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Federal Aid For Your College Education
The Federal government is one of the best sources for college financial aid.
You must be enrolled at least part-time.
From low interest loans to free grants, the array of government aid is open to just about everyone. As long as you have passing grades and financial need, you almost certainly qualify for something.
The search for federal aid begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form can be filled out on paper or submitted online. Once it is processed, the government will make a judgement about the level and kinds of aid you are eligible for. To receive funding, you must have a high school diploma, GED certificate, or have met state standards to enroll in a qualified higher education school. You must also be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen, such as a permanent resident. The key factor in determining how much aid you receive will be financial need, not grades. Of course, if you fail to maintain passing grades, you will lose all assistance. However, it is not necessary to be an "A plus" student.
Undergraduates who meet the need criteria can receive Pell Grants. These range from $400 to $4,050 a year. Students with exception financial need may qualify for a Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant (FSEOGs), which ranges from $100 to $4,000 a year. The amount you can receive may be reduced if you have other sources of aid, such as a scholarship. These grants do not have to be paid back.
Federal loan programs are offered to supplement grant awards, and for those who were not eligible for a grant. For some loans, you do not have to demonstrate need. The amount you can borrow will depend both on your school expenses and your grade level. Perkins loans are offered first to Pell Grant recipients. Only a certain amount is awarded each year and when that runs out, no more loans are given until the following year. Stafford loans are available to both graduates and undergraduates. You must be enrolled at least part-time. Financial need is not a requirement for the Stafford, but for lower income students, the government may award a subsidized loan. This means that the interest will be paid for you while you are a student, and during a six-month grace period after you graduate. Finally, the parents of dependent undergraduate students can take out a Plus loan to cover educational costs.
If you plan to take advantage of any of the programs, you can apply between January 1st and June 30th and receive funds for the following Fall semester. It is highly recommended that you apply as early as possible, as some schools and states require an application be submitted much earlier. In any case, submitting the FAFSA is an essential part of college financial aid. Many scholarships, private foundations, and other sources of aid will require you to first exhaust all federal aid possibilities before they will consider your application.
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