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Some sources for private student grants may be right under your nose and with a little work may help to reduce the cost of a college education for you or a dependent. In some cases, you may need to get a number of grants because the dollar amounts awarded are so small. Just keep in mind that every dollar counts and it all adds up to reduce the amount you may owe on college loans later. Some sources you can contact regarding funds include civic organizations. Groups like Kiwanis or Rotary often provide small dollar scholarships. These may be competitive and require you to complete an application.
Little known pockets of money are available to students meeting certain criteria. Some of these have to be hunted down and have such narrowly defined qualifications that verify few students ever pursue them. There is money available for students of certain ethnic populations or for students living in a specific town. Searching for these funds can take time, but it may be worth it to find new resources to help pay for college expenses. The financial aid office at your college or university may have a listing or database of various private student grants and scholarships. You can also search for money through the Internet; however, steer clear of websites that say they will help you track down student aid funds for a fee. With a little leg work, you can find everything you need for free.
In accepting an award for financial aid, you acknowledge that the funds will only be used to cover specific educational expenses. While it is expected that student aid will cover more than just tuition and fees there are still limits. Things such as food and housing; books; supplies; and, transportation costs are also legitimate expenses related to your college education. In addition, some federal aid may also be used to help with the costs of childcare or for educational tools like a computer. If you question whether or not a purchase using federal student aid will be deemed acceptable, ask a financial aid advisor for additional information.
Many states try to follow the lead of the federal government and provide student assistance to residents wishing to go to college within that state. The criteria for these funds tend to be similar to many other student aid options such as demonstrated financial need, enrollment in an approved program, and continued satisfactory progress towards a degree. These grant funds may be limited and are usually distributed on a first come, first serve basis to those that meet the eligibility requirements.
Financially needy students enrolled at an accredited school who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may qualify to receive the Pell Grant. With awards of up to $4,050 per year, a student can cover a good portion of their college expenses with these grant funds that do not require any repayment (except in cases where an error is made in the disbursement). The amount you are awarded (if any) is based on the cost of attendance at your school, your status in school (full-time or part-time), and estimated financial need (after deducting your expected family contribution). Your eligibility for a Pell grant is usually indicated on the student aid report (SAR) that is sent to your educational institution.
Pell Grant recipients are often students who demonstrate a significant financial need. This means that they are in a position where college would not even be a possibility without the federal grant funds they receive. This category of students is often given priority to receive other grant funds to help with the overall cost of a college education. One such grant is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) which awards students funds between $100 and $4,000. A benefit of grants is that the funds do not be repaid by the student. The only exception occurs when a student leaves school without completing the term. Those students may be asked to repay any funds they received.
Chase Tip: Your employer might also be able to help with financing college. Some employers offer tuition assistance programs to help their employees obtain a college education. You also may find that your employer offers special grants or scholarships for the children of employees to attend college. Check with your HR office to see if they assist in financing college in any way.
In general, most federal grants are offered to students who have a demonstrated financial need. This is determined based off the information you provide in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal grants are also only available to
Not all grants are awarded based solely on financial need. Some highly desirable grants are based on talent and may or may not consider a students financial need. High grades can qualify a student to receive a merit-based grant from their institution. This type of grant is intended to acknowledge the achievements of students who are successful in college.
The National Smart Grant is another type of talent grant that is awarded to students in their third or fourth year studying in a specific discipline like math, science, or certain foreign languages. This grant is for
To help students with a significant demonstrated financial need, some college and universities offer special student to student grants. These are appropriately named since they often come from fees charged to other students. Students who receive a grant like this typically also receive federal grants and low-interest student loans. Continued eligibility for this type of grant will vary but typically require the student to maintain a satisfactory GPA and demonstrate annually that the financial need still exists. At most institutions these funds are limited so qualified students who apply for financial aid early are more likely to have a student to student grant award.
Sometimes things happen and you find yourself in a position where you have to drop out of school midway through the term. While it is understandable that at times these things happen, at the same time you need to be aware of the financial consequences. The first of these is that you may not be able to qualify for a refund from your college or university. You should check with them regarding their regulations. Next, you may be asked to refund any federal financial aid you receive. While grants are free money that students are not expected to repay, they are meant to pay the expenses associated with a college education. When you drop out of school, those costs associated with a college education no longer exist. If you feel that you need to leave school and will be unable to complete the term, it is wise to contact your financial aid office for guidance on how this will impact any grants or loans you received.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|