Government College Financial Aid
This year, the federal government will provide more than $83 billion in college financial aid for postsecondary education, which is nearly 60 percent of all student financial aid.
Here’s a look at the various forms through which that aid gets distributed:
Federal Pell Grant – The Pell Grant provides free federal assistance to the most financially needy students.
The Pell Grant, which does not need to be repaid, is generally available to undergraduate students only and can range from $400 to $4,731 per year.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Grant – The FSEOG Grant is for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. Funds depend on availability at each student’s school, but range from $100 – $4,000 per year. The FSEOG grant does not need to be repaid and priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients.
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) – The ACG is for freshmen- and sophomore-year Pell Grant recipients who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. The ACG, which does not need to be repaid, is available only to U.S. citizens enrolled full-time in college. The grant provides up to $750 to 1st year students and $1,300 for 2nd year students.
National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant) – The SMART Grant is for junior- and senior-year Pell Grant recipients who are majoring in math or science and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. Eligible degree programs include physical, life or computer sciences, engineering, technology, mathematics or a critical-need foreign language. Recipients must be U.S. citizens. Awards range up to $4,000 per year for each of the last two years of college.
Federal Perkins Loan – A Perkins loan is backed by the federal government and made directly through a student’s university. Undergraduate students are eligible for no more than $4,000/year; graduate students may take out up to $6,000/year.
The Perkins Loan, which is available only to the most financially needy students, has a fixed interest rate of 5% and must be paid back by the student when he or she graduates or leaves school.
Subsidized Stafford Loan – Subsidized Stafford Loans are backed by the Federal government and made through various private lending banks. Eligible students must be enrolled in college at least part-time and demonstrate financial need. Loan amounts range from $3,500 to $8,500/year, depending on grade level. Repayment on the principle of the loan is deferred while the recipient is in school and for a 6-month grace period after graduation; during the deferment period, the federal government pays the interest on the loan.
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan – Like the subsidized Stafford Loan, the unsubsidized loan is backed by the federal government and made through various lending banks. Repayment is deferred while the recipient is in school; however the borrower is responsible for interest throughout the life of the loan. Loan amounts range from $3,500 to $20,500/year, depending on grade level and dependency status. Eligible students must be enrolled in college at least part-time and demonstrate financial need. Students may be eligible to take out both the subsidized and the unsubsidized Stafford loan.
Direct PLUS Loan – The PLUS loan is an unsubsidized loan available to parents of dependent undergraduate and graduate students, who are enrolled in school at least half-time. Financial need is not a requirement and the maximum amount of the loan is the Cost of Attendance minus any other financial aid award the student receives.
Federal Work Study (FWS) – Federal Work Study program qualifies undergraduate and graduate students for jobs that are either on- or off-campus. Jobs must pay at least the federal minimum wage and are generally compatible with a student’s study schedule.