Education today costs a lot of money and anything that you can do reduce the amount of money which you have to pay out of your own pocket is going to help very considerably. You may be able to get some help from your parents or family, but you will almost certainly have to raise extra money from somewhere else and, before you look at a loan, you should investigate getting hold of some free money for college by way of a scholarship or grants for college.
Grants are particularly attractive as, unlike loans, they do not have to be repaid. However, they are only awarded on the basis of need and depend upon your status as a student (e.g. full or part-time), the amount of any contribution which can reasonably be expected from your family and the cost of your course of study.
There are currently four types of federal grant aid available:
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
- Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG)
- National Science and Mathematics Access To Retain Talent Grants (National SMART grants)
Federal Pell Grants
Federal Pell grants are the foundation on which the federal student financial aid program is based and to which further aid from both government and non-government sources can be added.
Pell grants are normally only awarded to undergraduate students although, in some cases, it is possible to receive a Pell grant if you are enrolled on a post-baccalaureate teacher’s certificate program.
The amount of Pell grants varies from year to year and you can receive only one award for attendance at a single school within any one year.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
FSEOGs are awarded to undergraduates in particular financial need and who can expect to receive little or no contribution from their family. Students in receipt of a Pell grant will also receive priority in deciding upon the award of a FSEOG.
To receive a FSEOG grant your school must participate in the FSEOG program. Each year the school will receive an allocation of funds from the US Department of Education and the amount of individual awards to students will be decided by the school. For this reason it is very important to apply for college grant money early.
Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG)
The Academic Competitiveness Grant was introduced in 2006 and is available to first and second year full-time undergraduate students who are US citizens enrolled in an eligible program and in receipt of a federal Pell grant.
Eligibility is also dependent upon completion of a rigorous secondary school study program and enrollment in an academic program which runs for at least two years and attracts full credit towards a bachelor’s degree or enrollment on a graduate degree program with at least three years of study.
What exactly constitutes a ‘rigorous secondary school study program’ is a complex matter but includes:
- A program established by a state in response to a request from the US Department of Education.
- An advanced or honors diploma program.
- A required set of courses which are similar to the State Scholars Initiative.
- International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses.
National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants
(National SMART Grants)
The National SMART Grant is available to third and fourth year undergraduate students who are US citizens enrolled in an eligible program and in receipt of a federal Pell grant.
Eligible programs include graduate degree programs which include at least three years of undergraduate study and programs leading to the award of a bachelor’s degree. In both cases programs must major in physical science, life science, computer science, engineering, technology, mathematics or a critical-needs foreign language.
Students must also have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average.
How are grants for college paid?
Grants for college can be paid by schools as follows:
- Into the student’s school account.
- Directly to the student, normally by check.
- A combination of the previous two methods.
- Into the student’s bank account.
Grants for college must be paid at least once each term or, where a school does not follow the traditional term system, must be paid at least twice during the course of an academic year.
If you are interested in getting hold of your share of federal grant money for college then you might find our summary of federal student loans and grants available helpful.