Once you’ve figured out your area of interest and what kind of degree or certification you’ll pursue, the next big question is how to pay for it. While higher education costs can seem prohibitive, the good news is that there are lots of options available to help you finance your academic pursuits.
Financial aid options that may be available to you include scholarships, grants, loans, and even work-study programs and assistantships. Private loans are another solution to helping you achieve your educational goals. And if you’ve served in the military, you can also take advantage of tax credits and benefits to help offset the cost.
The links below contain extensive information on each of the different types of federal student aid available to prospective students like you to help cover the costs of a degree program. Take the time to explore your options and understand which ones might meet your financing needs best.
The following is a summary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs. Check with your school to find out in which programs it participates.
|Federal Student Aid Program||Type of Aid||Program Details||Maximum Award Amounts|
|Federal Pell Grant||Grant (not repaid)|
Available almost exclusively to undergraduate students.
Annual: $5,550 (for calendar year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)
|Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)||Grant (not repaid)|
For undergraduates with exceptional financial need. Priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients.
Annual: $100-$4,000 depending on school funds availability
|Federal Work-Study||Earned (not repaid)|
For undergraduate and graduate students (not available to international students). Student coordinates with school to find eligible employers. Jobs can be on campus or off campus. Students are paid at least minimum wage.
|Academic Competitiveness Grant||Grant (not repaid)|
For undergraduates receiving Pell Grants who are U.S. citizens enrolled full-time in their first or second academic year of study.
For first academic year students who have completed a rigorous secondary school program of study, graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2006, and have not been previously enrolled in an undergraduate program.
For second academic year students who have completed a rigorous secondary school program of study, graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2005, and have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA at the completion of their first year of post-secondary study.
First academic year students: up to $750
Second academic year students: up to $1,300
|National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART Grant)||Grant (not repaid)|
For undergrads receiving Pell Grants who are U.S. citizens enrolled full-time in their third or fourth academic year of an eligible degree program majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences, engineering, technology, mathematics or a critical-need foreign language and have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
Up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth academic years
|Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant||Grant (not repaid)|
For students not eligible for a Pell Grant on the basis of expected family contribution but who meet the remaining Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
A parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.
Student was under 24 years of age or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of their parent’s/guardian’s death.
Annual : $5,550 (for calendar year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)
|Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant||Grant (not repaid)|
Eligible students must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Service in which they agree to teach in:
Up to $4,000 a year
|Federal Perkins Loan||Loan|
Interest paid by lender while student is in school or period of deferment. Available to all undergraduate or graduate students with financial need attending at least half-time.
Annual - $5,500 undergraduate / $8,000 graduate & professional
|Subsidized FFEL or Direct Stafford Loan||Loan|
Funds provided directly by and repaid to school. Determined by financial need & fund availability. Interest rate is five percent.
Annual - $3,500-$8,500 depending on grade level
|Unsubsidized FFEL or Direct Stafford Loan||Loan|
Interest paid or accrued by borrower while student is in school or in grace or deferment period. Available to all undergraduate or graduate students with financial need attending at least half-time.
Annual - $5,500-$20,500 (less any subsidized amounts received for the same year) depending on grade level and dependency status
|FFEL or Direct Parent PLUS Loan||Loan|
Available to parents of dependent students who are enrolled at least half-time. Interest paid or accrued by borrower for length of loan. PLUS Loans are unsubsidized. Borrower must not have negative credit history. PLUS program is now available to undergrad, graduate and professional degree students.
Maximum amount is cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received; no minimum reward amount.