Where to Start
Fellowships & Grants
Applying for Aid
U.S. Department of Education offers many Student Financial Assistance (SFA)
programs. Most federal student aid is awarded based on financial need rather
than scholastic achievement. Most grants are targeted to low-income students.
However, you don't have to demonstrate financial need to receive federally
guaranteed loans such as PLUS, Stafford, or Direct loans.
To be eligible to receive aid, a student must meet the
- Generally, have financial need
- Have a high school diploma, a GED, or demonstrate the
ability to benefit from the program or training offered
- Be enrolled as a regular student in an eligible program
- Be enrolled at least half-time (except for campus-based
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Make satisfactory academic progress
- Sign a statement of education purpose/certification on
refunds and default
- Sign an anti-drug act certification
- Sign a statement of updated information
- Sign a statement of registration status
Here's the basics of the various Federal Programs.
- Federal Pell Grants -
- This is a federally funded program which provides grants
to students based on their financial need and the total cost of attendance at
their particular school. They don't have to be repaid so they are a really good
option. Eligibility is based on a formula made by the Federal Government. Awards
range from $200 to $3,700. (Note: The regulations say $3,700 but the
appropriations lowered this amount to a maximum of $2,470). Students who already
hold a bachelor's degree are not eligible for the PELL Grant. To apply you must
submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FEOG)
- This program is for undergraduates with exceptional
financial need. They give priority to students given who are PELL Grant
recipients. This grant also does not have to be paid back and it is possible to
qualify for up to $4000 a year. Your school will credit your FEOG to your
account, pay you directly, or sometimes they will use a combination both of
these. Talk to your school about how they deal with the FEOG.
- Federal Work-Study (FWS) -
- Provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who
need financial aid. FWS give you a chance to earn money to help pay for
educational expenses. Your pay will be at least the current minimum wage.
Sometimes FWS will give you work to do that is related to the type of work you
will do after graduation and will teach you some of the skills required. Your
school will pay you at least once a month and sets your work schedule. Your
financial aid administrator will usually work with you in arranging your work
hours. They will take into account your class schedule, your health, and your
- Federal Perkins Loans -
- (Formerly National Direct/Defense Student Loan) This is a
low-interest (5%) loan to help you pay for your higher education. Undergraduate
and graduate students alike are eligible for these loans. They are usually made
available through a school's financial aid office. Your school is your lender
and you must repay this loan at 5%. You may be able to receive up to $4,500 if
you are enrolled in a vocational program or if you have completed less than 2
years of a program leading to a bachelor's degree. You could possibly be
eligible for $9,000 if you are an undergraduate student who has already
completed 2 years of study towards a bachelor's degree and have achieved third
- Federal Stafford Loan Program -
- Student borrowers may use either of these loan programs.
Each program may be subsidized or unsubsidized. If the student has demonstrated
need, the loan can be subsidized (government pays the interest from the time the
loan is disbursed until it is paid in full. The maximum a student can receive is
related to the year in school. First year students receive up to $2,625, 2nd
year is $3,500, 3rd and 4th years are $5,500 and graduate students can receive
up to $18,500. The Direct Loan and the Stafford Loan programs differ in who
lends the money. Under the Direct Loan Program, the federal government makes
loans directly to students and parents through the school's financial aid
office. Under the Stafford Loan Program, private lenders such as banks and
credit unions make the loans. The interest rate on the student loans cannot
exceed 8.25% with a 4% fee that is deducted proportionately from each
disbursement of your loan.
- Federal Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students -(PLUS)
- PLUS loans are made by private lending institutions.
DIRECT PLUS programs are made through the college financial aid office. The
maximum amount that can be borrowed under either of these programs depends on
the cost of the college and the amount of financial aid you already receive.
Interest rate for the PLUS loan is calculated annually by adding 3.1% to the
rate of the 52-week U.S. Treasury Note and is capped at 9% for the life of the
loan. A one-time origination fee of 3% is paid out by the federal government to
help offset program benefit costs.
- Project EASI -
- Project EASI (Easy Access for Students and Institutions) is a collaborative
program of the government, business, and higher education. Its purpose is to
rework the student financial aid delivery process.
- I know this is all very confusing and hard to understand.
Talk to your admissions counselor and high school counselor. They should be able
to help you sort out all of your options and find a solution that is best for
US Department of Education:
Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) -
The US Department of Education (USED) offers a considerable amount of
information about student financial aid online, including electronic versions of
the following print publications:
- Student Guide
This is the basic introduction to federal student assistance programs.
- Funding Your Education
This publication is very similar to the Student Guide.
- Preparing Your Child for College This 57-page booklet includes information
about both financial aid and academic preparation.
- Looking for Student Aid
A very short introduction to financial aid, published by the US Department of
Education, and offered online by the FinAid®
Print version can be obtained by calling the Federal Student Aid Information
Center or by calling 1-800-USA-LEARN.
Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) -
The Federal Student Aid Information Center operates a toll free hotline to
answer questions about federal student assistance programs. The FSAIC can answer
your questions about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the
federal Stafford and PLUS educational loan programs, the Pell Grant program, and
Phone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) (TDD for hearing impaired individuals:
Federal Student Aid Information Center
PO Box 84
Washington, DC 20044