College Grants to Help You Pay For Your Degree

College Grants (also known as Federal College Grants) are something highly sought after when one is looking at their options to pay for college. Now during this exploration phase of ways to pay for college, there are going to be a lot of terms thrown at you. It’s super important to know and understand them.  Do not get overwhelmed as it’s easy to do. We will break this all down together!

What are College Grants?

Federal Grants Can also be called “gift-aid” due to the fact that it’s free money. Scholarships also fall under this umbrella as well. So grants do not have to be paid back. The source of the Federal Grants is from the federal government, state government, or your college. Private and nonprofit organizations can also be sources for College Grants.

Difference between College Grants and Scholarships

Federal Grants for College  

  • Awarded based on student’s demonstrated financial need
  • Financial need is determined by the FAFSA
  • Considered to be a type of “financial aid”
  • Awarded by federal and/or state governments
  • Colleges and Universities can also offer grants

College Scholarships

  • Also considered a form of “financial aid”
  • Issued by corporations and individuals
  • Will have an application process (including an essay)
  • Scholarships can also be exclusive based on a student’s ethnicity, major, state they live in, etc.

The following I’m going to say based on my professional experience. The term “financial aid” seems to be used loosely by both the schools and parents/students. Just to note that Financial Aid is comprised of grants and federal loans. There has been so many times that I was in financial meetings with students and when the term “financial aid” came up, their definition was completely different than mine. It’s a big umbrella but it’s again important to know what each and exact term means.

Types of Federal Grants

There are quite a few Federal Grants for College. Your eligibility for them will be determined with the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There will be more in depth posts about each of these however, I want to quickly review and define them.

Federal Pell Grants 

These grants are awarded to students only pursing an undergraduate degree program. They have to display exceptional financial need (determined by the FAFSA). Amounts awarded can change yearly and there is a maximum amount per award year. Those amounts are determined on your Expected family contribution (EFC), cost of attendance determined by the school, full-time status. 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Not all schools participate in the FSEOG Grant. One should check with your school’s financial aid office. Again, you will need to complete the FAFSA form and you will need to display financial need and that will determine the amounts. Now this is very important to note and that is the schools that participate in this are allotted a certain about of funds from the Department of Education. Once these schools use the full amounts then no more FSEOG awards can be made for that year.

TEACH Grants  

TEACH stands for Teacher Education Assistance for College and High Education. This is different from the other federal student grants as it comes with a requirement which is to be enrolled in a TEACH-Grant Program (in education). Again the FAFSA completion will be needed for eligibility. The shrewd and harsh aspect of this grant is if you do not carry through with the requirements for service then it gets converted to a loan.

Federal Work Study Student Program

Federal Work-Study program provides students with part-time jobs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Again, financial need must be established. The schools administer the programs so you will need to ensure that the school you are applying for participates in the program. The pay will be based on the current federal minimum wage rates and you are then paid directly by the school. The hours will vary based on your class schedule.

SMART Grants

This grant is intended to for those interested in math and science fields. The FAFSA determines eligibility and it’s for those in their third of fourth year of their undergraduate program. The tricky thing is if awarded this grant, it cannot combine with the Pell Grant and exceed your Cost of Attendance.

 I will go into more details on these and dedicate an individual blog post for them. However, I wanted to share with you the quick rundown and quick facts in relation to them.

State Sponsored Federal College Grant Opportunities Examples

Each state maintains its own program for college grants. They are only available to student residents. There are a lot of state specific grants but below are some examples few examples. I pretty much just listed examples from the states I have either lived in or have family members that live there. I encourage all to visit their state’s high education website to find out additional information.

Florida College Grants

Access to Better Learning and Education Grant

Facts: For Florida residents who choose to go to an eligible private college or university. Applicants must not be in default on their current student loans. You must maintain at least a 2.0. GPA.

Award Amounts: Those eligible can receive up to $1,500 in tuition assistance.

First Generation Matching Grant

Facts: For first-generation college students. The amount you will receive will be based on the college’s discretion. It’s a need-based grant and neither of your parents would have earned a bachelor’s degree.   

Award Amounts: Those eligible can receive enough to cover the full cost of tuition.  

Effective Access to Student Education Program

Facts: Known formerly as the Florida Resident Access Grant. Students can receive assistance to students attending a participating private and nonprofit university. Those schools will have their own procedures, deadlines and amounts.

Award Amounts: Amounts to be determined by the participating school.

New York College Grants

Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)

Facts: Available for state residents enrolled at an approved state college or university. Applicants must be legal residents of New York State and enrolled full-time. Award amounts are determined by financial need.   

Award Amounts: Maximum annual award will be $5,000

Part-Time TAP Program

Facts: Similar to the program above, this is designed for students enrolled for a minimum of 6 credit hours per semester at the participating colleges. You must maintain a “C” average and meet the state’s minimum income requirements.

Award Amounts: Award amounts vary and are determined by financial aid.

New York State Aid for Part Time Study

Facts: This is a part time study program that is designed to those pursing their degree part time. The eligibility is based on state and federal taxable income.  

Award Amounts: The maximum annual award is $2,000.

New York State Educational Opportunity Program

Facts: This program is funded by the state and managed through the financial aid departments as the colleges. Designed for those who are academically (and economically) disadvantaged students accepted into the program will receive counseling.

