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Access College Grants for Students

October 7, 2013 by: 0

In today’s society, having higher education is very essential. Earning a degree gives you mental and financial stability. It also contributes to the development of the society, as a more knowledgeable person is able to take better decisions for himself as well as for the people around him/her. People tend to like you and talk to you more; you being a highly educated personality. Moreover, extra job opportunities with reputable companies are available to a degree holder, giving you more chances to make more money. Higher education can bring the poor above the line of poverty, bringing equality in society. Hence, a higher education plays a key role in giving shape to our career and personality.

TODAY’S SCENARIO IN CONTEXT WITH HIGHER EDUCATION

With inflation rates soaring high today, education and especially the higher education has become very costly. Parents, with small earnings are incompetent in supporting their children, finding it hard to send them to a good college. It’s not just the college tuition fees, but additional expenses related to clothing, hostel, books, laptops and other stuff required for successfully completing your course, have put more pressure on the parents. Especially the people falling below the poverty line refrain from giving their children, even the brilliant one, higher education considering it as a ‘Pastime of the Rich’ which is totally wrong as we just read above how important Higher Education is.

SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM: COLLEGE GRANTS

To deal with all these circumstances, government with the support of many colleges came up with the concept of ‘COLLEGE GRANTS FOR STUDENTS’. A college grant is “free money” given by the government and even by many private colleges basically to the prospective students who want to pursue higher education but are not financially strong. This grant money is not similar to loans, as students don’t need to return it back. These college grants are announced so that more and more students can pursue better education, resulting in the enhancement of the nation.

NEED BASED GRANTS – These grants are generally given by Government officials, school foundation head and many colleges’ financial aid officers to the students whose financial status is below an amount set by the government and the private colleges. Students are in “need”  of monetary help and are not capable enough to pay the whole college fee by themselves (with parents’ help of course) are granted money, if they satisfy the criteria.

MERIT BASED GRANTS – These grants are just like scholarships (two terms can be used interchangeably in this case) given to “meritorious” students by various colleges and universities. Such students may belong to any class of the society – rich or poor. Those students who excel academically, or have made remarkable achievements in sports, arts, music, painting, drama, etc are given scholarships by different institutions differently.

The federal government in United States (US) spends a lot in giving grants and scholarships to the students. As much as about $5,500 are given as grant every year to the students who really want to study but their families’ incomes are less than the ‘limit’ set by them which is around $40,000.
A student can apply for grant after it joins the FAFSA – Federal Application For Free Student Aid.

What is FAFSA?

Federal Application For Free Student Aid is a portal built by the Federal Student Aid Office, US to determine how much financial grant can the eligible student applying for financial aid, get. The office of Federal Student Aid annually goes through 14 million applications and spends about $80 billion in giving grants, loans and scholarships to the students. This website www.fafsa.ed.gov asks the student to submit all the relevant information, finds if the student is eligible for any grant and then decide how much monetary help the student can be entitled to. FAFSA is accepted by most of the colleges (both government and private) as a method to find out the exact ‘Grant
Amount’ that the student can receive.

HOW TO APPLY

First and foremost, you need to decide which college you wish to join and then consult with the financial aid officer of the college to know if the college is in association with FAFSA. Try to search for a college under FAFSA so that you can get the maximum grant possible.

When your decision has been finalized, all you need to do is to login on the official site of FAFSA www.fafsa.ed.gov and has to fill an application form there. You can also choose to write an application offline but it is not a preferred method, as it would take a longer time and would be prone to error. Have a preference for the online application form. Though it takes about an hour to fill the form with all details, it is the only thing you need to do. Keep all the documents handy before applying – social security number, driving license (if any), parents’ income tax return, bank statement and whatever the form requires. All non – US citizens need to have a permanent resident card or an alien registration card to be able to fill in the application form.

FAFSA asks student to fill in the following information:

  • Student’s personal information
  • About student’s dependencies
  • About Student’s parents
  • About the earnings and savings of the student and his parents
  • Finally the list of colleges under FAFSA for which the applicant wishes to apply.

As soon as you complete the application form with all relevant details, SAR is generated – Student Aid Report. This report is basically a summary of what all you have filled in the application form. Check carefully all the details as with will decide your annual grant amount. In one corner of SAR is the Expected Family Contribution, an amount Federal Student Aid Department expects to be contributed from your part. This amount called the EFC is calculated using some calculators and worksheets internally by the Federal Application for Free Student Aid, in short FAFSA program. EFC determines if you are eligible for grants or not. If your family’s whole income is more than $45,000 per year, then you cannot demand any grant from the Department.

