Federal Grants for College
A degree at an accredited 4-year college or university is a goal that all American high school students should strive for. With a college education, one can qualify for higher paying jobs and achieve greater success in life. A high paying job results in larger checks to Uncle Sam come tax day. Therefore, it is to the advantage of the United States government, and to the country as a whole, to provide federal grants for college so that every American can access the opportunities that come with a college degree.
College tuition is expensive and not all families have the means to afford it. According to the U.S. Department of Education, four years of undergraduate tuition and housing costs $51,216 at a public university and $128,736 at a private university. If the tuition increases from the past decade continue at the same rate for the next ten years, the cost of a college degree will skyrocket to $70,166 for public and $160,920 for private by 2020. Online colleges and vocational schools (also known as career schools or trade schools) are less expensive but can still be outside the range of affordability. Fortunately, federal grants for college are available to any American that lacks the financial means but has the intelligence and the determination needed to be accepted to a college.
The United States federal government offers four different grant programs to help you pay for college:
- Pell Grant - Named after late U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, The Pell Grant is a yearly award to low income students that have not yet obtained their undergraduate degree. Since this is by far the largest and most popular federal grant for college, we have devoted an entire article to the subject: Federal Pell Grant.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) - If you meet the income requirements of the Pell Grant, you may also be eligible for additional help through the FSEOG program. This grant for college only gives funds to students in extraordinary financial need. In 2010, the FSEOG awarded nearly $960 million to over 1.3 million students. Each award fell between $100 and $4000 with an average award of $736. To qualify, you must meet the income requirements and attend a participating college for your undergraduate degree. When a student completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a score called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated based on the financial situation of the student's household. In 2010, your EFC is calculated as zero if you and your parent's yearly income is $31,000 or less. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are first awarded to those with the lowest EFC. The amount of FSEOG grant money you will receive is up to your college, but in general the less your family is able to contribute to your tuition, the higher your grant.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service College Grant - On July 1st 2010, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant provided by the Higher Education Opportunity Act took effect. If a parent on military duty dies after September 11, 2001 in the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars, their children receive the maximum possible dollar amount from their Pell Grant award. If these same children do not meet the income criteria for the Pell Grant, they can receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. The award amount is equal to the maximum Pell Grant possible, but is reduced if the student attends part-time.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) - If you wish to become a teacher that educates students from low income families, then the TEACH Grant can help you pay for your teaching degree. It contributes up to $4000 per year for four years of undergraduate study and two years of graduate study. To be eligible, you must plan to work at a public or private school within a less advantaged neighborhood teaching a subject that has a shortage of qualified educators. Examples of such subjects include science, foreign language, and special education. If for some reason you are unable to fulfill this requirement, your grant converts to a government loan which must be paid back in full.
In addition to the above federal grants for college, you can obtain grant money from your state and directly from the school you are attending. Many states provide grants to residents that attend a public college located within the state. States also offer financial grants similar to the Pell Grant. For example, the Cal Grant provides up to $12,192 per year to low income students attending University of California schools. Universities will commonly offer grants directly to students. These will be college grants are based on financial aid, merit, or a combination of both. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, gives an average of $31,926 per recipient of their grant.