Federal grants are an excellent source of college funding, as they’re guaranteed by the government and fairly stable in terms of their disbursement amounts and available the following year. They don’t need to be repaid, and your eligibility for them will be determined by the results of your Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. Federal grants go primarily to undergraduates, although some students pursuing advanced degrees may be considered for certain programs. Most federal grant money also goes to students with high financial need, and some will require that you meet a minimum GPA or other academic standards. Below is a list of available federal grants. Browse through our site for examples of grants based on other characteristics and criteria.
The most popular federal grant is the Pell Grant, an award given primarily to undergraduates who have not yet earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree. (Some students may be eligible for Pell funding to help pay for their first professional degrees.) The maximum award can change yearly and depends on program funding – it is $5,635 for the 2013-2014 academic year – and the total you receive will be based on the results of your FAFSA. Students whose families have a total income of up to $50,000 may be eligible for the need-based funding, though most Pell grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000. The amount of total funding available to colleges is determined by government funding, and most students receive less than the maximum.
Those found eligible for Pell Grant funding may also receive funding through other grants, including the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program. This grant is for undergraduates with the greatest unmet financial need, and most students receive between $100 and $4,000 depending on the intended college and Expected Family Contribution. Although this grant can also be considered a college-based grant as it is disbursed by your intended college, it is awarded to schools by the federal government. Schools must contribute financially to the FSEOG program for funds to be made available to them. (For every three dollars of federal money allocated to FSEOG, the institution is required to contribute one dollar.) Your FAFSA will determine your eligibility, as some schools may not participate in the program.
Pell recipients may also be eligible for the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), which provides up to $750 to freshman and $1,300 to sophomores. To be eligible, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have completed a "rigorous secondary school program of study.” Such programs include Honors, IB or AP courses, and rigorous secondary school programs are listed annually by the Secretary of Education. As awards are only given to students who also qualify for Pell Grants, the program is both need- and merit-based.
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants provide up to $4,000 for each of your third and fourth years if you major in a list of eligible fields of study like math, science technology or engineering. Eligible recipients must already be Pell recipients, and show that they have high enough need to qualify for grant funding beyond their Pell award. Students must also have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and have at least one class in an eligible field of study the year the grant would be awarded.
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program was created in 2007 through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to provide financial assistance for those committing to work as educators in low-income, high-need fields of study. Eligible students may receive up to $4,000 per year. Schools serving low-income students include any elementary or secondary school designated as such by the Department of Education. High-need fields of study include the foreign language, special education, math and science, among others. If students receive the grant and then choose not to pursue the above, the TEACH Grant will be turned into a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan.