Important Information: The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment has transitioned to a fully remote model of engagement. Assistance will continue uninterrupted via email, phone, and our secure document uploads. For more information see our message about continuing operations remotely

We encourage you to review our 2020-21 Financial Aid FAQ for the most up to date information about financial aid. For more information specific to the impact of coronavirus across the University, please view Cornell's Coronavirus FAQ

Please be mindful of phishing attempts regarding CARES Act Funding and Student Employment opportunities. To verify phishing attempts, please reference the Cornell IT Security Phish Bowl. Cornell employers will not send electronic payroll checks by email and will not ask students to make gift card purchases on their behalf.

2020-21 Financial Aid FAQ

The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment will continue to update this page with new information.  The following questions and answers are provided as a resource for students and families regarding 2020-21 financial aid topics. Click any of the questions below to expand the answer. If you have additional questions, please contact our office and a member of our staff will be happy to assist you.

Please take a moment to review the Fall 2020 Statement Regarding COVID-19.

Financial Aid Offer and Cost of Attendance:

  • When will I receive my financial aid refund for the Spring 2021 semester?

Financial aid for undergraduate students will credit to their bursar account beginning February 1, 2021. Refunds through direct deposit take approximately two- three business days to generate after you see the refund posted on your Student Center account. Please review the Bursar’s website for more information.

  • I received my financial aid offer and am wondering if I am eligible for more loans? If so, how do I apply?

Loan eligibility is unique to each student. If you were unable to earn and save your standard Student Contribution over the summer as expected, you may request a loan to replace this amount through the Undergraduate Student Appeal Form. We realize that families are experiencing financial hardship and students may have had difficulty finding summer employment opportunities. The university is still exploring options for a path forward. If you have exceptional expenses not already included in Cornell’s cost of attendance, we may be able to provide additional funding through the Undergraduate Student Appeal Form. Parents can also look into applying for the Federal Parent PLUS Loan

  • What will happen to my aid if my Cost of Attendance changes?  

The amount of financial assistance a family needs each year is determined by the following formula:

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Demonstrated Financial Need

Your Expected Family Contribution remains consistent unless your family reports significant changes to your financial situation. If your Cost of Attendance increases or decreases, your demonstrated financial need (and therefore your financial aid) changes proportionally to reflect your changing expenses.

  • I was living on campus for the fall but will be living with my family for the spring semester—how does this impact my financial aid?

The cost of attendance for students living at home with family, whether they are learning entirely remotely or commuting, includes allowances for housing, food and other personal expenses. Students living with their families will have a reduced cost of attendance, which will impact their demonstrated financial need.

  • I am living with my family for the fall but am planning to return to campus for the spring semester – how does this impact my financial aid?

We will be re-evaluating the cost of attendance, using the housing information from the Spring 2021 re-entry survey as well as information from Student and Campus Life. Your eligibility for financial aid for the spring term will be based on the revised cost of attendance.

  • I will be living off campus in Ithaca and attending classes remotely. Will my aid continue to cover my living costs? 

If you are returning to the Ithaca area, your estimated cost of living will remain the same whether or not your attendance in classes is remote, in-person, or some of both. If you are living with your family, your cost of attendance will be adjusted.

If your financial aid credits for the fall semester are greater than your billed expenses, you will receive the remainder of your financial aid as a refund that you can use in combination with your Family Contribution and any work-study earnings to cover your living and personal expenses for the semester. 

  • What will happen if I initially reported that I will be returning to Ithaca, but due to travel restrictions may need to stay with my family?  

Students who initially reported that they are intending to return to Ithaca via the student re-entry survey or their FAFSA application will receive a budget with estimated expenses for living in Ithaca. If travel restrictions or quarantine requirements cause students to change their mind and decide to remain remote while living with their family, the financial aid offer they receive will be adjusted to reflect this change once we receive the updated data either through the student re-entry survey or housing data. 

Please remember that if you have an on-campus housing agreement, you will need to formally request to cancel your housing contract before August 31st. Please reference the COVID-19 FAQ and contact the Housing & Dining Contracts Office for more information.

Off-campus leases are contracts with private landlords, the Off Campus Living office may be able to assist with guidance on subletting. 

