Financial aid is the cornerstone for many students, allowing them to pursue an undergraduate degree despite soaring costs. In the world of federal and private student loans, work study and other methods of financing a degree, nothing is quite as sought after as grants, as they represent free money which does not need to be repaid if conditions of eligibility are adhered to.
Student grants can be obtained from a variety of sources including the federal government, local state government and academic institutions. Federal grants are the first step potential students should explore, as in order to qualify the FAFSA must be completed and submitted, a requirement in many cases for other additional grants. In order to be eligible for federal student grants, financial need must be demonstrated. This generally applies to applicants whose family income is below $50,000 with greater need recognized as income levels below $20,000.
The first federal grant to explore is the Pell grant, as it is a requirement of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant that applicants are recipients of the Pell grant. Obtaining a Pell grant is no deterrent to other forms of grants or financial aid. The Pell grant is awarded to undergraduate students who are U.S. citizens or registered aliens, and enrolled or seeking enrolment in an accredited institution that participates in the federal Pell program. The grant is awarded on an annual basis and should be reapplied for each year through the FAFSA. The maximum annual award is $5,500 and represents free government money.
A number of factors are taken into consideration when determining eligibility. The expected family contribution determined through the FAFSA is a prime factor, as is the size of the family. Qualifying for the federal Pell grant makes it more likely that the student will also be awarded federal work study during college, as part of their financial aid package
Students who qualify for the federal Pell grant are also eligible to apply for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant (FSEOG). The award ranges from $100 to $4,000, with 75 percent of the grant comprised of federal government money and the remaining 25 percent comprising money provided by the college. Applicants should ensure that the colleges they apply to participate in the FSEOG program, as not all do. The grant will be awarded on the basis of first come first served so students should apply early.
The third type of federal grant available to students comprises education grants towards studying for a certain profession in the public sector. The TEACH grant program is one such example but although it can be awarded if criteria are met, applicants should be aware that those who fail to follow through and meet the teaching requirements, will see the grant converted into a loan. Similiar types of federal grants are also available for such professions as nursing, social work and medicine.
In addition to federal grants, state grants are also available to help with financing college. In most instances the applicants must have completed the FAFSA in order to be eligible. Being in receipt of a federal grant is no deterrent to receiving additional state grants.