For some low-income graduating high school seniors, as well as many adults, the pricey cost of funding a higher education is the sole reason not to pursue college. Those who are truly college-bound shouldn’t let their economic status stand in their way. There are resources that can help cover tuition costs and living expenses. In fact, some students qualify for so much aid that they can end up going to school entirely for free. While there are different avenues, if you have been accepted into a college of your choice the best place to start looking for assistance is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. By doing so, you may just qualify for an abundant of options which are highlighted below.
Pell grants are only offered to low-income students who have not earned a bachelor degree. A Pell grant is aid awarded by the government and does not need to be paid back unless a student drops below a certain GPA or a certain amount of credit hours—you generally need to register as a full-time student to qualify. While the amount of aid offered varies, the maximum amount a student can earn is $5,550 a year. This may not seem like a lot, but it can be combined with other aid as well. To learn more about Pell grants, click here.
Low Interest Loans
While the common way for an average person to fund for their higher education is to take out loans, this option can result in a huge financial debt after graduation. However, there are some specialized low-interest loans that are only offer to low-income students. Yes, loans have to be paid back, but these loans provide more flexibility than private loans and there is no credit check.
- Stafford Loans. There are two types of loans in the Stafford family: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan. A student will either be offered a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, depending on the severity of financial need. Subsidized loans are always best, because this means the government won’t allocate interest costs until six months after the student has earned their diploma. This is called a “grace period.”
- Federal Perkins Loans. These low-interest loans are distributed by the school you applied to. The government awards each school with a large quantity of funds and it’s up to the school to determine who qualifies for the loan and how much is awarded. There are several factors that determine the loan amount, including how much aid the school originally received from the government, the severity of a student’s need and enrollment status. Students typically have a 9-month grace period after graduation to pay the loan back. For more information click here.
Work-study awards are also distributed by the school you applied to. Unlike a loan, you do not need to pay it back. But unlike a Pell grant, the award is not given to you, and you must work a part-time campus job or pre-approved off-campus job to earn your money. This is a great option, however, since employers do not work students to the bone and they provide flexibility since they know school comes before work. Make sure to check “interested in work-study” when filling out your FASFA form to qualify.
Additional FASFA Tips:
- Make sure you have all of the proper documents before filling out the FASFA form. Documents include the following: Social Security card; driver’s license (if any); W-2 forms; (your spouse’s if married and your parents’ if a dependent); current bank statements ; alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Always makes sure to fill out your FASFA form by the “Priority Deadline” which is typically mid to late March. Filling out your FASFA by the priority deadline will qualify you to earn the most money since aid is distributed on a first-come first serve basis.
- Give yourself plenty of time to answer all of the questions. Don’t rush through. Any mistake could cost you hundreds of dollars in aid.
- For dependents: if your parents are divorced and you live with the parent that makes less money, only report his or her income info. The form only requires income information from the dependent’s guardian.
This guest contribution was submitted by Jamie Davis, who specializes in writing about masters degree. Questions and comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.