  • Student and Campus Life offered a prorated on-campus charge for housing and dining for the semester for students leaving campus at Thanksgiving. How did this impact my aid?

The cost of attendance for students remained whole and was not adjusted, acknowledging that students will still have living expenses for the remainder of the semester. Those who received a refund in September should have budgeted their refund carefully to cover off-campus expenses and any additional bursar charges through the entire semester, September 2 – December 21.

Funding is not available for students remaining on campus through the winter term unless they are enrolled in coursework.

Changes in Circumstances: 

  • My family’s financial circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19, and I have concerns about our ability to contribute to my educational expenses. What should we do?

Students who believe they may require additional aid for the upcoming year should review the following Frequently Asked Questions about appealing your financial aid.

Typically, awards can be reviewed if your family’s financial situation has changed significantly since you applied for aid, or if there is additional information that was not included on your original application. For example, a family may be experiencing extended unemployment or extraordinary uninsured medical expenses which may qualify for an adjustment.

Our FAQ serves as a resource for families in determining if they are eligible for an appeal and what documentation may be required.

  • I am concerned about being able to meet my summer savings expectation for financial aid. Has there been any flexibility for summer 2020

The university is distributing $7.5 million in COVID Summer Savings Expectation (SSE) Relief Grants. These grants, ranging from $500 to $2,000, are being awarded to around 75% of undergraduate students who receive financial aid, in light of the fact that summer jobs may have been canceled or particularly difficult to obtain due to the pandemic. Students awarded these grants receive a revised financial aid statement.

  • I am enrolled for Fall 2020 but am not planning to return for Spring 2021. What will happen to my financial aid?

Financial aid is only available during periods of active enrollment. Students who do not return to Cornell for Spring 2021 will not receive financial aid. Please remember to apply for aid next year by the established deadline: reapply for financial aid.

Depending on how long your break in enrollment is, students who have received educational loans in the past could have loans that enter repayment. Information regarding Federal Direct loans, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Education through various student loan billing servicers, is available at studentaid.gov. You should receive direct correspondence from servicers and should work with them on terms of repayment. Information on Federal Perkins and University Loan can be obtained by visiting the Bursar website. Students who have borrowed alternative loans should contact their lender directly for repayment information.

  • I will be on leave for Spring 2021. Will Cornell assist with my off-campus lease or other expenses?

Need-based financial aid is only available during periods of active enrollment. If you are not enrolled in courses, Cornell will not be able to assist with your expenses. Off-campus leases are contracts with private landlords. The Off Campus Living office may be able to assist with guidance on subletting.

For students who begin attending classes and then choose to take a leave of absence or withdraw from Cornell, aid will be prorated accordingly: Leaves of absence and withdrawal policy.

Next Steps:

  • How do I accept, reduce or decline my loans and/or work-study? 

Students need to actively accept, reduce, or decline offers for all Federal Work Study (FWS), federal student loans, and university loans through Student Center. For instructions on how to accept FWS or loans, please review this tutorial. FWS cannot be earned and student loans will not credit to the Bursar statement until they are accepted, or reduced, and all standard Entrance Counseling and Master Promissory Notes are complete.

  • How do I complete Entrance Counseling for my Federal Direct Loan? 

Loan counseling is a required online tool to help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a Direct Loan borrower. 

To complete the entrance counseling requirement:

  1. Under Complete Aid Process, open "Complete Entrance Counseling" on the Student Aid Website
  2. Log in with your FSA I.D.
  3. Progress through the counseling tool until you complete all sections.

You should plan 20-30 minutes to complete.  Cornell will be notified of your completion within 3-5 business days. 

  • How do I complete the Master Promissory Note (MPN) for my Federal Direct Loan? 

The MPN is an agreement to repay your Direct Loans along with accrued interest and fees. It also explains the terms and conditions of your loans.

To sign the MPN:

  1. Under Complete Aid Process, open "Complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN)" on the Student Aid Website
  2. Select the type of Direct Loan MPN that corresponds to your student status (undergraduate or graduate/professional) and log in with your FSA ID.
  3. Progress through the entire MPN process until you complete all sections.

You should plan 20-30 minutes to complete.  Cornell will be notified of your completion within 3-5 business days. 

  • How do I sign my promissory note for my Cornell University Loan?

