Types of Student Aid

Grants and Scholarships Overview

The most desirable type of student aid comes in the form of grants and scholarships, as these awards do not have to be paid back. College is an expensive investment, so you should research and apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible.

How Do Federal and State Grants/Scholarships Work?

To apply for a federal or state grant, you must complete a FAFSA. The criteria for awarding these grants include assessing your financial need, academic major, and academic accomplishments. Because many student aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is recommended that you work with your TuitionHelp™ Student Aid Advisor to submit your FAFSA to the Department of Education as early as January 1st prior to the academic year that you will be attending college.

How Do Private Grants/Scholarships Work?

The first step to finding private scholarships is research. Many religious, ethnic, and civic organizations offer scholarships, as do employers and veterans' organizations. Leave no stone unturned when hunting for "free money" to lower the amount you'll have to pay out of pocket for college.

Federal College Grant Eligibility and Award Amounts

Here's an overview of federal college grants for current and future college students:

Federal Aid Program Eligibility Requirements
Pell Grant Available to students who demonstrate financial need
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  • Available to students with the lowest EFCs who show financial need
  • Priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients

For the current grant award amounts, please visit the Federal Student Aid’s webpage on Grants and Scholarships.

Loans for College

These days, the majority of students graduate from college with some form of debt. It is unlikely that grants and scholarships will pay for all of your college expenses. Luckily, there are several loan programs that can help you pay the remaining balance. It is important that you understand each of your options.

Federal Loans

Federal student loans are the best option for students to start with before thinking about applying for a private loan, because they offer more favorable repayment terms and have fixed interest rates. They also have the most favorable deferment and forbearance options. Federal student loan programs include the Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and Perkins Loan. For these programs, the student is the borrower and responsible for repaying the loan.

Here is a brief summary of the federal loan programs:

Federal Aid Program Eligibility Requirements Annual Loan Limits
Direct Loan
(Subsidized and Unsubsidized)
Available to students who demonstrate financial need and who are enrolled at least half-time

Independent Students
First year: $9,500
(as much as $3,500 may be subsidized)

Second year: $10,500
(as much as $4,500 may be subsidized)

Third year & up: $12,500
(as much as $5,500 may be subsidized)

Perkins Loan

Available to students who demonstrate financial need

As much as $5,500
Direct PLUS Loans

Available to graduate and professional degree students

As much as the cost of attendance after other financial aid has been applied

Private Loans

If you are unable to secure a federal or state loan, or if you need additional funds to pay for your college expenses, consider a private student loan from a trusted bank or other financial institution. Private loans usually require borrowers to pass a credit check or have a creditworthy cosigner.

Credit Cards

You can also pay for college expenses with a credit card, but their interest rates are usually far higher than those that governments or banks will charge you. They should be used as a last resort.