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.

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.


You’ll need a good reason to appeal your financial aid. For instance, if your circumstances changed between when you received your financial aid package and the time school starts. Maybe your sibling decided to enroll in college at the last minute, your parent lost a job, or there’s been a family financial emergency. You might also be able to appeal for more financial aid if you’re in an abusive family situation.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation is one of the best known advocates for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. The foundation sponsors both grants and scholarships for students who have lost a parent to breast cancer. Awards of up to $10,000 are available, and are decided on a combination of scholastic achievement, community service and financial need.
One of the most significant sources of grants for college is the United State’s Armed Forces. Education grants from the military help enlisted service-members, their spouses and their dependent children, find the resources they need to pay for college. Each branch of the military, including the army, navy, air force and marines, provides financial aid programs to benefit their service-members. Military sponsored grants are also offered to the children and spouses of service-members who have been killed, or disabled, in the line of duty.
Most college grants are designed to address the needs of students who are facing a financial shortfall in their college funding. That being said, a wide range of grant programs are dedicated to providing financial aid to students in more extreme circumstances. Grants for low-income students are specifically designed to address the financial needs of students from economic or socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Typically, these programs will be sponsored by state and Federal governments, advocacy groups and charitable foundations.
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.
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.
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.”
While military sponsored grant programs offer valuable financial assistance, it should be noted that they are only available to enlisted members of the armed services. Serving one’s country in a military capacity is a noble and honorable choice, but it should not be made lightly. Students considering military sponsored financial aid for college should be certain that they fully understand their obligations as enlisted personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Begin your grant search early, to allow yourself plenty of time to find, and apply to, the various grant programs for which you may be eligible. As you begin to search for possible education grants, you will find that they come in all shapes and sizes. You will also find that many grant programs may be found in the most unlikely of places. Look deeply, leave no stone unturned, and you may find the necessary education grants that will help meet your college costs.
You could get more non-federal aid: “Schools and states have a limited amount of aid, and a bunch of states have a FAFSA deadline of ‘as soon as possible after October 1,’ (meaning they actually could run out of financial aid) so it’s good to be at the front of the line!” according to a post on the Department of Education blog. If you apply early, you’ll have a better chance to qualify for these non-federal financial aid programs.

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 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.
African-American students will find a wide range of grants designed to help them pursue their dreams of a college education. For too long African-Americans were under-represented in the halls of academia. But with the help of publicly and privately funded grant programs, they are beginning to take their rightful place on college campuses across the country. Over the last decade, the number of African-Americans graduating with a four-year degree has risen sharply, and dedicated grant programs for African-American students are helping more and more students of color pursue their dreams of a higher education.
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.

In addition to grants dedicated to the economically disadvantaged, there are a wide range of grant programs designed to target the needs of students with both physical and mental disabilities. Grants for students with disabilities help to increase college accessibility to students facing a wide range of personal challenges, including blindness, hearing impairment, autism, and decreased mobility due to physical impairment. Disabled students looking for grants to help them pay for college should begin their search by focusing on advocacy groups and charitable foundations dedicated to the needs of people with their particular disability.
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.
Many organizations, professional associations and advocacy groups have developed a wide range of grants designed to help women take their rightful place in America’s halls of higher education. Grant programs for women are designed to encourage female students to pursue degrees, and careers, in a wide range of fields in which they have been historically under-represented. Education grants for women typically focus on disciplines in need of greater diversity, such as science, mathematics, technology and business.
Asian-Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic populations in the United States. While Asian immigrants have been part of the American workforce for more than a hundred years, they have been historically under-represented in mainstream colleges and universities. That is beginning to change, and more Asian-American students are headed to college than ever before. For many, they may be the first in their family to pursue a college education. Grants for Asian-American students are supported by a variety of charitable foundations, corporations and private endowments. Like many grants dedicated to the financial needs of minority students, many grants for Asian-Americans place a particular emphasis on specific career paths, including science, technology, education and journalism.
Still, the potential payoff of applying for financial aid makes it worth it. It can make a world of difference if you put in the time and effort to understand the process and how to get the full financial aid you’re entitled. For some students, it’s the only reason they can complete a degree rather than dropping out of college. For others, financial aid helps them leave school with some student loans — but limits the debt to a manageable amount.
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