The majority of students applying and receiving college grants are low income students, also called need-based grants. Need based college grants are to give everyone a fair opportunity to get an education. Some common need-based grants are the Pell Grant, a Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students, and several others. The first place you should apply is called the FAFSA.
Completing a FAFSA can be a time-consuming process that some students or parents might be tempted to skip. “On one end of the spectrum, you have students that don’t think they qualify for aid so they don’t [apply],” Randolph said. “On the other end, you have students that are so confused by the application, verbiage, and choices, that they struggle, perhaps even to the point of not finishing the FAFSA.”
Low-income and disadvantaged students qualify for general need-based aid in most states that offer it, but specific funding is also set aside for students whose access to education is severely limited by social and financial conditions. Exceptional hardship is calculated differently in each state, but the students whose circumstances present the greatest educational obstacles are the first to be considered for state grants.
Federal grant programs are driven by the congressional funding that fills the coffers. As a result, maximum grant awards and general availability change every year. Currently, annual Pell Grant award maximums hover around $5000 per student. Some government grants, like FSEOG are distributed on a first-come first-served rotation that continues until funding is exhausted, so time is of the essence. To maximize your access to federal grant dollars, it is essential that you file your FAFSA as early as possible.
Every state maintains its own college grant programs, and they are typically only available to student residents. While it would be impossible to list every education grant from each state in the union in the space available here, the following examples will give students an idea of the types of programs that may be available through their own state governments. College-bound students are encouraged to visit their state’s higher education website for detailed information on any and all merit-based and need-based grant programs which may be available.
Colleges and universities can also be prime sources for grants. Often, colleges will be given private endowments from individuals and businesses for the purpose of providing financial aid to deserving students. Again, privately endowed grants and scholarships tend to have highly specific eligibility requirements, and may target certain portions of the population such as women or minorities. They may also be dedicated to students pursuing degrees in specific fields or disciplines.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – The FSEOG is designed to give financial aid to undergraduate students with extreme financial need. The FSEOG program is funded by the Federal government, and administered through the financial aid offices of participating colleges and universities. Students must apply through their college of choice, and grants are awarded on a first come, first served basis.
Students who withdraw from classes prior to refunds will only receive payment for credit hours for which they are currently attending. Enrollment status does affect eligibility. Please be aware that some awards may have to be reduced or canceled due to adjusting enrollment patterns. Students whose eligibility has been terminated because of failure to meet Standards of Satisfactory Progress may in certain cases request a formal review of the decision to revoke financial aid eligibility. Circumstances which may be appealed include: death in the student's immediate family, medical emergencies, accidents, divorce or separation of parents, personal tragedy, or other documented circumstances beyond the student's control which prevented him/her from meeting minimum standards.
Loan programs – Such programs need to be paid back but offer help with low interest rates. The Stafford Guaranteed Loan offers up to $6,625 per year. The Perkins Loan program offers up to $3,000 and $5,000 a year for undergraduate and graduate students respectively. These loan programs come at very low interest rates so it is highly recommended you apply for them if you need the money for your education. The updated 2015-2016 fixed interest rate on these loans for undergrads is 4.29%; and the combined borrowing totals for direct loans can be up to $12,500 per year depending on your school year and degree.
The American school system, like the healthcare system, is also experiencing a critical shortage of qualified professionals. Teachers are in great demand, particularly in historically under-served communities. Grants for educators are available from a variety of sources, including professional teaching associations, private endowments, and state governments. Many of these programs, particularly those supported by state governments, are award-for-service programs. Recipients will be required to sign a contract agreeing to a term of service teaching at a high need school, or in an under-served community.
Every state in the union has a Department of Higher Education that monitors, and regulates, the colleges and universities within that state. Most states offer their resident students some degree of college financial aid, either through their Department of Higher Education or through a dedicated Student Assistance Commission. Scholarship and grant programs are common at the state level, and are typically supported by state and local taxes, and/or state lottery funds.
Your school will notify you if you must repay part of the grant. From that point, you will have 45 days to either pay that portion of the grant back in full or enter into a satisfactory repayment arrangement. If you enter into a satisfactory repayment arrangement, the school may assign the debt to ED for collection or may keep the debt and allow you to make payments directly to them.
Students pursuing high-need fields of study, like nursing, teaching and STEM subjects may get assistance from state governments. Nursing and teaching grants are issued by states, in return for service obligations that require participants to work in under-served areas. By committing to work as a teacher or nurse within your state, for a period of two to four years, you might receive tuition abatement that amounts to a free ride through college. If you don’t follow through on your end of the service agreement, your grant becomes a loan that you must repay-with interest.
States issue need-based grants to students who need help paying for school. If your EFC is low, and your federal financial aid doesn’t cover your tuition, state grants boost your college fund when you need it most. For instance, Minnesota Office of Higher Education provides state grants to low and moderate income students, with nearly 80% of funds distributed to students with family incomes below 50K/year.
If you are eligible for a loan or Pell Grant and did not register in time for a book authorization, you must contact your campus Financial Aid Office to see if you are eligible to have one processed. Book Allowances are available on the first day of classes for each part of term within each payment period. Please check with your local campus Office of Financial Aid for dates and eligibility.