How Aid Works

All financial aid at Pitzer is need-based. This means we review your and your family’s financial information, not your academic records, to determine eligibility.

We use the information from the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and tax documents to carefully review and evaluate your family’s individual circumstances and calculate a family contribution for each academic year. This contribution along with the student’s cost of attendance (COA), are key to determining your financial need (also known as your financial aid eligibility). Financial need is:

COA minus Contribution = financial need

For example, if the cost of attendance at Pitzer is about $85,000, and our calculated contribution after reviewing your eligibility is $40,000, your financial need would be $45,000. That means Pitzer will meet 100% of this need with a combination of a loan, work-study, and grants/scholarships.

Commensurate with need, most first-year domestic students receive a small student loan for $3,500, work-study for $2,500, and the rest of their need is met with grants/scholarships from Pitzer, and, if eligible, federal and state governments.

Curious about your aid eligibility? Visit Estimate Costs for calculating tools.


Financial aid is considered a supplemental resource to help bridge the gap between the cost of attendance (COA) and what a family can contribute. Our assessment of your contribution is based on the resources (income and assets) that the student and parents (custodial and noncustodial) have available to assist with college. Pitzer uses the information provided on the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA’s Student Aid Index (SAI) to determine an overall contribution. The contribution is based on the following four components: parent income, parent assets, student income, student assets.

  • Parent Income

    The parent contribution from income takes into account total income, including taxed income from the IRS 1040 tax return, as well as untaxed income (such as disability benefits, voluntary retirement contributions, etc.).

    We take this total income and subtract tax obligations (such as federal, state and FICA taxes) and other allowances (such as a cost of living allowance). This gives us the net available income, which is used to determine the contribution from parent income.

    Pitzer’s Office of Financial Aid also allows for other income protections such as, but not limited to, high medical/dental expenses above the cost of insurance, cost of private elementary/secondary tuition for younger siblings, elder care support/expenses and parent educational loan repayments. These protections are considered special circumstances and must be reported and documented in order to be considered. If your family has these types of expenses, please report them on the CSS Profile application.

  • Parent Assets

    The parent contribution from assets takes into account all cash/savings, investments, businesses and real estate property (including the primary home). The contribution from assets measures all assets, liquid and non-liquid, equally and takes a percent of all total assets to determine the parent contribution from assets. Only retirement funds in qualified retirement plans (such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, SEP, SIMPLE, Keogh plans, etc.), are excluded.

  • Student Income

    The student contribution from income is measured in a similar way as the parent contribution from income. However, because most students do not have earned income, the calculated contribution from income is often low.

    All students who attend Pitzer have a summer earnings contribution that ranges from $500 to $1,700 (depending on their need). The summer earnings contribution is built with the expectation that students will work over the summer and save to help toward their college costs.

  • Student Assets

    The student contribution from assets is based on 20% of the student’s total assets, including but not limited to cash, checking, savings, investments, trusts and properties.

Planning Ahead

Financial aid eligibility is determined on a yearly basis. Each year you must re-apply for aid by our established deadlines to be reconsidered; need-based scholarships are not automatically renewed.

Changes to your family’s circumstances may affect your eligibility year-to-year. The following factors can cause changes to your aid:

  • Parent income increasing/decreasing
  • Parent assets increasing/decreasing
  • Parent marrying/remarrying
  • Changes to your family size
  • Changes to your sibling’s college enrollment (i.e. graduating from undergrad or being enrolled less than full-time)
  • Student income increasing
  • Student assets increasing

Each year that you re-apply, we will review tax documents for a new year. Changes to both the income on your yearly taxes or changes to the tax law can affect eligibility. Below are the tax years that will be reviewed each academic year.

Academic Year Tax Year
2023-2024 2021
2024-2025 2022
2025-2026 2023
2026-2027 2024

In addition, U.S. Citizens and Eligible Non-Citizens receive additional loan eligibility each year. As you progress toward your degree, you are eligible for additional subsidized loans. Therefore, your loan amounts will increase from year-to-year. Below are subsidized loan loan limits for the 2023-2024 academic year. In addition, first-years will see a slight increase in their work-study from their first year to their second year from $2,500 to $3,000.

Year in School Loan
First-year $3,500
Second-year $4,500
Third-year $5,500
Fourth-year $5,500