Free Money? Sounds too good to be true, however, if you’re preparing for and funding your education beyond high school, it’s definitely worth looking into. This year, the Department of Education will provide more than $83 billion, which is about 60 percent of all student aid, to help millions of students and families pay for postsecondary education. Federal and state grants are one of the largest sources of direct student aid available. The advantage of grants, compared to loans, is that you don’t have to pay the money back.
4 Major Types of Grants
1. Federal Pell Grants, the largest federal grant program, range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, and are based on need, as determined by the student’s college of choice. Students must be pursuing their first undergraduate degree. Eligible colleges receive a fixed amount of money each year and when the money is gone, it’s gone.
2. Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, ranging from one hundred dollars to four thousand, are available to those students with exceptional need. To be considered, be sure to apply early.
3. State Grants are also based on need, but vary among states. Programs may be targeted to encourage study in certain fields. For more detail regarding specific programs in your state, go to your state’s website for student aid.
4. Institutional Grants come directly from the colleges and can supplement federal or state grants when they’re not enough. They’re also used to attract a particular student.
· Academic Competitiveness Grants are awarded to students in addition to the Pell Grant. It can provide up to $750 for the first year and up to $1,300 for the second year of undergraduate school for full-time students. There are several factors to determine eligibility, including grade point average.
· National SMART (Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) Grants offer up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth years of undergraduate study to full-time students who qualify.
To apply for federal aid, or for many state aid programs, students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student (FAFSA) form. Remember to apply as early as possible because the money does run out. The earliest you can submit your application for the next school year is January 1. The hassle of filling out so many forms and providing copies of your tax return is well worth the trouble and may help you avoid debt upon graduation. Fore more information, go to the Department of Education website at http://www.ed.gov, or Sallie Mae at http://www.salliemae.com.