What are Student Grants?
Student grants are awards of money geared towards financing a student's higher education goals. Grants do not require the recipient to repay the money at any time. Some of the more obvious grants available to students come from the national government. These grants allow student who show sufficient economic need to have funding for college. Some state grant programs offer the same support and provide grant funding to students based on merit or other criteria as well. But, the government is not the only place to find grant programs. Grants from the private sector can provide a good amount of aid to students.
Most undergraduate student grants come in three flavors: needs based, needs based plus academic requirements, and other. The grants which fit into the needs based category are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). The Pell Grant is the basic form of education grant available to low income students. Students can qualify for up to $5,500 per academic year if they meet the financial guidelines of the program. The FSEOG is for students on the lower income scale. These grants go to those with the lowest income brackets. The FSEOG can award up to $4,000 additional to the student's financial aid package.
Those student grants that are needs based plus academic requirements start with meeting the same financial guidelines as set forward by the Pell Grant program. After that, the programs require students to be in a certain academic situation. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is for students in their first or second year of undergraduate work. They must maintain a minimum grade point average to continue the grant award. The National SMART Grant is for upperclassmen in specific scientific, technological, and mathematical majors. Again, the student granted this award must maintain a grade point average to continue to receiving the grant money.
The other category covers grants not attached to financial needs. One example of this grant is the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. This program offers grant money to the children of those killed in the line of duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. A second example is the TEACH Grant awarded to teaching students who are willing to serve as teachers in certain academic subjects at schools in low-income areas. Both of these grants have very specific eligibility guidelines.
There are some student grants available in the form of fellowships. Fellowships, in the academic world, are monetary awards, usually to doctoral or postdoctoral students. These awards go to these individuals because they make an agreement to conduct research or other pertinent activity in a specific area of interest. Some fellowship programs go to universities who select the students, while others go directly to the students who meet the eligibility requirements. The fellowships offer a stipend to the individual to cover living expenses during the time they conduct the research. These fellowships are in very specific areas of study.
Who can apply? Eligibility Requirements
For student grant based on financial need, the student must submit financial information as well as information on their parents' finances if the student is still a dependent. To determine eligibility for these grants, the Department of Education takes into account different facts. The income, assets, and other financial means of the student and the parents play a major role. The members of the student or parents' household are also a consideration. Any additional members of the household enrolled in postsecondary education make a difference as well. From this information, the Department of Education determines the student's qualification for needs based grants.
When a student applies for student grants based on financial need as well as academic achievement, they still go through the same financial scrutiny that needs only grants require. If they pass that test, the next step is evaluation of the academic requirements. For an Academic Competitiveness Grant, the student must be a first or second year student in a qualifying two- or four- year degree granting school. The student also has to maintain a minimum grade point average or score in the top 75th percentile if just starting university. The National SMART Grant requires students to maintain a 3.00 grade point average, be enrolled in the third or fourth year, and major in certain scientific, technological, and mathematical fields.
Those student grants not needs based have different requirements. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant requires students to provide proof they lost a parent or guardian in service during one of those conflict after September 11, 2001. The TEACH Grant has some requirements also. The student must be actively pursuing a degree that will lead to a license as a teacher. In exchange for the grant, the student must sign an agreement to teach in a school located in a low-income area. The student must teach in specific academic areas such as mathematics, science, or reading specialization where there is a lack of expertise.
How to apply for Student Grants?
For students applying for any student grants, except for fellowships, the first step is always to fill out and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application provides a good amount of the information needed for all grant programs offered by the federal government. Once the Department of Education receives the FAFSA, they review it and apply a standard formula to the information. That formula determines the amount of aid available based on the expected family contribution. The findings come to the student in the form of a Student Aid Report. That award outlines the grants and loans for which the student qualifies. The university uses that aid report to create a financial aid package customized to the student's situation.
Fellowships work a bit differently. For those fellowships available to individuals, the student must submit a grant proposal to the appropriate federal agency outlining the research proposal. This application outlines the student's qualifications to perform the research also. This information goes to the agency for evaluation.
For more information on grants and fellowships, please visit these websites:
- FAFSA: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
- The Grants.Gov Search Site to search for "fellowships": http://www07.grants.gov/search/basic.do
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: