The lucky seven: help paying for college

Sep 10, 2007

If you qualify for one of the following financial aid programs you could consider yourself lucky in one way or another.  Although the following financial aid programs are all different, they all help you to achieve a common goal of assisting you financially so that you may complete your education.  The lucky seven are Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study, Stafford Loans, Perkings Loans, Federal PLUS Loans, and Federal Consolidation Loans.

Qualifying for Federal Student Aid depends largely on the cost of the school and the income of you and/or your parents.  Eligibility also requires that you be enrolled in a qualifying program at an approved post-secondary institution (a college, university, vocational school, technical institution, or hospital of nursing) and be a U.S. citizen, or eligible non-citizen, and demonstrate need. 

There are four categories of financial assistance: grants, scholarships, loans, employment. Grants and some scholarships are outright gifts of money. Loans are borrowed money which have to be repaid with interest. You MUST re-apply for each program annually.

1. PELL GRANTS: You can receive up to $2340 per year. The Student Aid Report you will receive after submitting your application will include a Student Aid Index. If this number is low enough, you are eligible for a Pell Grant. The lower the number, the higher the award. The Pell Grant can be used to offset additional expenses (i.e. books, travel, etc.) in conjunction with Veteran Assistance (VA) benefits.

2. FEDERAL SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANTS (SEOG): These grants are for undergraduates with exceptional financial need (priority given to Pell Grant recipients). Grants are for up to $4,000 per year. This program is used when there have been circumstances that have drastically affected your financial strength.

3. FEDERAL COLLEGE WORK-STUDY (CWS): This program provides jobs on or off campus with a public or private nonprofit agency for undergraduate and graduate students who need financial aid. Your pay will be at least the current Federal minimum wage. You are eligible to apply if you are enrolled at least half-time as a vocational, undergraduate, or graduate student in an approved post-secondary institution.

4. STAFFORD LOANS: (Formerly known as Guaranteed Student Loans): This is a low-interest loan made to students by a lender, such as a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association. Depending on your financial need you may borrow $2,625 for your first or second year undergraduate studies; $4,000 per year if you have completed 2 years of study; and $7,500 per year if you are a graduate student. Payment may be deferred for up to three years while you serve in the Armed Forces.

5. FEDERAL PERKINS LOANS: A Perkins Loan is a low-interest (5 percent) loan to help pay for education after high school. They are both graduate and undergraduate students and are made through a school’s financial aid office.

6. FEDERAL PLUS LOANS: These loans enable parents with good credit histories to borrow to pay the education expenses of each child who is a dependent undergraduate student enrolled at least half time.

7. CONSOLIDATED LOANS: Consolidation loans allow a borrower to combine different types of federal student loans to simplify repayment.

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