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 Types of Financial Aid for Colleges

There are a variety of types of financial aid available for college students including scholarships, grants and loans. 

College Scholarships

Scholarships are traditionally based on academic achievement or some other form of achievement such as music, athletics or community service.  There are also scholarships that are need-based which are awarded to underprivileged students or minorities.  Scholarships are awarded by a variety of different groups including the state and federal governments, public and private organizations, as well as colleges and universities.  You will find that they vary in their amounts from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.   There are literally thousands of scholarships available so you should spend a great deal of time seeking and applying for scholarships.

Grants for College

Grants are normally awarded based on financial need.   They can be funded by the federal or state government as well as the college you will be attending.  Grants do not need to be repaid.  Grant eligibility is determined based on information provided on your free application for federal student aid form (FAFSA).  This is a mandatory form to fill out if you are interested in aid from any school across the country.

 

Loans for College

To be considered financial aid, an education loan must be repaid with interest.   These loans come in three major categories: student loans, parent loans and private student loans. 

  • Student Loans: Stafford and Perkins Loans

    Federal loans usually have the lowest interest rate and the payments are deferred until after graduation.  Many students borrow money through the Federal Stafford Loan program which awards aid based on the financial need of the student.  The Stafford loan has two variations: Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)  and Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP) .  All Stafford Loans are either subsidized which means the government pays the interest while you're in school or unsubsidized where you are responsible for paying all of the interest but the payments deferred until after graduation.

    FFELP are loans provided by private lenders (banks, credit unions and savings & loans) and are guaranteed against default by the federal government.  Whereas Direct Loans are administered by "Direct Lending Schools" and are provided by the US government directly to students and their parents.

    The best student loan available is the Perkins Loan which is awarded to those with exceptional financial need.  This is a school based loan which means the school acts as the lender using a pool of funds provided by the federal government, and the school's financial aid department determines the amount of loan that you receive.
     

  • PLUS Loans

    Parent PLUS loans allow parents to borrow money to cover school costs for their dependent child not already covered by the student's financial aid package.  These loans are either provided by private lenders (FFELP) or the federal government (Direct).  Repayment of PLUS loans are the responsibility of the parents not the student.
    Normally, repayment begins 60 days after the funds are fully disbursed, and the repayment term is up to 10 years. However there is an option to submit an application for an in-school deferment. this is where parents can defer payments while their undergraduate student, on whose behalf they borrowed the money, is in-school and for a six-month grace period after the student graduates. Note that interest will continue to accrue while deferred since it is not subsidized by the government.
     

  • Private Student Loans

    These loans, also known as Alternative Education Loans, are offered by private lenders and often depend on your credit score.   They help to bridge the gap between money received from government programs and the actual cost of the education.
    Private education loans tend to cost more than the education loans offered by the federal government. Private lenders are banks, credit unions and savings and loan organizations.

Work Study

If you completed the FAFSA and you're eligible for financial aid, then you may be entitled to be part of your school's federal work study program.  FWS-approved colleges receive funding to create campus jobs for students.  This means that you are given the opportunity to help defer some college expenses by working part-time, usually on campus, while you are attending school.