This is where college grants can be a huge help.
With heavy student loans and competitive admissions, students are looking to different types of financial aid for support. It’s either that, college students in order to work and save money to pursue other things like entrepreneurship (in the footsteps of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg).
Students are rightfully concerned about their tuition, as student loan debts (amounting to a trillion dollars) can take years to pay off.
Forbes has a list of Best Value Schools, private and public colleges and universities that are affordable, without the sacrifice of quality education.
No. 1 is the University of California, Berkeley, followed by Brigham Young University, and the University of Florida.
Most of the rest of the spots are filled by California schools. Others who are set in attending their not-so-affordable colleges prefer to apply for college financial aid.
Financial assistance applications are increasing each year.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the undergraduate students who applied for and received financial help had increased over the years, from 82% to 85% from 2008 until 2014.
Recent studies by reveal that federal loans make up the biggest source of financial aid for undergraduate students at 34%. While institutional or college-based grants make up 22%, and state grants are only 5%.
As you can see from the graph above around $62 billion is spent on financial aid for college students, but only 5% are from state grants.
Why Should You Apply for a College Grant?
College grants are a form of financial help that is usually given to students who don’t have the financial means. It differs from a scholarship which is usually merit-based.
Students struggling with their finances can either apply for a college grant, institution, or study loan. But why choose a college grant over the other two?
Grants are generally needs-based.
A grant is financial assistance the government, the school, or a private organization gives to a college student as a way of , according to Grant.gov.
The money doesn’t have to be paid back, and you don’t have to be a mathematical or creative genius to be receive a grant.
Some see grants as “free money”, but it’s not offered to just anyone. Although some grants weigh in academic potential, they consider more the students’ lack of funds or inability to pay for college education because of financial instability or poverty.
Who Can Apply for a College Grant?
Anyone can actually apply for a college grant, but each grant offers different qualifications and requirements.
The US Department of Education offers resources for several grants. These are only for US citizens (as international students can apply for scholarships instead). Anyone interested in applying for a grant will also need to complete the FAFSA form.
The federal government provides $150 billion in grants to college students, but to be eligible for one, you need to fill in this form. is commonly used in colleges and universities around the country to gauge what kind of financial help the student needs. It can be done online and is completely free.
It has more than a 100 questions, with 10 pages, and each item is important.
FAFSA isn’t limited to students from families with an income below $20,000. In fact, students whose parents earn $200,000 in total can still complete a FAFSA form. These students could, in fact, be applying to prestigious private institutions and still need grants to complete their education.
Mark Kantrowitz, an authority in financial support for students, says that those who file their FAFSA early have a better chance of getting a bigger grant amount, especially for first come, first serve programs.
Different Types of Federal Grants
The federal government provides many grants to college students. Here are four of them. All of them require that you are a US citizen (not just a permanent resident), and have filled out your FAFSA form. You must also submit the proper and required documents and FAFSA form on or after October 1 of the year before you study.
Federal Pell Grants
The Pell grant is the most popular federal grant for students and is only offered to undergraduate students.
To be eligible for a Pell grant, you must not have been incarcerated, nor have you earned a bachelor’s degree ever before. Some graduate students though, can apply for their post-baccalaureate programs, although it’s rare. You must have a low EFC (Expected Family Contributions) to apply.
Money received can vary depending on some factors like the student’s need, the academic program costs (plus important needs for things like food and rent) whether the student is full-time or part-time, and whether the student plans to enroll for the full school year. The most recent Pell amount, at the time of writing, is $5,815 at the highest.
If interested, you can apply for the grant at your college, provided your school is a participant for this program. Successful applicants can receive their grant for around six years, at most.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
According to the US Department of Education, the is for low-income undergraduate college students studying or will study in one of the 3,800 colleges participating in the program.
To be eligible, you must also be eligible for the Pell Grant and you can be a recipient (but without overpayment), and you should have a very low EFC in your college.
The amount given to the student is calculated based on the school’s funding level (they contribute 25% to the grant), and the student’s total need. The highest grant money awarded to a student is $4,000 in recent years, but could be as low as $700, depending on the student’s situation.
The amount can vary per year, depending on the students’ financial need. You can apply for the grant through your school.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
This grant is an exclusive one, and is not open to any student in need of financial aid. Many education schools offer this grant for their students.
To be eligible for the grant, you need to be in the education program (undergraduate, graduate, or retiree looking for additional learning), you should be willing to teach core subjects like math, science, special education, reading, and ESL. You must sign an agreement that, upon completion of your degree, you will teach at schools in low-income areas. Also, you must agree to teach for at least 4 school years within 8 years of finishing your education degree.
Grantees can receive up to $4,000 a year, but a new policy due to federal budget cuts will subtract 6.9% from that amount for the 2016-2017 successful applicant.
Your school must be a participant of the program, and any grantee who does not fulfill the Agreement to Serve will have to pay back the grant money.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
The is similar to the Pell grant, except that it is not limited to whether you have a low EFC or come from a low-income family.
To be eligible for this grant, you should not be incarcerated, should still be getting your bachelor’s or post-baccalaureate degree. You can only apply if your parent or guardian died in service in Iraq or Afghanistan (post-9/11) as a military personnel. Also, only those who were part-time or full-time students, and under 24 years old, at the time of death can apply.
The Service grant money is the same as the Pell grant: $5,815, and can be received from your school.
State grants are given by each state education department. Most of these grants are for state schools, but some exceptions can be made for students who need the financial aid. Some states will require FAFSA and your EFC documents, and deadlines will vary.
Because the state uses limited funds from lottery and property taxes, some grants are given on a first come, first serve basis, so early application is encouraged.
