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.
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:
- Grants: Grants are financial aid that you do not have to repay. Most grants are for undergraduate students. The amount you receive depends on financial need, cost of attendance, and enrollment status (either part or full time). The maximum amount per student given by Federal Pell grants for the 2012-2013 school year was $5,635. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs) range from $100 to $4,000.
- Work-Study:Work-study offers you the opportunity to earn money while you’re in school to help pay for your education. The Federal Work-Study Program encourages students to work on campus, in the local community, and in an area related to your field of study. Both undergrad and graduate students qualify.
- Loans: Both private and federal loans are borrowed funds and must be repaid with interest. Undergraduates and the parents of dependent undergrads can take out loans. Graduate students can also borrow, but must take out their own loans. The maximum amount you can borrow depends on your grade level. Federal Perkins Loans are offered by participating schools to students who demonstrate the most financial need. Federal Pell Grant recipients get top priority for financial aid. Those loans repaid to the school. Stafford Loans are lent to undergraduate and graduate students. PLUS Loans are lent to grad students and the parents of dependent undergraduates through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program at participating schools. These loans are repaid to the U.S. Department of Education.
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:
- Having a high school high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) Certificate
- Pass an approved Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) test
- Meet state standards approved by the Department of Education
- Complete the equivalent of a high school education in an approved home school setting
- Enroll in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate
- Register (or have registered) with the Selective Service if you’re a male between 18 and 25
To apply for Federal Student Aid, follow these three steps:
1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- For FAFSA on the Web, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov To get general student aid information, go to www.studentaid.ed.gov
- For a hardcopy, go to:
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||
|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||
|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||
|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:
|District of Columbia||1-202-727-6436|
|Georgia||1-770-724-9030 (Hope Scholarship/Tuition Eq. Grant)|
|1-404-656-5969 (Robert C. Byrd Scholarship information)|
|Pennsylvania||1-800-692-7392 (loan information)|
|1-800-692-7435 (state grants)|
|Northern Mariana Islands||1-670-234-6128|
Last Reviewed: February 2017
- FAFSA and Other Daunting Financial Aid Acronyms
- FAFSA on the Web
- FAFSA on the Web Provides Speedy Financial Aid Processing
- Federal Grant Programs: Pell and FSEOG
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Federal Student Financial Aid for College
- Federal Work Study
- FSEOG: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
- The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application
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