Financial aid •

May 2, 2022

San Diego State University financial aid: a complete guide

Learn about San Diego State University financial aid, including information about scholarships, loans, and grants.

SDSU financial aid

San Diego State University, located in San Diego, California, is the oldest institution of higher education in the city. The school is just 30 minutes north of the US-Mexico border and is home to roughly 36,000 students each year.

Founded in 1897, SDSU is dedicated to a high caliber of teaching and research that is meaningful to the world at large. The school is also known for its dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion. More than half the students at the school are students of color, and SDSU is ranked as a top college for LGBTQ students.

If you’re considering applying to San Diego State University but are trying to figure out how you’ll afford college, here’s what you need to know.

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A glance at San Diego State University 

SDSU is a leading public research university and a federally-designated Hispanic-serving institution. 

It gives its more than 36,000 students the opportunity to experience its diverse student culture and challenging curriculum. More than 50% of the student body is composed of students of color, and the school is a top-ranked college for LGBTQ students.

SDSU is located in San Diego, just 30 minutes north of the US-Mexico border. Students at SDSU can participate in research that is meaningful to both the university’s local area and the world at large. 

SDSU’s stated mission is to impart to its students an appreciation and broad understanding of the human experience throughout the world and ages. This includes research and education in the arts, philosophy, science, politics, and more. The school accomplishes this goal through its many interdisciplinary programs and a commitment to the arts.

SDSU offers almost 100 different bachelor’s degree programs in subjects like Accounting, Business, Education, Engineering, Geography, Journalism, and more. Students can study subjects across the university’s 8 colleges.

Outside of class, students can enjoy the city of San Diego, cheer on the Aztecs (the school’s NCAA Division 1 team), or get involved with one of the hundreds of student organizations.

Ranking: 148th nationally Size: 35,303 Demographics: 45% male, 55% female Tuition: $8,198 for California residents, $20,078 for out-of-state students Acceptance rate: 35% Average GPA of accepted student: 3.6 Key dates and deadlines (2022):

  • Application: December 15

  • Financial aid: April 1

Scholarships offered for San Diego State University 

If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for college, the best thing you can do is earn a scholarship or even multiple scholarships.

Scholarships are the best way to pay for school because they’re free money you can put toward tuition. Unlike loans and some other aid, you don’t have to pay them back after you graduate! SDSU has more than700 scholarship opportunities available to its students. Some are available to current students, and others are designed for newly-admitted ones.

To make life easier for its students, San Diego State University has a single application that students can fill out through the Aztec Scholarships portal. This single application makes you eligible to receive awards from the various colleges, departments, and other organizations that offer scholarships.

You may be eligible for programs based on your financial need, grades, club activities, course of study, and more. By filling out one form, you could earn multiple awards. Some programs focus on specific academic achievements or academic excellence in general, so earning good grades can help you save money on tuition.

Keep in mind that there are also scholarships that you can apply for after your freshman year of college. Keeping up with your scholarship applications in subsequent years can help you earn even more aid.

Once you’ve filled out SDSU’s scholarship application, you should start looking for opportunities outside of the school. You can apply for scholarships that are offered by national or local businesses, community groups, and other private organizations. These awards can range in size from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

If you look carefully, you can find scholarships for almost everything you can think of!

For more information on which scholarships you can apply for and how Mos can help, check out our financial aid tips and tricks.

Student loans

Many people need some more money after using the savings and the scholarships they’ve earned to pay for college.

Once you’ve finished applying for scholarships, student loans are the next best place to look for college money. Student loans allow you to invest in yourself by paying for an education. However, you must remember that you need to pay the loans back, plus interest after you leave school.

SDSU’s financial aid office has a web page describing all of the loan programs available to students.

For the vast majority of students, the best types of loans to use are Federal Direct Loans. These loans come from the US government and can come in 2 forms: subsidized and unsubsidized.

With a subsidized loan, the government handles interest payments on the loan while you’re still in school. With an unsubsidized loan, interest starts to build up on the loan even while you’re still taking classes.

Another reason these loans are great is that there are multiple aid programs built-in. For example, you can sign up for income-based repayment once you leave school. You can also qualify for loan forgiveness in some cases.

Students living in California can take advantage of the California Dream Loan Program. Like federal loans, California Dream loans have low interest rates and don’t build up interest while you’re in school.

After you’ve exhausted federal and California Dream loans, you can also consider working with private student lenders. You can get loans from banks, credit unions, and companies that specialize in student lending.

The drawback of these loans is that they tend to have higher interest rates and fees than federal loans. They also aren’t eligible for things like loan forgiveness or income-based repayment.

If you're looking for more information on student loans, you can read our article on how student loans work.


Each school year, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most important thing to do.

The FAFSA is a student aid application used by the government and schools like SDSU to make decisions about the scholarships, grants, and loans you’ll receive.


When you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll have to talk to your family and answer questions about your financial information, including the amount of money you and your family make and any money you’ve saved for college.

