Choosing the right college involves the ability to afford its tuition & other expenses. Read a guide on finding financial aid programs available in 2021.
Going to college to further your education is one of the most important steps to take when competing for the career and salary you deserve. Choosing the best college program for you involves more than the curriculum, however. Choosing the right school also involves the ability to pay for tuition and other education-related expenses. Finding financial aid programs to help pay for some or all of your school costs is fortunately easier than ever in 2021.
What types of student financial aid programs are available today? How do I know if I am eligible for student aid assistance? Doing proper research helps you find a vast selection of financial aid opportunites. What are the most popular financial aid programs today? Read more ahead for an informative guide on finding financial aid programs available for you now.
Financial Aid, Am I Eligible?
Choosing the right college involves having the ability to afford its tuition and other education-related expenses. Fortunately for you finding financial aid programs to help pay for some or all of your school costs has never been easier than it is today. A vast selection of financial aid opportunities is discoverable with proper, albeit basic research. Determining your qualification eligibility is what often requires more time and effort.
How do I know if I am eligible for student financial aid? Financial aid is disbursed to qualified students in multiple forms. Your eligibility is dependent on a wide variety of factors, not the least of which is your or your family’s ability to afford tuition without assistance. Certain financial aid programs require you earn a minimum grade point average (GPA) or accomplish a superior academic achievement (SSA) to qualify. Some depend on the state in which you and/or your school are located. Eligibility requirements for various specialty financial aid programs are even geared toward minority, gender, parental, active military or veteran status.
Two Main Types of Financial Aid
The two main types of financial aid funding are student loans and educational grants. While both help pay for your tuition and other school-related expenses, both also have important and notable differences. Student loans are most commonly funded by the U.S. federal government. Loans require repayment with interest. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for most student loans is often low but the money must still be repaid unless specific conditions are met.
Educational grants are funded and/or sponsored by both federal and state government organizations. Private, religious and charitable organizations also disburse grant money to qualified students. The major difference between grants and student loans involves repayment policies. The large majority of grant money awarded to students does not require repayment. Only when a student uses grant funding outside its intended purpose or quits school before graduating is he or she asked to repay the money.
Government-Sponsored Financial Aid
The most common and popular way to apply for student financial aid in 2021 is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The FAFSA form is located on the Federal Student Aid website and potentially leads to many financial aid opportunities today, including federal student loans. Current U.S. President Joe Biden and the United States Congress are discussing the possibility of total student loan forgiveness. At the time of this writing no applicable laws have been passed, however, and student loans must still be repaid.
The U.S. Federal Pell Grant is a highly popular financial aid program today. Pell Grant money is awarded to students capable of proving a specific level of financial hardship. The average amount of Pell Grant funds disbursed per student is approximately $2,000. For 2021-2022 the maximum allowable Pell Grant amount per student is set at $6,345. The most common recipients of government Pell Grant money are undergraduate students who are otherwise unable to afford a higher education.
Multiple types of scholarships are awarded to qualified students in several ways. Do you have an exceptional high school transcript? Is your expected family contribution (EFC) incapable of covering the cost of attendance (COA)? Merit and financial need scholarships are both common forms of student financial aid. Financial need scholarships are granted to exceptional qualified students who otherwise could not afford to attend a particular school. The most common type of scholarship is the merit scholarship, which is awarded based on:
Sports performance or art-related accomplishments.
Quality of extracurricular activities.
Possessing talents, skills or character.
Specialized Financial Aid Programs
Specialized student financial aid programs also exist. These types of education-based funding programs are highly popular, especially in diverse modern times because they are focused on minorities, women’s accomplishments, single mothers and more. For example, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico and New York are a select few U.S. states offering educational grants for single mothers in 2021. The American Associations of University Women (AAUW) funds grants for qualified female students. The federally sponsored Sallie Mae program awards educational grant money to eligible Asian, Hispanic, African, Native American students and more. Other popular specialized financial aid programs in 2021 include:
Capture the Dream ($1,000 to qualified single mothers).
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program ($4,000 per year to needs-based single mothers).
Newcombe Foundation Scholarships for Mature Students, Disabled Students & Special Scholarship Endowments ($22 million+ dollars awarded for students 25+ years old, students with disabilities & economically disadvantaged students at certain institutions)
The Ford Foundation (elevates racial and ethnic diversity in U.S.)
International & Veteran Students
Financial aid for international students and U.S. veterans enrolling in U.S. colleges/universities are also available. FreeGrantsForVeterans.org is a primary resource for locating popular veteran-based financial aid programs in 2021. Scholarships for current or former U.S. Military families are also commonly funded. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides educational and skills-training grants for qualified Veterans as well. International students can find financial aid programs available through the Fulbright Education Exchange Program, the Institute of International Education, the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC) and NAFSA.