Financial Aid for College

Financial aid, sponsored by governmental, education and private organizations, is provided in order to help college students pay for education-related expenses such as tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and fees. While a lot of financial aid comes through government funding, government subsidies for public education are not considered financial aid. Financial aid is limited to financial awards provided to individual students.

In the United States, both federal and state governments provide merit- and need-based financial aid for college students, in the form of low-interest loans, grants and work-study. There are about nine federally sponsored financial aid programs, 605 state programs and as many as 7,000 higher education institutions that offer financial aid. The most popular federal programs include Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, Work-Study Program, Federal PLUS Loans, Perkins Loans and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. Federals Stafford Loans and Federal PLUS Loans are extended directly through the U.S. Department of Education (DoE). Federal Perkins Loans are also made by the U.S. DoE but issued through participating schools via annual appropriations from the DoE. The Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) – another popular federal financial aid program – was discontinued in 2010.

While the majority of financial aid programs are sponsored by the federal government, state governments often offer some merit- and need-based options – usually in the form of grants, tuition waivers, scholarships, and work-study programs. In addition to federal and state government, most post-secondary institutions offer several forms of financial aid to students. Students requiring financial aid beyond that offered by the government or school they're attending may consider other alternatives, including private education loans that offered by most large banks and lending institutions. Of course, education loans obtained through private lenders typically have higher interest rates than federally funded education loans. In order to apply for financial aid, most institutions require students to submit the FAFSA form. Some institutions require the FAFSA along with a need-based analysis document – the most common being the CSS/Profile.

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