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Pay For School Using Free Assistance

Pay For School Using Free Assistance


Almost every high school student dreams of earning a college degree, and nearly all parents want to see their children graduate from college. There are good reasons for that dream: College is a vital platform for most career aspirations and a necessary step toward graduate and professional degrees, and college graduates consistently earn more, have lower unemployment rates, and have a wider range of opportunities than those without degrees.

Unfortunately, there's a considerable obstacle to the college dream. College in America is brutally expensive. The College Board estimates that including fees, transport, and living expenses, higher education will set you back $17,000/year at a Community College, $24,810 for in-state students at a State University, $39,890 for out-of-state students at a State University, and $49,320 at a private non-profit four-year college.[1] For low-income families who are struggling just to pay the rent and put food on the table, that's unaffordable. Fortunately, a range of government and privately funded grants and scholarships are available to bridge the gap and make college accessible to low-income students.

Let's look at some of the most important scholarship options. Links to programs covered here are supplied at the end of the article.

Start With The FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first application to determine college financial aid, and all other aid uses this form. The FAFSA is required to apply for the Pell Grant, the federal government's leading education assistance program, and is considered in many other scholarship evaluations as well. The FAFSA 2018-2019 became available on October 1st, 2017, and the best awards given are to those who apply early. The FAFSA deadline is midnight, Central Time, June 30, 2019.

Fortunately, a range of government and privately funded grants and scholarships are available to bridge the gap and make college accessible to low-income students.

The information in the FAFSA is used to determine a household's financial capacity and the amount of assistance they need to send a student to college. You'll need to supply information that determines whether the student is an individual or a dependent and verifies the student's income and assets, the parents' income and assets, the family's household size, and the number of family members attending colleges. After filing a FAFSA, an estimated family contribution amount, Pell grant eligibility, and direct student loan totals will be provided in a Student Aid Report (SAR). Fill out the form carefully and be sure the information you supply is accurate. The FAFSA is free, and you do not need to pay anyone to fill out or submit the form. For deadlines, applications, and assistance see the link at the end of this article.

What Is A Pell Grant?

The Federal Pell Grant Program provides funding for low-income undergraduate students. A Pell grant application is automatic with the FAFSA: when you submit the FAFSA, you are applying for a Pell Grant. Only one institution can receive a student's Pell Grant funds. Students must meet all requirements beginning with filing a FAFSA to determine eligibility. The maximum amount of an award is $5,775. This is a grant, and you don't have to pay it back. Students choose from over 5,400 participating institutions.

An individual's financial need, tuition costs, full-time or part-time status, and length of time in attendance determines the amount of each award and the U.S. Department of Education determines financial need. By using a formula developed by Congress, the FAFSA is evaluated to determine the estimated family contribution or EFC.


Undergraduate students with financial need receive Federal Pell Grants through their institution. Participating institutions either credit the funds to the student's school account or issue a check to the student by mail each semester.

More Government Grants

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, FSEOG, is another source of federal funding that you don't pay back after graduation. 4,000 schools nationwide participate in the FSEOG program. Your college disburses the FSEOG funds to you every semester. Your FAFSA determines your SEOG eligibility, and most eligible students receive between $100 and $4,000.

The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant reward academic achievement in specific high-demand fields. The ACG is available to students in the first and second years of college study, and the SMART Grant serves third and fourth-year students. You must be studying in a field covered by these programs, and you must meet and maintain a high standard of academic achievement.

The TEACH Grant serves students preparing for a career in education. These grants are awarded to aspiring teachers in high need fields. To qualify for the program, you must commit to teaching a minimum of four years in a low-income neighborhood within eight years of graduation. If you fail to meet this requirement, all funds you received will be converted into a direct unsubsidized loan, and you'll have to pay them back, with interest dated back to when you or your school received the funds.