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Financial Aid Resources For Post- High School Education

< Beyond High School

Financial Aid Resources for Post-HIgh School Education

You can work with your child to develop a sound plan for financing college.

What is Financial Aid?
"Financial aid" refers to programs that help students and families pay for college or graduate school. Aid can be merit-based (i.e., based on academic excellence, artistic talent, athletic talent) or need-based (i.e., based on a family's ability to pay for college).

Over half of the nation's 15 million postsecondary students receive financial aid. Most of this aid is need-based.

Financial Aid is available in four forms:
  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Loans
  • Work-study
Three major sources provide the bulk of student financial aid:
  • Federal government
  • State governments
  • Colleges and universities
Students can also receive aid from private sources such as:
  • Companies
  • Community groups
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Schools
  • Banks
  • Other lending institutions
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What Aid Programs are Available?
There are a number of aid programs available to help finance a college education.
  • Federal and State Grants. Grants do not have to be repaid. Federal and state grant programs include:
    • The Pell Grant Program, which provides grants to low-income undergraduates.
    • The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) Program, which supplements Pell Grant and other aid to low-income students.
    • The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program, which provides states with grant money for college students.

  • Scholarships. Scholarships are awarded for merit-based achievement in academic or other areas (music, art, athletics), although financial need may be a consideration as well. Scholarships do not have to be repaid.

  • Loans. Federal loan programs help students borrow money for college at reasonable interest rates, with flexible repayment options. Loans must be repaid. Federal loan programs include:
    • The Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program makes loans available to students and their families through about 7,100 participating private lenders.
    • The William D. Ford Direct Student Loan Program finances federal loans to students. Students fill out one application and borrow directly from the federal government, not from a bank.
    • The Perkins Loan Program provides low-interest loans to undergraduate and graduate/professional students who demonstrate financial need.

  • Work-Study. Under the work-study program, students are provided part-time jobs on or off campus to help pay for their education expenses. Federal and college financial aid applications and websites generally have work-study options.

  • Additional Government Programs, including:
    • TRIO programs provide services to low-income students, including help in choosing a college, tutoring, personal and financial counseling, career counseling and workplace visits.
    • The Hope Scholarship Tax Credit allows students, or their parents or guardians, to claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 per student for out-of-pocket tuition and fees. The credit is available for each of the first two years of classes toward a degree or certificate from a college or vocational school.
    • The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit allows college students or their families to claim up to 20 percent of qualified out-of-pocket expenses associated with earning a degree per year.
    • The Coverdell Education Savings Account is a savings account to finance the education expenses of a child or other designated beneficiary. Contributions are limited to $2,000 per year and are not tax deductible. However, funds grow tax free until withdrawn to pay college tuition.

  • College Based Financial Aid. Nearly 19 percent of available aid comes from colleges. Contact the financial aid office of the college your child wishes to attend for more information.

  • Private Scholarships and Grants. Organizations, foundations, businesses and other groups offer scholarships to academically promising students. Help your child investigate possibilities by talking to your child's school guidance counselor and visiting the local library.

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How Do I Discuss Financial Aid With My Child?
You can help your child become aware of the many financial aid options available and can also make sure he or she meets financial aid application deadlines.
  • Sit down with your child to discuss all the financial aid opportunities and resources available.

  • Talk with your child's school guidance counselor to get more information about merit-based scholarships, grants and private scholarships.

  • Check with the colleges to which your child is applying to get more information about the financial assistance they offer, including the necessary applications and forms.

  • Contact your state's higher education office.

  • Go to the reference section of your public library to find information about financial assistance.

  • Make a list of all financial aid resources for which your child wants to apply. The list should include:
    • Your family's contribution
    • Federal and state loans
    • Federal and state grants and scholarships
    • College-based financial aid
    • Private loans
    • Private scholarships and grants
    • In-college or post-college volunteer and service programs and any other financial aid sources to which you have access.
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What Additional Resources Should my Child Consider?
There are other resources you can use to put together a financial plan:
  • See The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the U.S. Department of Education for more information on federal financial aid, or call 1-800-4-Fed-Aid (1-800-433-3243).

  • Contact your state higher education agency for more information on state financial aid.

  • Consider volunteer and service programs that pay for some educational expenses:
    • Americorps (1-800-942-2677)
    • Peace Corps (1-800-424-8580)
    • Merchant Marine Academy (1-866-546-4778)
    • ROTC

  • Check out free scholarship and grant resources online, such as:
    • College is Possible
    • College Board's Pay for College
    • FastWeb
    • Peterson's Financial Aid

  • Consider Internet services that search for potential scholarships and grants for a fee.
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