Once you have accepted your loan, you will receive an email from Heartland ECSI (webmaster@ecsi.net) with your PIN number and instructions for completing the MPN and/or Regulation Z requirement for your loan. You will need to provide your Social Security Number, last name, first name, and date of birth. If you are an international student or do not have an SSN, use 99 plus your student ID. 

Processing may take up to 3 business days from the time the requirements with ECSI are completed to when the Cornell To Do List updates.

If you did not receive an email from Heartland ECSI or have any questions regarding your PIN, contact Heartland ECSI at 1-888-549-3274. Check your spam folder to ensure that it wasn’t misdirected.

  • How does my parent apply for a Direct PLUS Loan?

You can apply for the PLUS loan by following our Federal Parent PLUS Loan instructions. The information provided in the application will be sent to Cornell. We will use that information to determine your eligibility for a Direct PLUS Loan and process the loan.

Before you can receive a Direct PLUS Loan, you must complete a Direct PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note (Direct PLUS Loan MPN), which explains all of the terms and conditions of Direct PLUS Loans and constitutes your legally binding agreement to repay all Direct PLUS Loans that you receive under the Direct PLUS Loan MPN. You will have an opportunity to complete the Direct PLUS Loan MPN after you complete the Direct PLUS Loan Request.

General Financial Aid Questions: 

  • I receive VA benefits. How will those be impacted? 

Cornell is monitoring the VA COVID-19 guidance. If you have immediate questions or concerns, please contact the VA. If you have specific concerns about your certification at Cornell, contact the Cornell VA representative.

  • Will my New York state grant be impacted by online instruction?

Provided students continue to meet New York state’s full-time enrollment standards (12 credits), state aid will not change. If you are considering dropping a course, please contact the Office of Financial Aid at 607-255-5145 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST) or finaid@cornell.edu to discuss how that may impact your eligibility.

  • Are student jobs available?

The availability of student jobs depends on individual hiring departments and their HR units. Work expectations are included in award offers, and we are encouraging departments to continue posting student positions where possible. Please review the Student Employment Job Database for current available opportunities. Students also have the option to replace their work expectation with loan upon request.

  • I received an email notification from Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), stating that my enrollment could not be confirmed by my school.  How can I update my school code to correct this issue?

If you received this message, it is likely that you have reported the wrong school code for Cornell.  As a reminder, Cornell has 2 undergraduate school codes:

  • 0175: school code for Cornell University’s Endowed Colleges
    • College of Architecture, Art and Planning
    • College of Arts and Sciences
    • College of Engineering
    • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business – School of Hotel Administration
  • 0174: school code for Cornell University’s State Contract Colleges
    • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
    • College of Human Ecology
    • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business – Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
    • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

You may make school code changes online by visiting your HESC account through Student Access. Alternatively, you may make a change to the school code and/or student address by calling the HESC Customer Communication Center at 888-NYS-HESC (888-697-4372) and speaking with a representative. School code changes may also be made using our automated telephone system or through live chat.

  • I received an outside scholarship for the 2020-21 academic year; where do I submit these checks?

All scholarship checks should be mailed directly to:

  • Cornell University
  • Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment
  • Scholarship Division
  • P.O. Box 752
  • Ithaca, NY 14851
  • Laptops with Wi-Fi capability are necessary for students who take in-person or remote classes this semester. Is there funding available to me if I do not have the resources to purchase one on my own?

Additional loan opportunities may be available through the Office of Financial Aid for students who are in need of assistance to purchase a laptop.  Interested students should complete the Undergraduate Student Appeal Form and provide an invoice or documentation showing an estimate of the cost or a receipt showing the amount paid.  Funding is limited to $1,500 for one device (e.g. computer, tablet); warranty and necessary software can be included.  Funds are disbursed to your bursar account and any outstanding charges are paid before a refund can be issued.

Office Contact Information:

  • Is the Financial Aid Office open, and if so, how can I contact you? 

Yes! We are open, but not yet in Day Hall. Staff are engaged remotely until further notice. Please contact the Financial Aid Office directly by phone at 607-255-5145 (M-F 10:00am to 4:00pm EST) or email at finaid@cornell.edu and one of our representatives will be happy to assist you. Students may also set up virtual appointments through Cornell Chatter.

  • Who do I contact if I have additional questions?