College can be tough financially. It’s an investment that needs tons of expenses – the reason why students seek financial aid from the federal government to help them shoulder tuition costs and other school fees. This financial aid comes in the form of grants and scholarships where students are taking advantage of to attend school for free or less.
To help students enroll at higher education institutions, the U.S. Department of Education (ED)’s Office of Federal Student Aid provides information on funding options, which include grants, scholarships and loans for post-secondary education. Grants and scholarships are called as “gift aid”, which is a no-strings attached deal because they are free and doesn’t need to be repaid. Scholarships are often merit-based, while grants are typically need-based.
To apply for federal student aid, you will have to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
Types of federal grants available
ED provides a myriad of federal grants to students who wish to attend four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, trade or career schools.
Federal Pell Grants
This type of grant doesn’t need to be repaid. It’s usually granted only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or any kind of professional degree. However, students enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program can be awarded a Federal Pell Grant.
You are not qualified to get this grant if you have a criminal record or are subjected to “an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense.”
Federal Pell Grant awards may amount to more than $5,000, which will depend on your financial needs at present, costs of attendance, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. You cannot receive Federal Pell Grants from more than one school at a time. Federal Pell Grant beneficiaries receive the full amount they qualify for.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
Like Federal Pell Grants, FSEOG doesn’t have to be repaid. In order to obtain an FSEOG, the FAFSA should be completely filled out so your school can learn how much financial aid you need to have. Students who will get Federal Pell Grants and have the most financial need will obtain FSEOGs first.
It’s advisable to check with your school’s financial aid office to determine whether your school of choice offers the FSEOG since this program is “campus-based” and not all schools participate.
Eligible students can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year, which depends on financial status and need.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
A Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is unlike other federal student grants because it entails applicants to take certain kinds of classes in order to receive the grant, and then do a specific type of job to keep the grant from turning into a loan.
This grant program awards up to $4,000 a year to students who plan to complete or are completing a course required to start a teaching career.
In order to be eligible for a TEACH grant, you must meet basic criteria for federal student aid programs, complete the FAFSA, enroll as an undergraduate, graduate or postbaccalaureate student at a TEACH Grant program participating school, enroll in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program, meet specific academic achievement requirements (usually having a score above the 75th percentile and at least a 3.25 GPA average), complete TEACH Grant counseling, and sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
Under this grant program, eligible recipients are awarded money to college or trade school students to assist them in their educational expense payments. However, this type of grant has a special eligibility criteria.
In order to qualify for this grant, you must:
- Not be eligible for a Federal Pell Grants based on your expected family contribution. However, you must meet the remaining Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
- Have a parent or guardian that was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died during active duty performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.
- Be under 24 years old or enrolled in a postsecondary institution at least part-time at the time of death of your parent or guardian.