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Admissions . Financing Your Education . Applying for Financial Aid 

Applying for Financial Aid

Once a student applies for admission and is accepted to CIA, a financial aid award letter is mailed to the student. In addition to the letter, which must be completed and returned to the Office of Financial Aid by March 15, we also enclose our Financial Aid Award Brochure and Information Guide. You also should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after it becomes available on January 1

Each year, you must re-apply for federal student aid annually by completing the FAFSA and the CIA Financial Aid Application. If you are transferring to CIA mid-year, your aid does not transfer automatically with you. 

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

You should complete the FAFSA online (CIA's code is 003982). FAFSA results are applicable to all institutions, so complete the application regardless of whether you have decided which institution you plan to attend. 

To apply online, request a personal identification number (PIN). Make sure you save your PIN as you will need it to re-apply for the FAFSA each year. You also may need a PIN for one of your parents if you are considered financially dependent on your parents (see Dependency Status below). 

Through the FAFSA process, you will be assigned an expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is based on a standard formula established by Congress and is used as a measure of your family's financial strength. Because your award is based on your EFC and the date your FAFSA is processed, it is important that you complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. Priority is given to students meeting the online application deadline of March 15. Some funding (SEOG, Perkins, FWS) is only awarded to on time applicants.

Dependency Status 

If federal guidelines determine that you are financially dependent on your parents, you must include parental information when you file the FAFSA. 

You are considered to be dependent unless you are one of the following:

  • 24 years of age or older as of January 1
  • A graduate student
  • At any time since you turned age 13, both of your parents are deceased and you were in foster care or you were a dependent or ward of the court
  • Married
  • Currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  • A veteran
  • Have children or other dependents who will receive more than half of their support from you
  • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, you are or were an emancipated minor
  • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, you are or were in legal guardianship
  • At any time on or after July 1 of the calendar year prior to the academic year you are applying for financial aid, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless
  • At any time on or after July of the calendar year prior to the academic year you are applying for financial aid, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless
  • At any time on or after July of the calendar year prior to the academic year you are applying for financial aid, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless

In unique instances, you may be able to demonstrate that you are independent. For your dependency override appeal to be considered for independent student status, you must provide specific documentation of these circumstances. In such cases, we recommend you meet with a financial aid counselor to discuss your situation.

FAFSA Verification 

If your FAFSA application is selected by the U.S. Department of Education or by CIA for a process called verification, the answers you submit on your FAFSA will be checked and confirmed with requested tax forms and other documentation to ensure accuracy. 

If you answer yes to at least one question in Step Three of the FAFSA, you are considered Independent for Federal Financial Aid purposes. Independent students are not required to supply parent information on the FAFSA or for verification, but you will be required to submit spouse's information if married. 

It may be necessary to verify individual items such as your social security card or birth certificate. Request for these items will come directly from the CIA Office of Financial Aid. Usually a financial aid package cannot be created and an award offer made until this requirement is completed. Financial aid offers made prior to the completion of the verification process will be considered an unofficial estimate until the requested items have been received and an official offer is made. If you have questions about verification or the verification process, please contact our Office of Financial Aid.

CIA Merit and Need-Based Aid

In order to be considered for the CIA Merit Scholarship, all first-year students should submit their Admissions Application information by March 1. The priority deadline to submit transfer student Admissions Application information to be considered for the Transfer Student CIA Merit Scholarship is June 1. Once the CIA Office of Financial Aid receives confirmation that you have been accepted for admission and have received your FAFSA information, our review process for financial aid will begin.

We award financial aid packages according to your need-based eligibility, which is calculated by subtracting your expected family contribution (EFC) from your cost of attendance, or COA. The direct and indirect costs of your CIA education comprise your COA. Once your need-based eligibility is determined, we will create a personalized financial aid package and send you an award letter.

Special Circumstances

In some instances, you may request a re-evaluation of your student financial assistance eligibility. Examples include unusual medical expenses, loss of employment, loss of taxable or non-taxable income, or private tuition expenses for primary or secondary schooling. To request a re-evaluation of your eligibility, you can submit an appeal and supporting documentation to the Office of Financial Aid.

Portfolio Success Stories

Portfolio Success Stories

Watch current students discuss their portfolios and how they have evolved over their career at CIA.

Financial Aid Forms

Financial Aid Forms

Click here to access important financial aid forms, publications, and links for more information.

Office of Financial Aid

M – F
8:30am – 4:30pm


11141 East Blvd
Cleveland, OH 44106

216.421.7425 or



Still have questions?

Visit our financial aid FAQs or read our financial aid brochure.

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