Unlike education loans, grants are a form of financial aid that do not have to be repaid. All the money you receive through grant programs is completely yours, with no additional costs required. Similar to scholarships, grants require filling out applications to determine whether or not you are eligible to receive this type of aid. However, grants are highly dependent on your results from the FAFSA form, in that you level of need based on those results will have significant influence on whether or not you are eligible for a grant and, if you are, just how much you are eligible to obtain.
Due to dependency on an individual’s personal level of financial need, applying is really all you can do yourself to try to earn grant money. Unlike scholarships, there are no essay questions that provide you with added opportunity to explain why you are a viable candidate. Grants are typically given out based on your personal financial information, as well as that of your family. The most sought after grants are listed below:
- Federal Pell Grant - This is the largest federal grant option, and is solely based on the level of financial need of the individual applying. There are no academic requirements needed to qualify besides attending a school that is eligible for the program. However, this type of funding can be revoked should the student not maintain the satisfactory academic record designated by the program. Eligibility for this grant is determined by a student’s results. If a student does receive this grant, the student’s high school will either add the credit of the grant to the college amount or pay the student directly. It is a federal government guarantee that each participating high school receives substantial funding in order to pay the Federal Pell Grants for all students who qualify.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) - This federal grant program is also need-based, and follows similar payment criteria as the Federal Pell Grant. However, this grant is directed at students whose FAFSA results exhibit exceptional financial need, such as being among the lowest Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amounts. Those who receive the Federal Pell Grant also receive priority for this grant, but are not necessarily guaranteed it.
- Institutional Grants - These grants are provided by education institutions, such as colleges and universities, in order to help bridge the gap between college costs and a family’s EFC based on their FAFSA results. Merit awards or merit scholarships are other forms of institutional grants that are awarded based on academic achievement. Some merit awards, however, are only awarded to students based on their level of financial need.
- Education Tax Benefits - These tax benefits help offset the cost of education, and include things like tax credits, tax deductions and exclusions from gross income. Tax deductions offset the applicant’s total income, which will adjust the gross income, thus decreasing the taxable income amount. Credits are similar to deductions except they reduce the total amount of the individual’s tax liability. Tuition and fees deductions are also available.
- Private and Employer Grants - This grant money is provided by the private sector. Private organizations and community foundations administer grant opportunities to students who meet specific criteria for eligibility, whether it be community involvement, academic achievement or something of the sort. If a student who is older and employed full-time, his or her employer may have access to financial support through them. Some companies offer incentives for their employees to further their educations by providing additional funding for their education.
- State Grants - These are public funds received from state agencies that are completely separate from those listed in the federal sector. They are awarded by individual states, and their amounts vary. They are awarded to students based on financial need.
Grants can be a great source of financial aid, particularly if you come from a low-income family.