Student Grant Programs

  • August 8, 2019
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness

Student grant programs are similar to scholarships in that they are free financial aid that you are not required to repay. Federal and state governments commonly fund student grants, which are typically based on things like economic need, ability to pay, student status and academic requirements. The federal government is one of the largest providers of student grants. In order to qualify, you must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually.  Grant programs are typically based on merit or financial need.

Merit-Based Student Grants

Merit-based grants provide free college funds to students based on academic performance, sometimes in combination with financial need.  The most common types of merit-based grants are state-based grants, which award education money to students with certain grade point averages and income levels.  State grants usually require a separate application form, but may also require you file the FAFSA.  Most state-based grants may be found directly on your state’s higher education website.

Need-Based Student Grants

Need-based grants are often awarded to students who may not be able to attend college without the funds.  Sometimes your family income is a key in the formula for determining the ability to pay and sometimes it is not.  Most need-based grants are funded by the federal governmentThe most common federal grant is the Pell Grant, designed to provide financially disadvantaged undergraduate students with financial assistance. The amount you receive each year may change depending on federal budget restrictions, your family’s expected cost contribution and your student status. The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is awarded only to students with the most need.

There are also federally-funded work-study programs, which provide financially needy students with on-campus (or, in some cases, off-campus) job opportunities. These part-time positions are held while the student is enrolled in school, and are available to both part-time and full-time undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. However, not all schools participate in the Federal Work-Study Program; the U.S. Department of Education recommends you check with your school’s financial aid office to find out if your school participates.  

Qualifying for a Need-Based Grant

Qualifying for a need-based grant does not necessarily hinge on your family income, so don’t rely on this to self-qualify yourself for aid. In fact, plenty of college students have a significant family income but still qualify for federal grant aid based on other factors such as the number of dependent family members, number attending college and expected family contribution.

The U.S. Department of Education defines financial need as “the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).” You will need to fill out the FAFSA every year to see if you qualify for a need-based student grant.

Other Types Student of Grants

There are plenty of other grants out there, such as grants for minorities, women, disabled individuals, etc.  

For example, the Montgomery G.I. Bill enables students who have served in the military to possibly qualify for federal funding.  There is also an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant for those who had a “parent or guardian die as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

There are also grants specifically for students who “plan to become a teacher in a high-need field in a low-income area.” These TEACH grants require teaching in a certain kind of job for a certain length of time.

These and other types of student grants may have different eligibility requirements. Do some research online at the official Federal Student Aid website, or FinAid to get a better understanding of what you might qualify for.

How to Apply for Student Grants

Most types of grant programs also require you to file a FAFSA, so make this the first application you fill out. Because funding may be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, you should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible — after January 1 of the year you are requesting aid. This can be done for free online or by mail, and typically takes an hour or two to complete.

By filing the FAFSA, you already are automatically considered for any federal grants. State grants often have different deadlines and requirements.

Learn More About Student Grants and Paying for School

It may be helpful to review your grant options. Our financial wellness experts can help you. Call the GreenPath Student Loan Helpline to get started today.

Jeremy Final

Jeremy Lark is dedicated to combating financial strife and stress through financial wellness, education, and technology. Through his work as Senior Manager of Client Services, he has helped GreenPath’s clients find the tools and resources they need to turn their lives around. Jeremy has been with GreenPath for 12 years, and while a born-and-bred Yooper, currently resides in the Detroit area.