What are College Grants?
College grants provide a financial award to a student to pay for all or part of their educational expenses at certain academic institutions. They are not loans and the student does not need to repay it at any time. Grants can come from federal sources as well other government entities and private organizations like professional associations and private clubs. Some students can receive grants based on financial need, gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. Others may receive grants based on their academic performance, their parents' associations, or their chosen field. Some grants come with stipulations attached.
Some college grants base awards solely on a student's financial need. These grants look at how much a student or his family can contribute towards the annual tuition at a chosen school. In combination with that information, the amount of tuition required for attending the school is also considered. One of the more common grants provided by the federal government based on need is the Pell. This grant program awards up to $5,500 per year to eligible students. For those at the lower end of the economic scale, additional grants called FSEOG are also available.
Some federal college grants combine financial need with other factors. These grants require the student's eligibility for a Pell Grant first. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is available to qualified students in their first or second year of undergraduate work who are meeting certain academic requirements. The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant) is available to qualified students in their third or fourth year enrolled in certain science, math, and technology majors. Both of these programs have academic requirements students must meet and continue to meet.
A couple federal college grants have no financial need attached, but have certain other requirements. The first is the TEACH Grant. The TEACH Grant is available to any student studying to become a teacher who is willing to teach for four years in a high-needs academic area at a low-income school. Before receiving the grant, the student signs an agreement about that particular stipulation. Another grant available without financial need is the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. This grant is only available to students who lost a parent or guardian in either Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. These grants have strict eligibility requirements.
Who can apply? Eligibility Requirements
Most college grants come with specific criteria attached for eligibility. Some grants come with a financial need requirement. These grants work to help low to moderate income families afford to send their children to a postsecondary school. Each grant program has its own parameters as far as income and contribution amount required from the family. Government grants usually take into account the tuition levels of the school as well as the financial situation of the student and family. To find out if you are eligible for a government education grant, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA.
Once a student fills out the FAFSA, the university's financial aid office will combine that information with information about the school's tuition costs to determine if the student has a financial need for a government grant. The FAFSA also gathers information to determine if the student is eligible for any other grant program. The financial aid package the university puts together will include any grants for which the student qualifies. There is one grant program that a student needs to request and that is the TEACH Grant. This program requires the student to sign an agreement to teach in a high-needs academic field at a low-income school for four years after graduation. The request for the grant needs to go into the financial aid office.
How to apply for College Grants?
The first step in applying for any college grants is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA pulls together information on the student's financial situation as well as his family's. There is an expectation that parents will contribute towards the education of their children fresh out of high school. The student's income is also a consideration. For people long out of their parents' home, the income of the household goes into consideration for financial aid. So, if married, the student's spouse's income goes into the financial aid picture as well.
The FAFSA is available online through the Department of Education. The student can go online and fill out the application quite easily. However, there are other options for completing the FAFSA. You can work through your university's financial aid office or download a PDF version from the website and mail it in. There are specific deadlines that students have to meet in order to be eligible for student aid in a given academic period. The university's financial aid office will let you know the dates which apply to your financial aid needs. Failure to meet these deadlines may cause the award amount to delay and the need to meet tuition costs may come from your pocket instead.
For student interested in the TEACH Grant, the process is a bit different. This grant requires the student to request the grant instead of the student aid office determining it. The student still needs to fill out the FAFSA first. After that, the student requests the grant from the school's financial aid office. That office can get the grant setup and provide the paperwork to the student to sign. The student signs an agreement to teach in a specific academic discipline for four years in a low-income school. Once the student signs that agreement, the school can grant the funds.
College grants are also available from state governments, non-profit groups, and private organizations. Universities also offer grants to certain students. Most universities use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for any university or state grants. The grants available from the private sector usually require putting in separate applications to those organizations who manage them. Grants are good ways to fund education because there is no need to pay the funds back.
For more information, you can visit the following websites:
Grant Application Guides and Resources
It is always free to apply for government grants. However the process may be very complex depending on the funding opportunity you are applying for. Below are some of the published guides that have been helpful to past recipients: