College Grants – Free Money for Students

Cash awards like college grants can help make an undergraduate degree more affordable.

A college grant is a financial aid that, in most instances, does not have to be repaid by students.

They can come from various sources, from the federal government to academic institutions.

Unlike many types of scholarships that are merit-based, grants for college are based on the demonstrated need of students.

Types of College Grants

There are different types of college grants coming from different sources.

Federal grants, which, as the name suggests, come from the federal government, come in various forms, including the most popular of all: the Pell Grant.

Pell Grant

Among all the federal grants available to undergraduate students from low-income families, nothing is as big as the Pell Grant — it helps more than 7.5 million poor students pay for college.

Coming from the US government and disbursed through a college’s Financial Aid Office, a Pell Grant provides funding for up to 6 years.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Simply put, the FSEOG program is something that provides grants to eligible students who demonstrate exceptional financial need.

Each college that participates in the FSEOG program receives a certain amount of funds from the federal government each year, and money goes to students who have the most financial need.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

Planning on going to college to become a primary or secondary school teacher?

Then you may be eligible for the TEACH grant, which will help you shoulder some of the costs of working on a teaching degree.

However, you must agree to teach at a low-income school in a high-need field after graduating from college, or you will have to repay the grant as a loan.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

Undergraduate students eligible to apply for Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are those who have lost a parent or guardian as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11 events.

Those who are not eligible for a Pell Grant for not meeting the required Expected Family Contribution (EFC) may still be eligible for the said program.

And now, let’s check out the different types of grants other than federal grants:

State Grants

As the name suggests, state grants from state governments instead of the federal government.

Many state grants are designed to help students attending public and state colleges pay for their postsecondary education.

In California, for instance, there’s the Cal Grant, which comes in a variety of forms.

Cal Grant A, for example, pays for tuition and fees at four-year colleges, while Cal Grant C, assists with the costs of attending a technical or career school.

Different state grants have different eligibility requirements, although many of them have the same things in common, such as students must be from low-income families and are local residents attending in-state schools.

Institutional Grants

Approximately 40% of all grants that help undergraduate students pay for their college education come from the schools they are attending themselves, and they are referred to as institutional grants.

Both public and private colleges and universities offer institutional grants, although more undergraduates at private non-profit institutions receive them — 81% vs. 45%.

Many public community colleges also offer institutional grants, although only about 16% of their attendees qualify to receive the said type of aid.

Similar to other types of grants, colleges and universities award institutional grants based on demonstrated need.

Private Grants

Last but not least, there are grants for undergraduates coming from private companies and organizations.

Compared to federal grants and institutional grants, private grants are not as popular given that they are from outside the government and academic institutions, which means that you will have to look for them and see which particular programs whose eligibility requirements your financial status and academic goals meet.

To search for private grants, you may inquire with your high school counselor or meet with community leaders. You may also go online and use your trusted search engine or use a reputable scholarship search engine site.

Here are some of the most common sources of private grants:

  • Businesses
  • Corporations
  • Professional associations
  • Non-profits
  • Trade unions
  • Religious institutions
  • Philanthropic societies
  • Advocacy groups

Do College Grants Have to be Repaid?

Grants for college do not have to be repaid by students after graduation.

This is true no matter if the grants are from the federal or state government or from academic institutions or third-party providers.

As mentioned earlier, a college grant is free money to help you pay for your postsecondary education.

So, in other words, a grant is nothing like a loan, which has to be repaid with interest.

However, as always, there are exceptions to the rule.

Federal grants, for instance, may have to be paid back in certain situations, either a part or all of them.

The following are some of the reasons:

  • You withdrew early from the program for which the grant was awarded to you
  • You changed your enrollment status in a manner that reduced your eligibility for the grant
  • You won an outside scholarship or grant that reduced your need for federal student aid
  • You failed to meet the required service obligation, like in the case of a TEACH grant
  • You received Pell Grant funds from several colleges at a time

Eligibility, Application Process and Amounts

Eligibility for college grants can vary from grant to grant and from provider to provider. Unlike most merit-based scholarships, however, grants are designed for students from low-income families.

It’s not uncommon for grants for college to also require some merit component and a certain enrollment status.

What sets apart grants from other financial aid types regardless of the source is that they commonly require applicants to demonstrate financial need, which isn’t surprising since they are free money to pay for college.

Therefore, undergraduate students from families who can pay the full price of college are definitely ineligible.

However, it doesn’t mean right away that you are qualified to receive money that you will not have to pay back after graduation just because you are from a poor household.

The following are some of the eligibility requirements for the Pell Grant:

  • Being a US citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Attending an accredited institution
  • Enrolled either full-time or part-time
  • Must have not earned an undergraduate degree

Grants from other sources, such as colleges and universities and private corporations and organizations, may require students to meet other eligibility requirements, such as a certain GPA or participation in a particular extracurricular activity.

Similarly, there are requirements to meet to remain in the grant program.

How To Apply

To determine whether or not you are eligible to receive federal grants, fill out the FAFSA form.

Many colleges and universities also use the FAFSA in determining who among their students are eligible for institutional aid, although some schools may have their own applications.

Definitely, grants from private sources require filling out their respective application forms.

How Much Money Can You Get

The amount of grant money you can get can vary, depending on the cash award’s program and source.

The Pell Grant, for instance, awards a maximum of $7,395 this year.

On the other hand, some of the institutional grants offered by the University of Illinois Chicago range anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per academic year.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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