A significant number of students need financial assistance to help pay for their college expenses. Because of the limited amount of financial aid funds, the federal government has set policies to measure each student's financial need. The basic premise behind need-based financial aid programs is that students and their families, to the extent they can contribute, have the primary responsibility for financing the cost of the student's education.

A student's Financial Need is determined by subtracting their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from their Estimated Cost of Attendance.

Your EFC will not fluctuate depending on the school you choose to attend; however, your estimated cost of attendance will. This difference in your estimated cost of attendance will cause your financial need to vary from school to school.  If you choose to attend a less expensive local community college, your financial need may be small, while if you choose to attend a more expensive private college, your financial need may be large.

Depending on the amount of your financial need, you may be eligible for some aid programs and not for others.

Due to funding limitations, the University of Iowa cannot always fully meet students' financial need with need-based financial aid. Students whose financial need has not been fully met or those who do not qualify for need-based aid because their EFC is greater than their Estimated Cost of Attendance may be eligible for non–need-based loans. These loans will be offered on the student's financial aid offer.

If you are a dependent student and your parents request the PLUS loan, the amount of the PLUS loan could be more than the parental contribution because the PLUS loan can replace the student and parent contribution and remaining need after other aid has been offered.