Grants are an effective way to get help with the expenses of a college education. Grants are usually offered by the federal government to pay for tuition, and unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid. There are over 1000 types of grants offered by various branches of the federal government.
The most well known grant, and the one that is most widely given, is the Pell Grant. These are only available for undergraduate studies although they are sometimes available to students in graduate teaching programs.
The Pell Grant is available to low-income students enrolled in undergraduate studies in any accredited college, university, or other post-secondary program. Before you apply, you, along with your parents if you are a dependent, have to complete the FAFSA form, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Decisions to award the grant are based on the family's ability to help, the cost of tuition, and whether you are attending full or part time. To determine your eligibility, the government will look at your income, your parents' income and resources, household size, and the number of family members receiving a college education. So, while an older sibling may not have qualified, you may qualify if that sibling is still in college.
Colleges will either credit the amount of the grant to your college, or they will give you a check that you are expected to use for your educational expenses. You will receive money for each quarter, semester, or term in which you are enrolled. As of 2011, the maximum Pell Grant is $5,500. If you already have an undergraduate degree, even if you are studying for a second one, you are not eligible.
If you are under 24 years old, and your parent or guardian died in Iraq or Afghanistan while serving in the military after September 11, 2001, you are eligible to receive the maximum award automatically.
There are other grants you might also be eligible for. TEACH grants will pay up to $4,000 each year to students who are willing to teach full-time in elementary or high schools designated as serving low-income students. You must agree to teach for at least four out of eight consecutive years in a high need field such as foreign language, math, science, special education, or other areas that may be in high need at the time.. If you fail to meet this requirement, the full amount of your grants will be converted to unsubsidized Stafford loans that must be repaid. To receive this grant, you can be an undergraduate or graduate student in a program that participates in the TEACH Grant Program. You must also maintain a GPA of at least 3.25.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) supplements the Pell Grant for those students with the highest financial need. It is an increase of an additional $100 to $4000 per year.
The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) is for students who completed recognized rigorous secondary programs such as advanced classes or honors classes, or two International Baccalaureate classes with a score of at least four, or two advanced placement classes with a score of three or more. You must also have also participated in a college prep curriculum. The grant provides $750 for your first year of college, and $1300 for the second year if your GPA is at least a 3.0.
Other grants are also available. You can find out more by going to https://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/grants.jsp.