NOTE: Make sure you submit the application form, online or offline, by the end of the month of January. Don’t put forward your form after the deadline of college, you wish to apply for, is crossed as many colleges work on the first come first serve basis and it’s possible that by the time you apply for the grant, funds are over. Else also, this way you won’t receive the grant money in time. You would have to finance the first semester of your course completely by yourself.

VARIOUS GRANTS GIVEN BY THE FEDERAL STUDENT AID DEPARTMENT

FEDERAL PELL GRANT

As discussed above it is not a kind of loan, its free money given to help you and there is no need to repay it. The Federal Student Aid Department issues this grant to all its eligible students. A student willing to pursue a bachelor’s degree from any of the colleges under this department can claim for Pell Grant. Since this grant is issued by the Federal Office, no matter whatever college you get enrolled with, the grant amount decided by Federal Department remains the same. A maximum of about $5,565 has been paid yet by the Department as a grant amount.

While deciding the grant amount the student is entitled to, the Federal Student Aid Department takes in account of the financial status of the student basically the Expected Family Contribution. Whether you will do part time course or full time, the grant amount varies. It also depends on your attendance, how frequently you report to the college. Plus the question if you will do complete course or will leave in between, also serves as a factor in deciding how much grant you will receive from the Federal Department.

If you are native of US and your parents died serving the military armed forces, then you are entitled to more grant amount. Two conditions that need to be followed in such a case is that:

  • Firstly, you must be less than 24 years of age at the time of death of your parents
  • Secondly, you must be doing schooling or pursuing a course at that time – no matter even if it is part time.

If the above conditions are successfully met by the applicant, then he is eligible for extra grant money. Expected Family Contribution in this case is taken to zero and accordingly decisions regarding the amount payable to you, is made.

FEDERAL SUPPLEMENT EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANT PROGRAM (FSEOG)

This grant program is again for undergraduate students who want money for financing their studies, apart from the one given by the Federal Office through Federal Pell Grants. This aid is offered by the colleges or the educational institutes to the students who are critically in need of money. The colleges, which are a part of the FSEOG Program, solely decide how much additional financial help the student is eligible to get. The “free money” can be ranging from $100 to $4,000 a year, depending on the needs of the student and how much aid is he/she receiving from other sources. Factors such as when are you applying for FSEOG and with which college are you applying, how much funds that college has for financing the grants, also affect the FSEOG money you receive.

TEACHER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE FOR COLLEGE AND HIGHER EDUCATION (TEACH) GRANT

This is a special kind of grant given by the Federal Student Aid department to an undergraduate or a graduate student who agrees to enroll in a course with which he/she can teach for the next four academic years. The students receiving this grant has to sign an Agreement to Serve (ATS) which compiles all the terms and conditions the student has to meet in order to keep receiving this aid. Under this grant, the student:

  • Has to complete his/her four years of teaching work in the next eight years.
  • Has to teach as a highly qualified teacher in an elementary or low – income school.
  • Has to serve as a teacher in high – need field.

A high need field can be:

  • Bilingual language or English language or foreign language acquisition
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Reading Specialist or any special education
  • Has to submit the documents tracing her progress as a teacher to the Federal Office

Every six months, the student has to sign the ATS to continue to receive the grant amount. If the receiver of the grant money fails to serve in the required manner, then the entire money paid by the FSA up till now, transforms into a loan with an interest charged from the date the grant was paid. This loan has to be paid back to the Federal Student Aid Office.

ACADEMIC COMPETITIVENESS GRANTS (ACG) and
NATIONAL SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS ACCESS TO RETAIN TALENT (SMART) GRANTS

“Higher Education Reconciliation Act Of 2005” has introduced two new grants given as a further aid to the students receiving the Federal Pell Grant, who have concentrated in mathematics and science or any foreign language significant to the US security. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is given to the undergraduates of First and Second year pursuing a rigorous course, such as Honors Diploma Program or State Scholars Initiative Requirements. For the Third and Fourth year undergraduates pursuing a degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, technology or a foreign language critical to US security, then the National SMART Grants are given.

Students need to be enrolled in full time courses to claim these grants. Being a US citizen or eligible non US citizen is another requirement for receiving this grant.

Apart from the federal grants, states grants are also given by the North Carolina. Some of these grants are like:

  • North Carolina Community College Grant:

This grant is for North Carolina residents who didn’t meet the eligibility criteria of Federal Pell Grant but are in need of financial aid. Interested students too have to fill the application form of FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov

UNC Need Based Grant:

This grant is for those eligible students who are enrolled with one of the 16 campuses of University of North Carolina. Submission of application form is again done using FAFSA.

Not only the need based grants, scholarships are also available at each college for meritorious students. Thus it is no more a challenge to pursue higher education. State and Federal Government plus the private institutions and colleges have come forward to help the students.

 
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