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We know a lot of students have been concerned about the disbursement of funds for their financial aid accounts this semester. The process of disbursement is a little hazy, and confusing status messages in eConnect or Higher One accounts have people expecting money that doesn’t immediately appear in their accounts. We wanted to clear up how the process works so you’ll know what’s going on behind the scenes.

How Disbursement Works

Once you’ve been told that you’re eligible for and will get financial aid for a specific semester, here’s what happens before you receive your money:

  • DCCCD receives funds from the federal government, the state of Texas or other sources.
  • DCCCD (through its District Service Center) moves the money from the government/source account into a deposit account for your college.
  • Your college has 72 hours (three days) to move that money from the deposit account into your student account at the college. This 72-hour period is for internal transfers of funds only. This is not the period of time used to process the release of your funds to your Higher One account.
  • Next, any tuition you still owe to the college is deducted before the remaining funds are credited to your account.
  • Your college then verifies your enrollment and validates your eligibility to receive payment. Under federal regulations, DCCCD has up to 14 days (two weeks) to complete this part of the process.
  • Once verification takes place and your eligibility is cleared, your funds are released and sent to your Higher One account.

In other words, when funds are sent to the college and “to your account,” they are not automatically available to you. Other steps, such as verification of enrollment, must be completed before you receive your remaining financial aid money.

To sum all of that up, for example, if you get a disclosure statement on Feb. 8, 2011, telling you that your funds are being disbursed, your funds will reach you no later than Feb. 25, 2011. If you get the disclosure notice later than that, you receive your funds later.

While it may seem like financial aid is taking longer than it should, your funds will be released before the federally mandated deadlines pass.

What Can You Do to Get Your Money Earlier Next Semester?

The easiest way to ensure your funds are processed as quickly as possible is to stay on top of your paperwork.

  • Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible — the form for the Fall semester becomes available Jan. 1 of that year (the Fall 2011 application was made available in January 2011). The 2011-2012 school year FAFSA is available online now (you must use Internet Explorer to fill it out).
  • Respond as soon as you get forms requiring input. If you get a request for more information, or a signature, send in your response as soon as possible.
  • Financial aid isn’t a race, but the sooner you fill out your paperwork and submit it, the better your chances of receiving money. Colleges are only given a certain amount of money every year to distribute to students, and if your paperwork is submitted early, you have a much better chance of being fully funded.