A college education is crucial in order to remain competitive in today’s job market. Unfortunately, a good education can be quite costly, and many students graduate from their university deeply in debt and can spend years or even decades trying to get out again. There are many opportunities to gain grant money towards your education, and it is to the student’s advantage to explore every option before signing up for costly student loans.
Grants are available for many different reasons and qualifications, from financial need and educational excellence to community service and valuable research. It is up to the students to take advantage of the areas in which they excel in order to get the greatest possible advantage to their education.
Certain career choices will make it easier to obtain school grant money. For example, the TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant Program, created in 2007, offers grant money to students who intend to become teachers in low income and high need areas. The grant is $4,000 per year and can apply to any elementary or post-secondary institution, public or private, that meets the requirements. In order to receive this grant, students must agree to serve for at least four academic years in a high need area and sign a contract, enroll in a university that participates in the TEACH Grant Program, maintain at least a 3.25 GPA throughout their coursework, and work in a high need field. These include but are not limited to bilingual education and English as a second language, mathematics, foreign language, reading specialist, science, and special education. If you do not meet the work requirements of the program, the grant money will be commuted to loans and interest rates from the time of disbursement will apply.
The medical field also has a number of grants available for education. The Loan Repayment Grant provides loan forgiveness for students who agree to work for a number of years in areas of personnel shortage in the medical field. The Nursing Scholarship Program provides full tuition, books, university fees, and a monthly stipend of $1,326 to students who agree to work in areas with a nursing shortage upon completion of their degree. The BAGNC Pre-doctoral Scholarship Program is a bit more competitive, but offers up to $50,000 a year for a two year doctorate program for medical professions who agree to work in geriatric nursing. Medical school can be quite expensive, so it may be to the medical student’s advantage to work in one of these areas of greater need to eliminate high student loans.
There are also a number of grants available to members of the military and spouses of those on active duty. The GI Bill ensures that active duty veterans will have money towards a college education when they return home. The amount varies by amount of time served, from 40% tuition for 90 days to 4 months of service, to 100% tuition for those who served 36 or more months or were discharged due to a service related disability, not to exceed the highest public university tuition in the state. Some private universities also participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which means the university will cover the difference between the highest public school tuition and their own rates. A housing allowance of up to $1,333 a month and a yearly book stipend of $1000 is also included in the bill. Members of the armed forces who do not intend to use these benefits themselves may transfer them to a spouse or dependent child. In addition, military spouses may receive several hundred dollars a year towards higher education.
There are also grants available for those who perform volunteer work. Completing a year long term of service with AmeriCorps, an American volunteer organization that travels the country and offers its services to communities in need, can result in a grant of $4,725 for education costs. For those who have already taken out a Perkins loan, a year of service in the Peace Corps will eliminate 15% of the loan for the first two years and 20% for any subsequent years, up to 70% for four years.
Financial need is another good source of government grant money. The Pell Grant is probably the most well known example of this. Anyone seeking government aid money for education must fill out a FAFSA form. The government uses your answers on this form to determine your financial need by taking the cost of attendance to your university and subtracting your expected family contribution by virtue of your (and your parents’ if you are a dependent) income. The current maximum expected family contribution in order to receive the Pell Grant is $5,273, but this amount is revised each year. Financial need and an undergraduate status are the only requirements for this grant. The amount of money you receive from this grant varies by need and enrollment, from a $659 minimum for quarter time students to a $4,000 maximum for full time students. You can receive two Pell Grants per award year, one for each semester, but the amount is not to exceed $4,000.
The The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is another need based government grant and can be received in addition to the Pell Grant for students with exceptional need. Eligibility is determined through the FAFSA form, but your expected family contribution must be much lower in order to receive the FSEOG. This grant can be worth anywhere from $100 a year to $4,000 like the Pell Grant.
Other grants are based on academic merit. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant, or Smart Grant, is available to third, fourth, and fifth year undergraduate students. In order to be eligible, students must also be eligible for the Pell Grant and be majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering, or a critical foreign language. All recipients must maintain a 3.0 GPA and may receive up to $4,000 for the last two years of their education, provided the amount when combined with the Pell Grant does not exceed the cost of tuition.
The Academic Competitiveness Grant is an academic grant for undergraduate students in the first two years of their education. Recipients must also be eligible for the Pell Grant and have attended a rigorous secondary school before college. Students receiving this grant must maintain a 3.0 GPA and may receive up to $750 for their first year of education and up to $1,300 for the second year in an undergraduate program.
Certain minorities may also be able to receive grant money for education, especially if their ethnicity is underrepresented in their chosen major. Some of these are granted by the university or local organizations and may be specific to chosen major, so it is important to research available grants for your particular minority and major in the area of your university. For example, the United Negro College Fund offers a number of grants for young African American students. There are also grants available for students with either a physical or mental disability seeking further education.
Finding grants for education is considerably more difficult for graduate students, but financial aid does still exist. Often this is specific to the university or major of the student. For students in desirable research fields, government grants may provide money for the research itself and a stipend for the living expenses of the student. There are also a number of fellowships available for academically talented students.
College can be a large expense, and students owe it to themselves to fully research all options for funding their education. There are multiple unclaimed grants each year, and these government grants may make the difference between graduating with large amounts of debts and graduating with a clean slate, ready to join the workforce.