Understanding Student Aid: Federal, State and College Aid

Learn more about the types of financial aid available to you.

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Not sure where financial aid for college education comes from? The federal government, states and individual colleges and universities are the main providers of money to assist students with tuition and other costs related to their college degree.

Learn more about each type of college financial aid and where your scholarships, grants and loans are likely to come from.

Contact each school’s admissions office or financial aid representatives to find out which forms are required and when they’re due.

Federal Aid

The federal government is the main provider of financial aid for students. Each year, billions of dollars are awarded in college financial aid to students across the country in the form of federal grants, work-study programs or college loans. The college money received in federal grants and work-study programs does not have to be repaid; college loans do.

Also, these loans can only be used for education expenses at the school that awarded the loan. These expenses can include tuition, room and board, fees, books, supplies, equipment, dependant childcare expenses, transportation and the purchase or rental of computer equipment as well as other coursework and housing expenses incurred by the college student. Students apply for all types of federal aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

State Aid

The FAFSA form is also used to apply for most state programs for college loans, scholarships and grants. When you submit the FAFSA to the Department of Education, they forward the information on the form to the state student assistance agency.

Bear in mind that some states will also require you to fill out an additional application to qualify for college money from that state. Most states also have residency requirements as one of their eligibility requirements, meaning you have to prove that you live and are enrolled in a college program in that state to qualify for financial aid.

College Aid

Also known as institutional aid, college aid is provided by the individual colleges and universities themselves. Schools are using aid to make college more affordable for students and to attract particular types of students. In recent years, many schools have increased the amount of scholarships and grants they award to students with the academic or other personal qualifications the school is seeking.

College Aid Tips & Tactics

  • Contact each school’s admissions office or financial aid representatives to find out which forms are required and when they’re due.
  • Some schools may require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form in addition to, or instead of, the FAFSA form.
  • Get a head-start on filling out your FAFSA form with the FAFSA4caster form. This form helps you estimate the type of aid you may be eligible for, and the information you enter can be transferred to your FAFSA form.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Complete Your FAFSA
5 Helpful FAFSA Tips
Changes to the FAFSA Form Make It Easier to Complete
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Are You Eligible for Federal Financial Aid?
What to Do When You Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)

See All College Financial Aid: The Basics of Student Aid and FAFSA Articles


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