Student financial aid in the United States is funding available to individual students attending a post-secondary educational institution to cover costs associated with attending. These costs include, but are not limited to, tuition, fees, room and board, transportation, and books. Financial aid is available from federal, state, educational institutions, and private agencies (foundations), and can be awarded in the forms of grants, education loans, work-study, and scholarships.
Types of Financial Aid
- Grants: Grants are a form of financial aid that normally does not have to be repaid. Sources of educational grants can be the U.S. Department of Education, state agencies, the educational institution, and private agencies. Grant eligibility is determined by financial need, academic merit, and sometimes both. The application process is set by the agency providing the funds, however, for most agencies do rely on data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education via the FAFSA.
- Education Loans: An education loan is borrowed by the student (or parent) in order to pay for educational expenses. Unlike scholarships and grants, this money must be repaid with interest. Educational loan options include federal student loans, federal parent loans, private loans, and consolidation loans.
- Work-Study: The Federal Work-Study Program is forms of financial aid that can be used not only as a means of maintaining a stable bank account but to also earn money toward paying off tuition. Work study jobs allow students to get jobs within their field or given interest, and are more flexible than off-campus part-time jobs because they are designed to accommodate student schedules.
- Scholarships: Scholarships, similar to grants, do not need to be repaid. Scholarships come from the state, educational institutions, and private agencies. Scholarships can be awarded based on merit, financial need, student characteristics (such as gender, race, religion, family and medical history, and the like), creativity, career field, college, athletic ability, amongst other categories.
Financial Aid Application Process
- Application Process for Need-based Aid: To qualify for need-based loans a student must depict a significant amount of financial need, which is determined by the federal government based on applications like the FAFSA and the loan applications themselves. In order to qualify for need-based financial aid, students are typically required to submit financial aid applications, including the FAFSA and CSS Profile
- FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. The candidates must be login by the given link to be applying for FAFSA: https://fafsa.gov/
- CSS Profile: The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (often written as CSS PROFILE), short for the College Scholarship Service PROFILE, is an application distributed by the College Board in the United States allowing college students to apply for financial aid. The CSS PROFILE asks questions about the financial status of the student and the student’s parents. The information the student gives in the CSS PROFILE is then sent to colleges or universities that the student specifies.
- Non-Need Based Financial Aid: Non-need based loans are available for students and families who cannot afford to pay the entire cost of college. These loans are directed toward those individuals and families who did not qualify for need-based loans due to a number of their personal assets. The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and Grad PLUS loan are non-need based loans available for both undergraduate and graduate students who do not qualify for need-based financial aid.