Government Grants Help Defray College Expenses

College students need all the financial help they can get

If you’re in college or have a child who is, you know all too well how expensive it is to get a degree or diploma these days. Tuition, books, computers, housing, food, transportation – it all adds up to a boatload of money. If you’re eligible for a student loan, getting one can make a huge difference in your ability to afford a good education. Student loans have to be paid back, however, which can strain your finances after graduation, especially if you don’t land a good-paying job right away.

Grants are essentially free money

Before you start school, find out whether you’re eligible for a federal or state grant in addition to a loan. The great advantage of a grant is that it’s yours to keep, so long as don’t drop out of school when you’ve already received your money for that semester. Educational grants are based on financial need, of course, and not everyone can qualify for one. Even if you qualify, you can miss out if you don’t get started early, because there are only a certain number of grant dollars available each year.

Federal Pell grants

The Pell program accounts for the lion’s share of the student grants issued in the United States. Each college in the Pell system receives grant funds that it distributes to eligible students. Depending on your income and the availability of funds, your Federal Pell grant could be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars a year.

If you’re a science, math, or social science major and are receiving a Pell grant, you might also qualify for an Academic Competitiveness grant worth up to $750 in the first year of your academic studies, and $1300 in the second year. Third- and fourth-year math and science majors can request a National SMART grant that pays up to $4000 a year.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity grants

If you’re a student with demonstrable economic hardship, ask your campus financial aid office about Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity grants. Students who qualify stand to receive from $100 and $4000 a year.

State student grants

Each of the 50 states offers a variety of educational grant programs. Most states try to help low-income students who perform well academically by awarding grants based on a combination of their individual financial needs and GPA scores. Many states also offer grant money or loans with concessionary terms to students who are studying specific subjects or who belong to certain minority groups.

For example, if you get an education degree in California, you could have your loans reduced by as much as $19,000 after you graduate if you work in a low-income area, or teach a subject for which there aren’t enough teachers. In many parts of the country, there are grants specifically designed for adult students who didn’t get a college education in their youth, for disabled students, and for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Your state government offices or student-aid website will have details about the state grants that might be available to you. In many cases, you can request student aid online.

Institutional grants

Many colleges administer privately funded grant programs. In additional to serving as a form of supplementary aid for needy students, institutional grants are sometimes used by colleges to attract students with exceptional academic records or athletic abilities. If you think your amazing athletic skills or perfect math scores may be of interest to a particular school, check to see whether the school has an institutional grant program that applies to you.

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