Taking Advantage of Federal Financial Aid
The federal government has a number of programs for students who meet specific guidelines.
- Are a U.S. Citizen
- Have a social security number
- Be registered with the selective service (if you are male and between 18 – 25 years of age)
- Maintaining satisfactory academic progress
- Qualified to obtain a post secondary degree
The process of applying for federal financial aid begins with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application will determine how much you are eligible to receive based on the other sources of support you have. There are five basic types of support.
- Grants – these do not have to be repaid.
- Federal Loans – these have to be repaid with interest.
- Work Study – you earn money while you work.
- Specialized Programs – the government has programs which encourage students to pursue selected disciplines.
- Veteran Educational Support Programs – these programs are for active and inactive military personnel.
For students with the greatest financial need, the Pell Grant will be your best option. You do not have to repay this money. The amount awarded will depend on your financial status. There is an overall cap on the Pell Grant set by Congress. There are a variety of loan programs
- Federal Perkins Loans – This loan is for students with exceptional need. The loan is made through your college. The amount you can borrow depends on your financial need. There is a cap on how much you can borrow.
- Stafford Loans – Subsidized – This loan is also for those with financial need. There is an interest penalty but you are not charged for interest when you are in school. There is a cap on what you can borrow.
- Stafford Loans – Unsubsidized – This loan is like the subsidized loan, but you are charged interest while you are in school. There is a cap on what you can borrow.
- Direct PLUS Loans for Parents – As the name applies, this loan is made to parents. There is a cap on the loan based upon the financial requirements of attending a specific college, but there is not a financial need requirement as with other loans. The parent must have an acceptable credit history to be eligible.
Another source of funds is one that pays you to work.
- Federal Work- Study – In this program, you work on a job (generally on-campus). There is a cap on the money you can earn based upon your financial need. The pay rate is at least the federal minimum wage.
The subject of federal aid is constantly in flux (and often a subject of political controversy). For more information you should go to studentaid.ed.gov..