Paying for college can feel like an insurmountable task. Tuition alone can run into the thousands each semester. And that’s not to mention all the other expenses such as housing, food, and textbooks (to name just a few).
Faced with these huge numbers, you may assume that college just isn’t in the cards for you. However, you should be aware that there are programs available to assist you. In addition to scholarships and student loans, you may be eligible for college grants.
Unlike scholarships and loans, you don’t hear a lot about college grants. But if you have exceptional financial need, they could make the difference between affording college and not.
To make sure you’re getting all the grants available to you, we’ve put together this guide. Below, we take a detailed look at federal, state, and institutional grants for college.
If you’re worried that scholarships and loans won’t be enough to cover your college costs, this guide is for you.
Like other forms of financial aid, grants can help you pay for college. But unlike student loans, you don’t have to repay grants. And unlike scholarships, grants are typically based solely on financial need.
You should know before going any further that they don’t just give grants to anyone. You’ll need to demonstrate that you have exceptional financial need.
The criteria for this will depend on the type of grant and your specific situation (see below). But typically your eligibility will be based on the info you submit in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
With that said, let’s take a look at the first (and most extensive) type of college grant: federal programs.
Federal programs should be the first place you look when trying to find college grants. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education offers four college grant programs. Here’s a look at the details of each:
Pell grants are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and do not already have a degree.
How to apply: Fill out the FAFSA.
How much money you can get: For the 2022–23 award year (July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023), the maximum award amount is $6,895. The specific amount you receive will depend on your student status, the cost of attending your school, and your expected family contribution.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
FSEOGs are similar to Pell grants. They’re available to undergraduate students who “have the most financial need” and don’t already have a bachelor’s degree.
Unlike Pell grants, however, FSEOGs are administered directly by your school’s financial aid office. The U.S. Department of Education distributes FSEOG money to schools that participate in the program. It’s then up to the school’s financial aid office to decide which students receive the funds.
Once your school has distributed these funds, they’re gone. For this reason, you should fill out the FAFSA as early as possible to make sure you don’t miss out. And be sure to check with your school’s financial aid office about the deadlines for distributing FSEOG funds.
How to apply: Fill out the FAFSA.
How much money you can get: You can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year. The specific amount will depend on your financial need, when you apply, other types of aid you’ve received, and the amount of funds available.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
Iraq and Afghanistan Service grants are a special type of federal grant. These grants provide financial aid for students whose parents or guardians died performing military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The specific requirements, however, are quite specific and a bit convoluted.
To be eligible for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service grant, you’ll need to meet the following criteria (taken verbatim from the Federal Student Aid website):
- You are not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant on the basis of your Expected Family Contribution but
- meet the remaining Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements, and
- your 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 the events of 9/11, and
- you were under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death.
How to apply: Fill out the FAFSA (which includes questions to determine your eligibility for this specific grant).
How much money you can get: The maximum award amount cannot exceed the Pell grant’s maximum of $6,495.
The actual amount, however, will be a bit lower if your grant is disbursed on or after October 1, 2022, and before October 1, 2023. Due to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the maximum award amount for grants disbursed this period is $6,501.99. Learn more here.
TEACH grants are our final category of federal college grants. This special program provides financial assistance for those studying to be teachers.
To be eligible for a TEACH grant, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Meet the basic eligibility criteria for the federal student aid programs.
- Complete the FAFSA.
- Be enrolled as an undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate student at a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program.
- Be enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
- Meet certain academic achievement requirements (generally, scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more portions of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25).
- Receive TEACH Grant counseling each year you receive a TEACH grant.
- Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve or Repay.
How to apply: Fill out the FAFSA and consult with your school’s office of financial aid. Be sure your specific degree program is eligible for TEACH grant funds.
How much money you can get: You can receive up to $4,000 per year in TEACH funds.
However, for funds “where the first disbursement is on or after October 1, 2022 and before October 1, 2023,” the maximum amount is reduced to $3,772. Once again, this is because of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Learn more here.
Note: Before you apply for one of these grants, be sure you understand the service obligation:
- Upon graduation, you’ll be required to teach full-time for four years at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational services agency that serves low-income students.
- You must also teach in a high-need field (learn more here).
- If you fail to meet these obligations, your TEACH grant may be converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. You’ll be responsible for repaying this loan in full (plus interest).
Up next, we have state grants. These work much the same way as federal grant programs. The main difference is that the funds come from the state in which you attend college.
The requirements for state education grants vary. But generally, you’ll need to demonstrate a certain amount of financial need.
Often, filling out the FAFSA is sufficient to be eligible for state grants. In some cases, however, you’ll need to fill out a separate application.
As an example, consider a program available in my native state of Tennessee. TN undergraduate students with exceptional financial need may be eligible for the Tennessee Student Assistance Award. This grant offers up to $4,000 a year in financial assistance, based on information students submit as part of the FAFSA.
To find the grants available in your state, contact your college’s financial aid office. They can inform you about grants for which you may be eligible.
In some cases, your school may offer education grants directly to students (institutional grants).
As with state and federal programs, these grants exist to help students with a high level of financial need. Typically, filling out the FAFSA is sufficient to determine your eligibility. But some schools may require additional paperwork.
For instance, take a look at the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant.
This program uses a combination of federal, state, and institutional grants to “cover 50 to 100 percent of a student’s share of base tuition.”
To be eligible, a student needs to be a Colorado resident, enroll full-time at CSU, complete the FAFSA, and fill out a one-time institutional aid application.
As with state and federal grants, your college’s financial aid office is your best resource for finding institutional grants.
I hope this article has helped you understand the various grants for college (and how to apply for them).
If you take away nothing else, remember to fill out the FAFSA early! Funds for some of these grants are limited, and filling out the FAFSA as early as you can increases your chances of getting the maximum possible grant amount.
Not eligible for grants? Check out these other ways you can pay for college:
- How to Get the Financial Aid You Need to Afford College
- How to Get the Scholarships You Need to Avoid Debt
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