Going into college or university is very expensive and not everyone has the money to pay for it. The usual option that students go to is to apply for a student loan to help pay for their degree. Students don’t have to worry about the loan while they’re studying, but they do have to pay it back after graduation, complete with interests that build up over time.
Student loans might sound great at first, but the reality is that it hampers many graduates’ growths and plans for their futures. The average student debt in the U.S. is at $32,731, which is the amount that many students would start paying off once they graduate. That’s a big amount for someone who is just starting their career. Imagine, a big portion of your salary will already go into debt payment, and that’s on top of your living expenses, savings, and other obligations.
This is why many graduates are having issues making a living since they have to deal with a huge debt even before they start their careers. Fortunately, getting a student loan is not the only way to pay for a degree. There are also grant programs available that will allow you to study for free. In this article, we’ll list down the best grant programs that offer free money for students.
The Federal Pell Grants
One of the most popular grant programs available is the Federal Pell Grant. They’re the largest provider of student grants right now and they provide tuition assistance to students who can demonstrate financial need. The eligibility of students is determined annually and that’s going to be based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) disclosures. Qualified students are eligible to receive up to $6,495 of grants for the year 2021.
The maximum amount for the Pell Grants is not set in stone since it changes annually. You must also fill up the FAFSA form every year to make sure you remain eligible during your academic years. The criteria that are usually determined if you’re qualified for a Pell Grant are as follows:
- Financial need beyond the Expected Family Contribution
- The actual cost of attending your school
- Yearlong enrollment as a student
- Full-time or part-time enrollment status
Academic Competitiveness Grant and National SMART Grant
Though these are two separate grant programs, they’re connected. The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) is rewarded to low-income first-year and second-year college students while the National SMART Grant (SMART) is for the low-income third-year and fourth-year college students. Students applying for ACG should be Pell Grant recipient and is enrolled full-time in two or four-year programs and should maintain a 3.0 GPA.
The ACG will also see to it that high school students who took harder classes would get a priority consideration when they apply for science and technology tuition grants when they enter college. The first-year students can get up to $750 while second-year students up to $1,300. For the SMART program, applicants should also be a Pell Grant recipient, are majoring in STEM fields or high need foreign languages, and is academically talented.
Students who qualified for this grant can receive a maximum of $4,000. It is important to remember that the amounts and program specifics change constantly. So you should always keep up to date with these changes by checking with the U.S. Department of Education.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is a grant program that’s designed to help the most financially challenged students in the country. Applicants who will have 0 Expected Family Contribution are the ones who are prioritized to receive the award. Once all of the priority applicants are served, the remaining fund is given to other worthy applicants until all available funds are exhausted.
This is a great program that students who can’t afford to pay for college should apply for. You will need to fill up the FAFSA form and submit it to be considered. The award for the grant will range from hundreds to up to $4,000 annually based on the student’s need. The allowance will take into account the tuition cost, auxiliary scholarship and grants, current Pell Grant award, and university financial aid.
State Grants for College Students
Aside from the grants that the federal government is offering, every state will also have available grants or financial aid programs for students. The state would usually offer grants and financial scholarship aid through their Department of Higher Education or a dedicated Student Assistance Commission. State-funded grants are usually given to low-income students, as well as to support women and minority students.
It’s important to note that each state will have different scholarship programs and grants, as well as different requirements and criteria. You should check the available grants and programs of the state of the college or university that you want to get into. See what you need to do and submit to get a financial aid scholarship or grant.