Private student loans: Financing from private lenders might also be listed in your financial award letter, or you can find it on your own. Using federal student loans first is often the best move, Randolph said. However, “if you still need money to bridge the gap between financial aid and the cost of attendance, you’ll have to look at private student loans.”
Before considering any form of education loan, students need to investigate possible grants for which they may be qualified. Grant money for college never has to be repaid, and there are a wide array of grant programs designed to benefit every kind of student, and every course of study. Thousands of organizations, both public and private, have grant money to award to students who are struggling to cover the costs of their college tuition.
The traditional model of a college-bound student is beginning to change. While the majority of college students are still newly minted high school graduates, more and more adult learners are headed to colleges and universities across the country. Some may be returning to school to finish degrees that were interrupted by work and family commitments, while others may be attending college for the first time for training courses to help them achieve greater success in the national workforce. Non-traditional students include single parents, displaced workers, returning military veterans and adults seeking new career opportunities.
As students begin to investigate possible grants for college, they will likely find a variety of award-for-service grants. These types of grants are typically allied to a distinct course of study, and are applied to students with definite career goals. Typically they address critical shortages in certain professional fields including healthcare, legal aid, teaching and social work. A grant-for-service requires recipients to agree to a predetermined term of service, working within their chosen field, at a critical need facility or in an under-served community. If the student fails to meet their obligations, the grant will revert to a standard student loan, and the student will be expected to repay all monies received plus interest.
Federal Grants – Pell grants can offer up to $5,775 yearly (updated for 2016) for undergraduate studies that aim on earning Bachelor’s degrees and Professional degrees. SEOG funds (Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant) can offer up to $4,000 each year per person. CWS funds can offer money to part-time students as well. The Academic Competitiveness Grant awards money to freshman and sophomores, while the National Science and Math Access to Retail Talent (SMART) Grant awards money to juniors and seniors.
Few college-bound students have the financial resources to pay for their post-secondary education entirely out of pocket. Even students with substantial college savings plans typically find that they are left with sizable amounts of unmet need. The average total cost of attending a public four-year college is more than $20,000 per academic year. Students planning to attend a private college or university can expect to spend more than $30,000 per academic year. A college education is a costly proposition, and all indications are that those costs are only going to increase.
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant picks up where the Academic Competitiveness Grant leaves off—providing funding for low-income third and fourth year college students. Eligible students must be Pell Grant recipients, academically talented and majoring in STEM fields or high need foreign languages. SMART Grant annual maximums are up to $4000 per qualified student.
Filing your FAFSA gets the ball rolling on lots of financial aid opportunities, but additional grants are available that might require separate applications. Your state and other grant foundations put forth narrowly defined student gift aid every year. Your location, ethnic background, and even your parents’ employer could lead you to the college grant funding you need.
Grants for students with disabilities come from a variety of sources, and address a variety of different needs. Some grant programs are designed to help disabled students find their place in a traditional college campus environment, while others may offer financial aid to students attending a special needs school. Most grants for disabled students are specific to the applicants handicap, though some may be broadly applied to all disabled students.
Grants for Native American students may be less prevalent than those for other minorities, but they are beginning to become more plentiful. State governments, advocacy groups and private endowments support a growing number of grants dedicated to helping Native-Americans pursue a college education. Many of these programs target members of specific Native-American tribes, and students will be required to present documentary evidence of their American Indian heritage. A large number of grants for Native-American students are career-specific, with an emphasis on healthcare, education, science and technology.
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 Pell Grant program is the largest provider of student grants. Pell Grants provide tuition assistance to undergraduates demonstrating financial need. A blended federal financial aid package often includes Pell Grants-alongside Federal Direct Loans. Eligibility is determined annually based on FAFSA disclosures, and reflects four areas of consideration.
If you’re a noncitizen without a Social Security card or had one issued through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, you should fill out the California Dream Act Application found at caldreamact.org. You don’t need to fill out a FAFSA form to be eligible for California student financial aid. Contact the California Student Aid Commission (csac.ca.gov) or your financial aid administrator for more information. Additional forms might be required. Applicants are encouraged to keep a record of their submission by printing out their online FAFSA confirmation page or obtaining proof of mailing the FAFSA form.