment) or repaid (student loans).

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 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 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, Perkins Loans, 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 at 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 period start June 1 or equal payments for an 11-month period start July 1. The plan has a $55 annual fee to enroll. The TuitionPay Plan may be used to cover all or a portion of annual tuition, fees, room and board. 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.

Parents who would like additional information or an application for the TuitionPay Plan, should visit or call 800-635-0120, or contact the Carleton Business Office 507-222-4179 or