Generally speaking, there are three main types of financial aid in the United States that are offered to prospective and existing students to help cover the costs of undergraduate higher education at public or private colleges and universities. The most common of these are loans, usually low-interest, which must be repaid. Scholarships are usually awarded based on outstanding academic merit and do not have to be repaid, either. The most common form of free education funding for college students is grants, which also do not have to be paid back. There are a number of different types of state education grants, including need- and job-based.
To get many of these grants, the student must usually first file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASA) with the federal government. In addition, an individual can apply for state grants with various local organizations. In those cases, the student’s education may be seen as something that has the potential to benefit the community. Typically, state grants are only awarded after all resource options for federal aid have been exhausted.
It is often a good idea to discuss financial aid options with a financial aid officer at the college or university the student wants to attend. The officer may point to options that the prospective student may not be aware of. A student can sometimes get a grant directly from the college or university he or she wants to attend. Also, there are many websites that list grants that may apply to a student’s specific circumstances.
Most state education grants are need-based. A student sometimes has to meet other specific criteria to apply for some of these grants. For example, there are many state grants that are available to people who are part of a specific ethnic groups, such as Hispanics or African Americans. These groups have traditionally been considered to be at a disadvantage in the United States when it comes to getting higher education. Two other groups that are often eligible for special grants from the state are women and military veterans.
Other state education grants are earmarked for students who want to go into a profession where there is a high demand for workers. Most states that offer such a student a grant hope the student will stay in his or her home state to carry out his or her profession. In that way, once the student graduates and starts working in his or her chosen field, it is thought that he or she will be likely to contribute to the state and its residents.
Like federal grants, state education grants are generally earmarked for students with financial need who show promising potential. Over the traditional four-year period during which one might be an undergraduate student, the renewal of a grant or grants is not necessarily automatic. The student is typically required to maintain a good or excellent grade point average to continue to have the grant or grants he or she has been awarded renewed each year.