Award Amounts: Award amounts vary

Ohio College Grants

Ohio College Opportunity Grant

Facts: This program is funded by the state and managed through the financial aid departments as the colleges. Designed for those who are academically (and economically) disadvantaged students accepted into the program will receive counseling.

Award Amounts: Award amounts vary

Ohio Safety Officers College Memorial Fund

Facts: Providing grants to the dependent children and the spouses of police offers and firefighters who were unfortunately killed in the line of duty.  You must be enrolled either full-time or part-time at an Ohio state college or University

Award Amounts: Award amounts will cover the full tuition

Forever Buckeyes Program

Facts: This is actually not a grant but it’s more providing financial assistant to residents of Ohio who have left the state but are returning to attend college. Former residents of Ohio will have a reduced state tuition rates. Its intent is to make colleges and universities in Ohio more attractive.  

Award Amounts: Award amounts vary

New Jersey College Grants

Tuition Aid Grant

Facts: Available to high school students and undergraduate students in any field of study. This need-based grant has provided over $71,000 awards. The award limit varies according to type of school that the student plans to attend. Financial aid will need to be proven along with being a U.S. citizen who has lived in New Jersey for at least twelve months.

Award Amounts: It can range anywhere between the amounts of $2,318 to $10,468.

Educational Opportunity Grant Fund

Facts: Grant is for student who need additional beyond the Tuition Aid Grant. It’s to use for both undergraduate and graduate student for any educational expense. This includes books, fees, and room and board.  

Award Amounts: Those students who receive this grant are eligible for those amounts between $200 – $2,500.

POW/MIA Dependents Grants

Facts: For New Jersey students who parents were declared prisoners of war or those missing in action after January 1, 1960.  Only four awards are granted each year.

Award Amounts: Those students who receive this grant can cover the entire cost of their undergraduate degree.

Veterans Tuition Credit Program

 Facts: Granted to both the fall and spring semesters, this program can help New Jersey veterans obtain a graduate and/or doctoral degree. Students would have served between December 31, 1960-May 7th, 1975 and must have lived in New Jersey when discharged.

Award Amounts: Those students who receive this grant can get anywhere between $200 and $400 for full-time attendance or $100 for part-time attendance.

How to Apply for Federal College Grants?

We talked about Federal College Grants but now how does one apply for them and what do you really need to know? Read through each of these steps carefully and understand them. Reread them a few times if you need to.

Step 1: The FAFSA Application

You will need to fill out the FAFSA. Both federal and state governments can give out college grants. However, to know if you are eligible you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are several reasons to complete a FAFSA (In fact I will be dedicating an episode in the future to the FAFSA). But we want to do this to see what grants we can potentially be eligible for. And another note is that just because you complete the FAFSA you don’t have to accept the loan portion you can deny know and just receive the grants if you want and if taking the loans is not in your financial college gameplan.

Step 2: Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Find out what your Expected Family Contribution is (EFC) – So what is an EFC. Well the EFC is an important number. It’s used to make the determination how much financial aid you will receive. It’s a formula created that factors in your family’s taxed and untaxed incomes, assets, and benefits. Family size and family members who are also attending college are factored into the equation. Studentaid.ed.gov has a PDF showing the formula. So that number is subtracted from the overall Cost of Attendance (COA) and that’s how the financial need is established.

So a quick example:

Cost of Attendance (the average cost to attend for one academic year fall to spring).  = $20,000

Based on your completed FAFSA the EFC  = $10,000

Financial Need = $5,000. So that means you aren’t eligible for more than $5,000 in need-based aid.

Step 3: Understand College Grant Options

Those are and this is Step 3 – Understand your federal grant options. Those options are….

Again all the grants mentioned above will we be covering in more detail in future posts.

Step 4: Look at College Specific Grants  

Look at the grants offered from your school. You can complete a CSS Profile to get access to grants. There is an application cost of $25 for this. This is something that professionally I haven’t had much experience with so I will be researching this more.

Step 5: Check State Grants

Look into state grants. As mentioned above, each state offers College Grants. I just gave a few examples for the states of Florida, New York, Ohio, and New Jersey but let me tell you there are lots out there. I truly think that there is a lot of untapped potential with the state specific grants.

Step 6: Niche and Special Grants

Look into the niche and special grants that are available.

This is where things get a little convoluted in my personal and professional opinion. This is not as clear-cut as applying and getting a scholarship and then it gets awarded. With grants, it’s layered and most of the factors such as EFC really don’t make sense how it’s calculated as it is kind arbitrary. I’ve seen students in the past who had some EFC’s that really confused me based on what they completed on their FAFSA. It’s best to become well versed in these terms such as EFC, COA, Pell Grants, etc. That will really help us arm with knowledge as we explore the options.

Again in the future I will be dedicating full posts on what we previously discussed so we get a really clear understanding what things mean and what we are up against. I cannot stress that enough and again I say that so we are the meanings of each of these. Knowing what all these mean will allow us to take full advantage of the funding that is out there. Again the method of taking a little bit from here and a little bit from there can result in a great foundation to pay for you college. Grants are just one piece of the puzzle. There are more pieces that are just as vital. Being proactive and giving yourself enough time will allow you not to rush and ensure each one of your steps is done with strategy.

Tuition Drop Podcast

If you’d like to listen to our episode of the Tuition Drop Podcast on College Grants, check it out below.

Tuition Drop Podcast – College Grants

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