Options for Financial Assistance
While planning for your college degree, one of your main considerations would be the cost and how to take care of it. Financial aid programs, both federal and private, are available in plenty. Start researching the financial aid programs and apply for them well in advance, so that you do not lose out just because you were late in applying. Billions of dollars are available every year as grants, scholarships, and loans; often students miss out on the opportunity just because they do not know about it.
Financial Aid Can Be of Many Types
While scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid, student loans must be paid back. Scholarships and grants are awarded by the government, private organizations, and also the particular college to which you have applied (your school financial aid package will be available to you with the offer letter). Financial aid is reserved for the most deserving (academically and financially) students and there is strong competition for them. Student loans come at reasonable terms and can be paid back over a relatively long period. So do not think of them as a burden. You can also look out for a work-study program where you get a monthly salary working at your own school or at a community service center. Such financial programs will help you take care of your daily expenses rather than your tuition, which needs to be paid at one go. Also visit Scholarships and Grants for Trade Schools for students that are planning on earning a degree from a vocational college.
Federal Student Aid
The USDE has financial aid programs for college education. Though these loans are helpful in meeting a considerable amount of your tuition, board and lodging, stationery, and transportation costs, they will not cover your costs totally. So, you have to supplement a loan with aid from other sources (state government student aid programs or your college financial programs).
To apply for federal student aid, log on to Fafsa.gov and fill up the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal student aid is mainly of three types: grants that do not have to be repaid, loans or interest carrying borrowed funds but with easy payment schemes, and work-study where you earn from part time employment.
One of the major grant programs of the Fed is the Pell Grant, available to undergrads only. Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and the State Student Incentive Grant are other federal programs that are given to very needy students. The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is available for undergrad education and for students with exceptional need. The grant does not have to be repaid. Though both full time and part time students are eligible for the grant, the school will provide only as much as is available.
Government Loan Programs
The federal government gives out billions of dollars each year as federal loans through two different programs: the Federal Family Education Loan Program or FFELP and the Ford Direct Lending Program or FDLP. If your college has an FFELP program, then you will get a list of approved lenders when you get the award letter from your college. If, on the other hand, your college has a FDLP program then you get your loan from the government. In both cases it is a loan to pay your way through college, backed by the Fed. The federal loan will be subsidized (the government pays the interest on the loan) if the student has greater need. For an unsubsidized federal loan, you have to pay the interest.
Your FFELP loan can be a Stafford loan; in that case, it is given to you at an interest rate of 8.25 percent. There are limits to which you can borrow for every year of your college. For the first year you can borrow $2,625, for the second year $3,500, and for the third, fourth, and fifth (if needed) year $5,500. Repayment time starts six months after you complete school. If you opt for a PLUS loan, then the money goes to your parents and they have to start repayment as soon as the loan is disbursed. The Perkins Loan is another government loan program that is given directly through your school.
Students Aid from Other Sources
Various other departments also have financial aid programs. The department of Veterans Affairs gives aid to veterans, widows, orphans, people in the National Guard, etc. For more information log on to: Gibill.gov. If you are an active military person then you are eligible for financial aid under the Military Tuition Assistance program. Contact your Financial Aid Officer and Base Education Officer for more information. There is also a Veterans Benefits program, which provides financial assistance for higher education of veterans. The State Department of Rehabilitative Services also provides education assistance, the amount of which is determined by the counselor. The survivors (sons, daughters, spouses) of a deceased or disabled veteran are eligible for education assistance and you can contact your social security officer or the Veterans Administration department for more information.
For more reading on grants, loans, and other financial programs log on to: