There are lots of financial options that are available to students pursuing college education in the United States. It could be from the federal or state government. When you are looking for ways to pay your college tuition there are grants, work-study and low-interest student loans that could help you. Generally, the state provides subsidies for public education. This is not part of the financial aid that is being afforded to some needy students. Financial options are given to specific students based on certain criteria. One can also apply for scholarships which are financial aid that the students need not to repay because it is an award made by an individual or an organization.
The States in America provide grants, work-study and loans using the merit or need-based system. In 2010 there are nine federal and about 605 state student aid programs that are available to students. There as many as 7,000 post-secondary educational institutions that are providing merit aid to qualified students.
Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study Program and Stafford Loans are just among the major federal study grants. There are also state student incentive grants and the Federal PLUS Loans are just among the few of the financial aid options that are available to students in the United States.
State governments also provide some degree of needs or merit-based financial aid to students. Some of these aids may require the filling out of the FAFSA together with other needs-based analysis document before one can apply for a financial aid which is needed to rationalize the funding for students.
Most aid are available to students on a first-come, first-served basis that is why it is important for students to file for their application at the soonest time possible. It would be great if students are able to file for their application closest to January 1 as possible. However, the “aid” window often stays open in case there is a need to re-adjust the student’s need based on financial requirements.
Merit-based aid is given to students that are able to demonstrate great aptitude and often are given by organizations in the form of scholarships. Typically merit-based aid takes into consideration the grade point average, SAT and ACT scores and other criteria. There are also merit scholarships that are not based on academics. Some awards are given for special talents and abilities. A merit-based aid does not take into consideration the financial need of the student.
Need-based aid on the other hand, is based on the financial need of the student to continue with the college education. The FAFSA is the bases of determining if a student is eligible for help.
When taking a look at the available financial aid it is important to assess if the student is able to get a maximum needs-based aid. Consult with your counselor on how to properly fill out the FAFSA and to coordinate closely with the authorities if how much can you get from it.