Some states give the grant money directly to students, and some are given to the school for disbursement. State grants vary and change,
State grants aren’t so strict, and those who can apply have any of the following characteristics:
- Come from low-income families
- Are residents of the state
- Have good grades or talents in music, sports, etc.
- Serve in the military
- Agree to work for the state or much-needed fields after graduation
There are other eligibility reasons, but pretty much any student who needs financial help can apply for state grants from their school, state offices, and even large, private organizations.
Amount can vary from state to state. For example, the state of has a college grant, which has specific requirements, with the amount ranging from $600 to $5,000.
The Minnesota State Grant offers financial help to student residents through the FAFSA, but what many don’t know is that it also has a portal for through the . Eligible students are those who have not completed a degree yet, and who don’t have study loan debts. Awards can be around $100 to $11,000.
The has been around since 1965 and has given $10 billion to students as financial aid. Students can receive a little more than $4,000. Many students receive this grant. Around 99% of students who come from families with lower than $25,000 income were given a grant. The money is usually sent directly to the school.
This is the number of Pell and TAP recipients according to income levels on different campuses.
New York helps residents who are part-time undergraduate students by offering $2,000 grant money per year. Eligible students are those who have filled their FAFSA, and those who are also qualified for the state’s .
Although there are merit-based scholarships, most of the assistance is needs-based, for students who can’t afford college education. Applicants get as low as $500 and as high as $5,000.
These types of grants are highly competitive and selective, and choosing the grantees is solely the prerogative of the department, based on which applicants were able to fulfill the requirements and which ones show a lot of talent or skill.
Gaining Early Access and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
was made for low-income students, to encourage more of them to apply and enroll to colleges. This program also serves younger students to help them pursue higher education.
The only ones who can apply for this program are higher education institutions and state partners.
The program gives around $5 million to the GEAR UP agency or university in each state, and the institution has the autonomy to decide how they select students for the program, and how much money they grant. It can be as low as $800 each student (for partnership grant awards).
The image above shows top 10 colleges whose students get the most help in finance and tuition.
College based grants are specific to a university or college. They can vary in qualifications and amount awarded to students.
Here are some of the best grants provided specifically by the college or university:
Trinity University’s FASTER Grant
The is for students in need of financial help for only the following departments: biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, geosciences, physics, and astronomy. Students can get a $5,000 grant, and these recipients are also eligible for 12 FASTER fellowships.
Vanderbilt University’s College Grants
Vanderbilt University is ranked No. 1 in the Time’s MONEY rank on the top 10 colleges with the best financial aid for . The college’s needs-based grant is given to first year students who struggle to pay for school. Those interested in applying will need to fill the College Scholarship Service Financial Aid PROFILE. The grant can be renewed every year, but the grantee needs to have at least a 2.0 GPA.
University of California, Santa Cruz’s Full-Tuition Plan
The University of California, Santa Cruz offers a full-tuition grant called the , which actually combines different scholarships and grants for students from families with low income (below $80,000). It serves as grant money in that students don’t have to pay it back, and it’s offered to those who really need the financial support. You must be a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate and a resident of California.
Dependent Grants from Pacific Lutheran University
PLU has two . The Alumni Dependent grant is for students whose parent/s are former students of PLU (even for only one year). The Clergy Dependent grant, meanwhile, is given to students whose parents are ordained ministers currently serving at a Christian organization. Each grant awards $1,000, to be renewed every year.
Grants from Private Organizations
Private foundations, organizations, and institutions are a wellspring of information and support. They often sponsor scholarships or grants for merit or financial need.
AAUW offers the American Fellowships, which is available to women who are doing research for their graduate program. Applicants are chosen based on their academic record and research potential and importance. Successful fellows can get around $6,000 – $30,000.
The Career Development Grants from the same organization is for women who want to pursue graduate programs (or a second degree). Women of color or in the minority are highly encouraged to apply. Recipients are awarded $2,000 to $12,000 depending on need.
Those in need of college grants can also look up the Coca-Cola Foundation. Many students don’t immediately think of such large private companies to ask for help, but they sometimes have foundations that offer scholarships and grants to students and nonprofit organizations that support students.
The Coca-Cola Foundation funds , in different fields and concerns, but they particularly aim to empower education. The only ones who can apply for support are the community, colleges, or university group.
Unfortunately, the main foundation doesn’t support individuals. Those who want support can, however, go to .
Where Can You Apply for College Grants?
Your school has information on different grants for specific individuals or programs, but you can also look for grants on government websites like , , the , and the , among others.
HESAA website helps student residents and out-of-state residents find scholarships and grants.
But if you’re in New Jersey, you can also visit the , whose sole mission is to investigate and introduce grants, scholarships, and other aids for students.
College Grant Scams
Desperate students can search for college grants online, but not everything is legitimate. Just as there are , there are also people who will take your money, promising to find grants and scholarships. Here are some things to remember when searching for and applying for college grants:
Don’t pay money to get a grant
College grants don’t require applicants to pay a fee. You might have to spend money to print documents from your university, but legitimate and official college grants will not ask for your bank account or your money. All federal grants can be accessed through .
Don’t give out your personal information on just any site
Federal grants require you to fulfill and submit the FAFSA first, but be careful where you send your personal information. You can access the form at the website, the official US government page, or you can even ask your university office of financial aid for help.
Refer to your school when approached by a grant-giving organization
You might hear about an organization that gives out grants or scholarship from your neighborhood or online. Inquire first at your school whether such group is legitimate, has a clean record, or is applicable to your situation.
The also warns against frauds that say you are eligible for a grant or scholarship. Check the government , which has all the information you need to protect yourself from scammers.