By Lissette Camacho Morales
Don’t leave FREE money on the table when it comes to grants and state aid for college. Here are 5 ways to ensure you get what you are entitled to.
Exhaust Grant Aid Before Taking Out Loans
Like a scholarship, a grant is free money to pay for college. The majority of college students will receive grants from at least one of these sources:
- Federal Government
- State Government
- Private Scholarships
It’s important to understand which of these sources you have a realistic chance of tapping into.
Most recipients of Pell Grants have a household income of less than $50,000 annually; however the more children or dependents your family has, the less the actual income amount matters.
What does this mean for you? Occasionally, families with incomes of more than $100,000 per year do receive the Pell Grant and other forms of need-based aid.
Private and state colleges and universities routinely provide grants to students of all income levels.
Apply for Competitive Grants When Feasible
Competitive grants are worth pursuing only if the school agrees to allow grant money to replace loans in your financial aid package.
When a school’s policy does not allow grant money to replace loans, you risk working very hard to win an award that puts money back into the college’s pocket instead of your own.
Unless psychological pay is of primary importance to you, it may not be worth it to you financially to compete for such awards.
You will have to check with each school individually to determine whether or not it’s worth the trouble.
Contact Your State Agency for State Aid for College
State aid for college is financial aid from a student’s state of legal residence. Some states award aid based on financial need; other states award aid based on merit. Qualifying students can use state aid to attend public or private colleges and universities within their own state.
Consider State and Regional Tuition Exchanges
State and regional tuition exchanges are the exception to the rule. That’s because they allow state aid for college to travel with you to attend school out-of-state.
Apply for State Aid for College
Some states use your data from the federal FAFSA form to award aid. Other states require you to fill out a supplemental aid form that is processed by that state’s higher education agency.
- Click the link on the FAFSA on the Web confirmation page entitled “Optional Feature – Start your state application…” when prompted.
- Once completed you will be notified of the status of your state grant application by your state’s higher education agency.
- Unless your state has tuition exchange agreements, the state money will appear only in the financial aid packages from colleges in your own state.
- State aid for college is based not only on need, but also according to the cost of attendance at different schools.
- The amount of state money awarded will differ at various schools according to price. However, similarly priced schools should include similar amounts of state aid in the financial aid offer.
Differences between the federal and state aid formula can make it easier to qualify for state aid. Even if you don’t qualify for federal aid because of your assets, you may still qualify for state money.
As long as your taxable income is within state guidelines, it is possible to qualify for aid in some states even if you own a large home, a business and fairly large investments.
Middle- and upper-middle-class families often leave free grant money on the table. That’s because they assume they make too much money and never even apply for state aid for college.
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Reading Corner. For additional help with school choice check out John Zurick’s recent blog post. Want to learn more about the profound impact student debt is having on young Americans? Click here to read the full 72 page ASA report.