Financial Aid & Scholarship Office

Understanding Your Offer: Determining Financial Need

Financial Aid Offer


Several factors determine the amount and type of financial aid you are offered:

  • Student Aid Index (SAI)
  • Financial Need (Estimated Cost of Attendance minus SAI)
  • FAFSA or Dream application filing date
  • Willingness to accept various types of aid
  • Availability of funds

Depending on the need analysis results and timing of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), your award offer may include need-based aid from federal, state, and institutional sources, including loans. Note that May 2, 2024 is the priority application date for California grants. Your award offer may also include other financial assistance offered by the University such as scholarships, tuition waivers, stipends, and other third party payments. There are two rules to keep in mind:

  1. Your total need-based aid cannot exceed your financial need. 
  2. Your total need-based and non-need-based aid cannot exceed the total Cost of Attendance.

Cost of Attendance (COA)

Your Cost of Attendance is based on the estimated cost of a typical student's registration fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses for a nine–month academic year (fall and spring semesters). These budgets include direct university charges (registration and on-campus room and board) and estimates of indirect expenses (transportation, books and supplies, miscellaneous living expenses, and off-campus room and board).

Each college calculates its own student budget. Your COA will vary at Chico State depending on where you live (on or off campus or with your parents/relatives) and depending on whether you are an undergraduate, graduate, or credential student.

Student Aid Index (SAI)

When your FAFSA or CADAA is analyzed by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), a formula is applied to the information you provided. The DOE uses this formula to determine your financial need as compared to others, and calculates the portion of your and your family's financial resources that should be available to pay for college. The formula result is the SAI. This SAI index is used in determining the types and amounts of federal and state aid for which you qualify.

If you are a dependent student, your SAI will be calculated on:

  • your income and your parent(s)' income
  • your assets and your parent(s)' assets
  • the age of your older parent living in your household
  • the number of family members living in your household
  • your state of legal residence
  • your parents' state of legal residence

If you are an independent student, your EFC will be calculated on:

  • your income and assets, and your spouse's, if you are married
  • the number of children and other dependents in your household
  • your state of legal residence

Financial Need

Financial Need is the difference between your Student Aid Index and the standard Cost of Attendance calculated for each academic year.

Your SAI will stay the same no matter which college you attend, because it is the product of a standardized federal formula. However, you may be eligible for different types and amounts of aid at different colleges because each college has its own Cost of Attendance and your Financial Need will vary from college to college. The bottom line is:

Cost Of Attendance minus Student Aid Index = Financial Need (Note: in this calculation a negative SAI will count as 0)


Your estimated financial aid offer from Chico State will be determined by the formula above. Offers are also estimated based on full-time enrollment. However, the financial aid you will actually receive is based on SAI, need and enrollment. If you are not enrolled full-time, or drop below full-time, you will receive financial aid that is prorated for the number of units in which you are enrolled. View Enrollment Requirements for financial aid full-time status.

Please call us at 530-898-6451, write to, or stop by our office in Student Services Center 250 if you have any additional questions.