Financial Aid Overview
The Federal Government have committed $168 billion dollars in financial aid in 2009/2010 for tertiary education. The bulk of this funding will be spending through government awards and scholarships.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is the financial aid application form needed to apply for federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans. The forms are available on-line or from college offices. The application process can be completed on-line and doing so, does increase response times. A federal student aid grant can fall under three categories, grants, work-study or a loan.
Federal student aid is financial assistance that’s available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid and it covers expenses such as tuition fees, room and board, books, other supplies and transportation. This aid can also help to pay for a computer and dependent childcare expenses.
Federal Pell Grants are grants available only to undergraduate students for a maximum lifetime limit of 18 semesters, or its equivalent. Grants do not have to be repaid.
To be a grant recipient, students will have to meet the following criteria. Additional criteria may be required for specific loans but in general a student must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen;
- Be Federal Pell Grant eligible;
- Be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program;
- Not have been previously enrolled in an undergraduate program (if you are a first-year student).
Other specific grants available from the federal government include:
- Academic Competitiveness Grant or ACG;
- National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant);
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant);
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are grants available for undergraduates with exceptional financial need.
In addition to grants, the federal government offer a number of student loan options which have very favorable payback terms and no, or deferred interest payments. The federal loans available include:
Federal Stafford Loans
- Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan);
- Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL);
- Federal PLUS Loan;
- Federal Perkins Loans.
If the loan is a subsidized Stafford Loan, the student is not responsible for interest while attending school and the principal is deferred. If the loan is unsubsidized the principal is still deferred but the student is expected to pay interest on the loan.
Federal PLUS Loans are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students who are enrolled at least half-time. The PLUS Loan is also available to graduate and professional degree students. Financial need is not a requirement of this loan. PLUS Loans are unsubsidized: the borrower is responsible for interest that accrues during the life of the loan. Borrowers of a PLUS loan can request a loan for up to the full cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid.
Federal Perkins Loans are low-interest (5 percent) loans that must be repaid.
Federal Work Study
This program provides job opportunities to students to pay for education expenses.
A wealth of information about federal loans and grants is available on-line at studentaid.ed.gov/resources/loan-grant-fact-sheets.
In addition to federal government funding options, individual States, education departments and schools, offer a wealth of information and scholarship opportunities along with grant and loan options. The school careers councillor, or the financial aid administrator, at your college will have all of the information you need about which options are available in your particular State.
For possible scholarships and awards available outside of the academic realm, speak with local sporting, arts, religious, political, cultural and community groups. These people often have access to funding information outside of academia and may even offer scholarships themselves.
Unions are another excellent avenue to research. Many unions offer scholarships and grants to family members of workers.
The opportunities for funding are plentiful. Any student wishing to attend a college or university will find funding. The research and effort put into applying for scholarships will definitely be worth it, because every student will find opportunities for funding their education.