Financial Aid for Students
This Information Web page, prepared by the Congressional Research Service for Members of Congress, guides students through the process of locating and applying for financial aid. [March 2006]
***The Basics: Getting Started:
*Free information is readily available from:
High school counselors
College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend)
Local and college libraries
U.S. Department of Education Web page
Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
*Ask questions: Counselors may know if you have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility. *Be organized: use calendars to keep on track.
*Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must re-apply for aid each year.
*Parents of students
*Beware of scholarship scams -- don't pay for free information!
***Student aid and where it comes from:
*Basic assistance categories:
- Financial need-based
Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can-- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.
- Non need-based
Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.
*Federal Student Aid:
States offer residents a variety of scholarships, loans, and tuition exemptions.
- Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
- Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
- Free information from the U.S. Department of Education:
- Funding Your Education
- Student Guide
- Loans are the most common federal aid and must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.
- Stafford loans include:
- Perkins Loans for the most needy undergraduates; through participating schools.
- Scholarships/grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment:
- Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
- Other grants, scholarships, and fellowships, mostly graduate level: search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) by Beneficiary, such as "Student or Trainee" or "Graduate Student".
- "Congressional" scholarships:
- Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fellowships)
- Merit-based and highly competitive
- Members of Congress do not play a role in selecting recipients
- Search by Beneficiary in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
- Work study programs allow you to earn money while in school:
- Federal Work Study Program: college campus jobs
- Student Educational Employment: jobs with the federal government
- For questions not covered by the Department of Education website, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
Colleges and universities provide some 20% of aid, most need-based. Check university websites and the institution's financial aid office when you apply for admission.
Private foundations, corporations, and organizations offer scholarships or grants:
College Board Scholarship Search
Grants for Individuals
***Targeted Aid for Specific Groups:
Grants for Minorities: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and Other Ethnic Groups
Interested in public service?
Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where there's a particular need (such as doctors in underserved areas); encourage underrepresented groups to enter a particular profession; and provide aid in exchange for services provided (such as military service).
Aid for private K-12 education: No direct federal assistance, check with schools themselves:
***Repaying Your Loans:
States and some private employers provide help in repaying loans in exchange for certain types of public service.
After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.