Student Financial Aid
Student financial aid - Overview
Paying for a college or university education is a major cause of concern for most students and their families. Students have a variety of financial needs, as some students will only need a part of their educational cost to be funded while others will require something closer to the whole amount of cost of attendance.
Keeping this in view, almost all institutes of higher learning have financial assistance programs in collaboration with the federal and state governments, which help students pay partial or full amount of their educational costs. Student financial aid packages have various components like scholarships, grants, loans and work study arrangements. These components vary in various features like eligibility criteria, amount of assistance, repayment plans and disbursement.
Funds from student financial aid programs can only be used for education related expenses and students need to maintain a satisfactory academic progress (SAP) to retain them.
Student financial aid - Options
Primarily, financial aid is of two types: merit based and need based. Merit based aid is given to students who have excelled in academics or have some other exceptional talent in extracurricular activities like athletics or music. There is no separate application criteria for this in most institutions and all students who complete the admission form are considered for this. The other type, need based financial aid, is for students who cannot pay their educational expenses on their own or by the help of their families. Both types of assistance packages can have one or more components of financial aid (as listed above).
While universities have their own assistance programs, there are some financial aid packages that are offered to eligible students by the federal government. These financial aid packages are administered through all major educational institutions. Students who want to apply for aid should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). The form is also available online at www.FAFSA.ed.gov.
Federal government loans offer funds to students with low interest rates and relaxed repayment options. Some of the popular federal loans are: Stafford loan, Federal Plus loan, Parent Plus loan and Perkins Loans. Apart from loans there are federal grants which do not need to be paid back. Students can apply for Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Teach Grant.