Updated: November 18, 2015

Federal Student Financial Aid for College

To apply for financial aid fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The amount of financial aid you receive depends on factors such as financial need, other financial aid you will receive, and the availability of funds at your school. Unlike the Federal Pell Grant Program, schools participating in a campus-based program have limited funds. When the money is gone, campus programs stop giving out awards.

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Each school sets its own deadlines for campus financial aid applications. The deadlines are before the U.S. Department of Education’s deadline, which is June 30th. Check with a financial aid administrator for school deadlines. Apply early so you don’t miss out on financial aid opportunities.

What is Federal Student Aid?

Federal student aid is financial assistance provided by the federal government. Students enrolled in must be enrolled in an eligible program at a four-year or two-year public or private are eligible for federal aid. Student aid covers expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Federal aid is based on financial need, not on grades.

There are three categories of federal student aid:

Who gets Federal Student Aid?

To be eligible, The Department of Education states that you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen with a valid Social Security number and demonstrate you are qualified for post-secondary education by:

To apply for Federal Student Aid, follow these three steps:

1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Applications for the upcoming academic year are available on January 1st. Federal applications are due June 30th prior to the new academic year. Check with your state for their specific deadlines.

Schools and states set deadlines early in the calendar year. These must be met to receive state funding. Apply early so you don’t miss out on financial opportunities.

2. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)

The Department of Education will send your SAR either in hardcopy or online depending on how you sent in your FAFSA. The SAR confirms the information reported on your FAFSA and contains your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is used determine your eligibility for federal student aid. To receive aid, your SAR must be complete and correct.

3. Contact the School(s) You Want to Attend

Talk to the financial aid staff at the school(s) you’re interested in attending. Be sure to submit all of your information. The financial aid administrator will review your SAR, and if you are eligible, will prepare a letter outlining your financial aid package.

Federal Student Aid Summary

The following is a summary of Federal Student Aid programs that will help you pay for school. Check with your school to find out which programs your school participates in.

Federal Student Aid Program Type Of Aid Program Details Annual Maximum
Award Limits
Federal Pell Grant Grant: does not have to be repaid Available almost exclusively to undergraduates; all eligible students will receive the Federal Pell Grant amounts they qualify for $5,635 for 2013-2014; may change annually depending on funding
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Grant: does not have to be repaid For undergraduates with exceptional financial need; priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients; funds depend on availability at school $4,000
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) Grant: does not have to be repaid For undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate school students planning to teach an in-need subject—for at least four years—in a school that serves students from low-income families. $4,000
Academic Competitiveness Grant Grant: does not have to be repaid For first and second year undergraduates who are eligible for a Pell Grant and who have successfully completed a rigorous high school program. Up to $750 for the first academic year of study and up to $1,300 for the second academic year of study
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant) Grant: does not have to be repaid For third and fourth year undergraduates eligible for a Pell Grant and majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, or engineering or in a foreign language critical to national security. $4,000
Federal Work-Study Money is earned while attending school; does not have to be repaid For undergraduate and graduate students; jobs can be on campus or off campus; students are paid at least minimum wage No annual maximum
Federal Perkins Loan Loan: must be repaid Five percent loans for both undergraduate and graduate students; payment is owed to the school that made the loan $5,500 for undergraduate students; $8,000 for graduate students
Subsidized FFEL or Direct Stafford Loan Loan: must be repaid Subsidized: U.S. Department of Education pays interest while borrower is in school and during grace and deferment periods $3,500 to $8,500, depending on grade level
Unsubsidized FFEL or Direct Stafford Loan Loan: must be repaid Unsubsidized: Borrower is responsible for interest during life of the loan $5,500 to $20,500, depending on grade level (includes any subsidized amounts received for the same period)
Federal PLUS Loan Loan: must be repaid Available to parents of dependent undergraduate students Cost of attendance minus any other financial aid the student receives

Frequently Requested Telephone Numbers

General information about the federal student aid programs, assistance in completing the FAFSA, and information about FAFSA on the Web are available through the Federal Student Aid Information Center 1-800-4-FED-AID
TTY users (for the hearing-impaired) can call 1-800-730-8913
Callers in locations without access to 800 numbers may call (this is not a toll-free number) 1-319-337-5665
To report fraud, waste, or abuse involving federal student aid funds 1-800-MIS-USED
Information on the Direct Consolidation Loan Program 1-800-557-7392
TTY number for Direct Consolidation Loan information 1-800-557-7395

Useful Web Sites

FAFSA on the Web (info & technical assistance) www.fafsa.ed.gov
Help in completing the FAFSA www.ed.gov/prog_info/SFA/FAFSA/
Federal school codes (used to complete the FAFSA) www.fafsa.ed.gov/FOTWWebApp/FSLookupServlet
Federal government resources for education students.gov/
College Opportunities Online (COOL database) www.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cool/
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook www.bls.gov/oco/

State Agency Telephone Numbers

These agencies provide information on state education programs, colleges and universities, student aid assistance programs, grants, scholarships, continuing education programs, career opportunities, and some guaranty agencies. You can search the U.S. Department of Education’s database at www.studentaid.ed.gov, for contact information and Web site addresses. At the site, click on "Funding," then click on "State aid." You can also contact the agency by calling the telephone number listed below:

Alabama 1-334-242-1998
Alaska 1-800-441-2962
Arizona 1-602-258-2435
Arkansas 1-800-547-8839
California 1-888-224-7268
Colorado 1-303-866-2723
Connecticut 1-860-947-1855
Delaware 1-800-292-7935
District of Columbia 1-202-727-6436
Florida 1-888-827-2004
Georgia 1-770-724-9030 (Hope Scholarship/Tuition Eq. Grant)
1-404-656-5969 (Robert C. Byrd Scholarship information)
Hawaii 1-808-956-8213
Idaho 1-208-334-2270
Illinois 1-800-899-4722
Indiana 1-317-232-2350
Iowa 1-800-383-4222
Kansas 1-785-296-3421
Kentucky 1-800-928-8926
Lousiana 1-800-259-5626
Maine 1-800-228-3734
Maryland 1-410-260-4565
Massachusetts 1-617-994-6950
Michigan 1-877-323-2287
Minnesota 1-800-657-3866
Mississippi 1-601-432-6997
Missouri 1-800-473-6757
Montana 1-800-537-7508
Nebraska 1-402-471-2847
Nevada 1-702-486-7330
New Hampshire 1-603-271-2555
New Jersey 1-800-792-8670
New Mexico 1-800-279-9777
New York 1-888-697-4372
North Carolina 1-919-549-8614
North Dakota 1-701-328-4114
Ohio 1-888-833-1133
Oklahoma 1-800-858-1840
Oregon 1-800-452-8807
Pennsylvania 1-800-692-7392 (loan information)
1-800-692-7435 (state grants)
Rhode Island 1-800-922-9855
South Carolina 1-803-737-2260
South Dakota 1-605-773-3455
Tennessee 1-800-342-1663
Texas 1-800-242-3062
Utah 1-800-418-8757
Vermont 1-800-642-3177
Virginia 1-804-225-2600
Washington 1-360-753-7800
West Virginia 1-888-825-5707
Wisconsin 1-608-267-2206
Wyoming 1-307-777-7763
American Samoa 1-684-699-1141
Guam 1-671-475-0457
Northern Mariana Islands 1-670-234-6128
Puerto Rico 1-787-724-7100
Virgin Islands 1-340-774-4546