How College Grants Work

Grant for college are needs based and require that students fill out a FASFA to estimate their elegibility for federal grant programs. College grants are actual awards of free money, which are not required for repayment on the part of the student. They can used for any specific expense which is education related or general purpose for whatever the student may feel the need for its use. Scholarships are usually given on the basis of academic achievement, athletic, artistic or achivement performance. Grants on the other hand,  are awarded according to the  financial need of the student in the application. Although academic merit will also be considered it will not be the sole decision maker. Financial need is much more important in the final decision making process for the student who applies for a grant.

As you begin to to research the details of grants for college, you will most likely find various of award-for-service grants. These  grants are usually allied to a specific course of study and are applied to students with who have chosen a career field. As such they address critical shortages in certain professional fields which does include healthcare, legal aid, social services and teaching.  A grant-for-service usually has a student agree to a predetermined term of service which will have them work within their chosen field at a particular facility or in a poor community. it must be noted that if the student fails to meet their obligations with their contract the grant will then revert to a standard student loan. The student will then be expected to repay the loan received plus interest.

College Grants

Grants for college-bound students are supported by a variety of different sources, including:

Federal and State Governments
Colleges and Universities
Public and Private Organizations
Professional Associations
Regardless of the source of the grants, the purpose remains the same: to make a college education more accessible to all students by supplying the necessary supplemental funds to help them meet their total college costs.

Federal Grants
Federal grant programs for college-bound students form the bedrock of all financial aid in the United States. These programs should be the first stop for all students looking for financial assistance to help them pay for college. Federal education grants are funded by the government, and administered through the U. S. Department of Education. Federal education grants help thousands of students pay for college every year. Without these grants, many students would not be able to realize their higher educational goals.

The following Federal grant programs are currently being offered to U.S. Students.

The Federal Pell Grant – Since 1972 the Federal Pell Grant has been helping students in the United States fund their college educations. More students rely on Pell grants for financial assistance than any other grant program in America.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – The FSEOG is designed to give financial aid to undergraduate students with extreme financial need. The FSEOG program is funded by the Federal government, and administered through the financial aid offices of participating colleges and universities. Students must apply through their college of choice, and grants are awarded on a first come, first served basis.
The Federal TEACH Grant – The TEACH Grant is an example of an award-for-service program. The grant provides Federal funding to students who agree to take up a teaching position in a high need field, or critical shortage facility, following graduation. Recipients must sign a contract agreeing to a predetermined time of service. Students who fail to fulfill their teaching obligations will have their grant revert to a student loan, and will be responsible for the full repayment, plus interest, of that loan.
State Grants
Every state in the union has a Department of Higher Education that monitors, and regulates, the colleges and universities within that state. Most states offer their resident students some degree of college financial aid, either through their Department of Higher Education or through a dedicated Student Assistance Commission. Scholarship and grant programs are common at the state level, and are typically supported by state and local taxes, and/or state lottery funds.

State-funded college grants typically address financial needs of low-income students, as well as encouraging and supporting women and minority students in their college careers. States also often offer career-specific grants-for-service to those students pursuing degrees and careers in high demand fields such as teaching and nursing.

Grant programs will vary widely from state to state, and students are encouraged to refer to our section on State Supported Grants and Scholarships for more information on state-funded financial aid programs, and for links to information on financial aid programs specific to their state.

Non-Government Grants
Once students have exhausted the available Federal and state supported grants, they may wish to look to other sources for financial assistance. Many grants for college-bound students can be found in the private sector. Corporations and professional associations often offer grants for deserving students who are pursuing degrees in fields closely allied to that business or organization. College grants can also be found through religious organizations, as well as clubs and associations dedicated to community service. These grant programs may have very specific eligibility requirements, but they do offer substantial financial assistance to those students who meet the necessary criteria.

Colleges and universities can also be prime sources for grants. Often, colleges will be given private endowments from individuals and businesses for the purpose of providing financial aid to deserving students. Again, privately endowed grants and scholarships tend to have highly specific eligibility requirements, and may target certain portions of the population such as women or minorities. They may also be dedicated to students pursuing degrees in specific fields or disciplines.

Students searching for non-government funded college grants should begin by combining their status as a student (undergraduate or graduate), their field of interest and their personal background (minority status, gender, etc). Many grant programs can be found with a focused search of the internet, or through the financial aid offices of colleges and universities. This can be time consuming, but the rewards can be substantial.

One of the most significant sources of grants for college is the United State’s Armed Forces. Education grants from the military help enlisted service-members, their spouses and their dependent children, find the resources they need to pay for college. Each branch of the military, including the army, navy, air force and marines, provides financial aid programs to benefit their service-members. Military sponsored grants are also offered to the children and spouses of service-members who have been killed, or disabled, in the line of duty.

While military sponsored grant programs offer valuable financial assistance, it should be noted that they are only available to enlisted members of the armed services. Serving one’s country in a military capacity is a noble and honorable choice, but it should not be made lightly. Students considering military sponsored financial aid for college should be certain that they fully understand their obligations as enlisted personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Most college grants are designed to address the needs of students who are facing a financial shortfall in their college funding. That being said, a wide range of grant programs are dedicated to providing financial aid to students in more extreme circumstances. Grants for low-income students are specifically designed to address the financial needs of students from economic or socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Typically, these programs will be sponsored by state and Federal governments, advocacy groups and charitable foundations.

In addition to grants dedicated to the economically disadvantaged, there are a wide range of grant programs designed to target the needs of students with both physical and mental disabilities. Grants for students with disabilities help to increase college accessibility to students facing a wide range of personal challenges, including blindness, hearing impairment, autism, and decreased mobility due to physical impairment. Disabled students looking for grants to help them pay for college should begin their search by focusing on advocacy groups and charitable foundations dedicated to the needs of people with their particular disability.