The government uses the information on your application in a complex formula to determine your family’s expected family contribution (EFC) to your college costs.

Based on your school’s cost of attendance and your EFC, you may be eligible for need-based aid and subsidized loans from the government. You might also receive things like scholarships and Pell Grants.

Most schools have a need-blind admissions process. That means they don’t use your family’s financial needs to decide whether to admit you to the school. You don’t have to worry about your FAFSA hurting your chances of getting into the college of your choice.

You can fill out the FAFSA for the next academic year starting on October 1. You can submit the FAFSA anytime before the end of June of the year you actually attend school. However, California has a March 2 deadline, so you should submit the form as soon as you can! 

To learn more about the FAFSA and its deadlines, check out our article that covers everything you need to know about the FAFSA.

San Diego State University financial aid FAQs 

Let’s answer some common questions about SDSU financial aid.

What is San Diego State University’s cost of attendance?

The cost of attendance for a California resident student at SDSU ranges from $23,912 to $32,134, depending on the student’s living situation. Of that amount, $8,198 is tuition, and the remainder covers costs like books, supplies, and room and board.

SDSU Cost of Attendance

Students from outside California pay an additional $11,880 in non-resident tuition, which makes their cost of attendance range from $41,206 to $44,014.

How many students pay no tuition at SDSU?

SDSU doesn’t publish information about how many students receive a full ride at the school. However, 53% of first-year students in 2019 received some form of need-based aid. For those students, the average award was $11,810.

Overall, SDSU meets an average of 65% of its students’ financial needs.

Can out-of-state students receive financial aid?

Yes, out-of-state students at SDSU are also able to receive financial aid.

Are there financial aid eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for financial aid at SDSU, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an eligible non-citizen

  • Be admitted to a degree, credential, or eligible certificate program

  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress

  • Meet federal and state requirements

  • Submit a new application each year

What is an eligible non-citizen?

Certain people who are not citizens or permanent residents of the US may be eligible for aid as “eligible noncitizens.”

This category includes:

  • US nationals, such as American Samoans

  • People with I-94 records from US Citizen and Immigration Services showing:

    • Refugee

    • Asylum granted

    • Cuban-Haitian Entrant

    • Conditional Entrant (prior to April 1st, 1980)

    • Parolee

  • Holders of T nonimmigrant status or children of those with T1 non-immigrant status

  • Battered qualified aliens

  • Citizens of

    • The Federated States of Micronesia

    • The Republic of the Marshall Islands

    • The Republic of Palau

When is aid added to student accounts?

Student account services will add aid to student accounts on the Thursday before courses start each semester. If any funds are left over after covering any student charges on your account, the remaining money will be directly deposited into your checking account.

Can international students receive financial aid?

SDSU states that you must be a citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen to receive financial aid, which means SDSU doesn’t give scholarships to students from overseas. However, there may be some other programs outside of SDSU that offer assistance to students from outside the US.

Universities like the San Diego State University that you might be interested in

If you’re not sure whether San Diego State University is right for you, these other schools might fit the bill.

Schools like SDSU

California State University

If you like the idea of attending a public university but don’t feel that SDSU is the right choice, you can consider California State University instead.

The CSU system has almost half a million students who are pursuing degrees in nearly a hundred subjects. There are many campuses in the CSU system, including campuses in cities like Fullerton, San Jose, Chico, San Francisco, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. That means you can find a campus near home or in a city you’ve always wanted to live in and study almost any subject you’re interested in.

California Institute of Technology

High achievers might be interested in the California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech.

Located in Pasadena, Caltech is one of the top research schools in the world. It has about 1,000 undergraduate students and 1,300 graduate students enrolled in its programs and working alongside its 300 faculty members.

As its name implies, Caltech places emphasis on engineering and science. The school boasts more than 76 Nobel laureates among its alumni, faculty, and other affiliates, making it a strong choice for students who want to work in a fast-paced, exciting environment that’s on the cutting edge of research.

California Polytechnic State University

California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly Pomona, is a polytechnic university with almost 24,000 students studying various applied sciences. Cal Poly Pomona is one of the top polytechnic schools in the world.

Students can study topics such as civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering.

On top of being one of the top technical schools in the world, Cal Poly Pomona has also built a reputation as one of the most innovative. That makes it appealing to students who want to study applied sciences and be at the forefront of innovation in their field.

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San Diego State University is one of the most diverse and multicultural schools in California. It has strong academic programs and keeps costs low for resident students, making it an appealing choice for anyone looking to get a top-notch education at a reasonable price.

If you’re a California resident, the low resident tuition and opportunity to get aid through programs like the Dream Loan program may make SDSU a strong choice. Even out-of-state students will find something to like at the school.

College isn’t cheap, that’s why Mos is here to help. With Mos, you can get help with applying to scholarships, earning grants, and learning more about how to get college aid.

To get started, you can learn more at

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