If you’re a student aiming to pursue a college degree, you’ve probably figured out that higher education is expensive. So you’ve got yourself an interesting problem: You really want that degree, but at the same time, you want to minimize the liabilities that come with it.
Well, we might have a solution for you – securing college grants.
An educational grant is a form of free financial aid that – unlike student loans – does not need to be repaid. Grants are typically offered by the Federal or state governments, private or public organizations, professional associations, and colleges.
Grants differ from scholarships because they are primarily need-based. This does not mean that grants do not consider merit at all. It simply means that the focus is usually on factors such as financial and socio-economic status.
The basic aim of most grants is to make higher education accessible to all by providing a helping hand (in the form of additional funding) to help cover the cost of education.
Today, grants are awarded to students with varied backgrounds and interests, in an effort to improve accessibility and campus diversity. Here are some of the popular categories of grants offered to students:
1. Government-funded grants
- Federal Government Grants
- State-funded grants
2. Military Grants
3. Student-Specific Grants
4. Grants for Specific Subjects/Careers
5. Grants-for-Service Programs
6. Grants for Minorities
7. Grants for International Students
8. Unique Grants
Let’s look at these options in detail.
Several grants are provided to students by both – the Federal and State governments.
Federal Government Grants:
The Federal Government offers grants to over a thousand students each year. These grants are funded by the federal government and administered to students through the Department of Education. A few of the better-known Federal grant programs include:
1. The Pell Grant
The Federal Pell Grant is usually awarded only to undergraduates with genuine financial needs who do not yet hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
(In some cases, a Pell Grant could be awarded to a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program.)
The Pell Grant amount can change every year. For the award year 2023-24, the maximum Pell Grant award was $7,395. The amount awarded to students varies depending on factors such as their family’s financial status, the cost of attendance for the program and college chosen by the student, etc.
2. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) Grant
The Federal TEACH Grant awards financial aid to students who undertake roles as educators in certain essential fields.
Eligibility Criteria for the Teach Grant are subject to change each year, but usually include the following requirements:
- You must be enrolled in a program of study that is eligible for the TEACH Grant, at a college that officially participates in the TEACH Grant Program.
- You are typically required to serve as a teacher for around 4 years at a low-income elementary/secondary school, or in an educational service agency in an essential area of study.
It’s important to note that the TEACH program is an example of a grant-for-service program.
3. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
The FSEOG provides financial aid to undergraduate students who have severe financial needs. The FSEOG program is administered through the financial aid offices of colleges that participate in the program. Applications for this grant are done through the participating colleges and are generally given on a first-come-first-serve basis.
4. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
Undergraduate students under age 24 who lost their parent(s) or guardian(s) in Iraq or Afghanistan due to military service may be awarded federal financial aid through this grant.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is an example of a military grant, which is explained in detail later in this article.
State-funded College Grants:
Most states offer some form of financial assistance to resident students. State grants are fairly common and are generally funded by state taxes and similar revenue sources.
In the U.S., states are required to have a dedicated Department of Higher Education. It is through this department – or other recognized educational organizations – that state-funded grants are awarded.
The eligibility criteria and amounts offered through state grants are likely to differ from state to state.
Certain grants are provided through the U.S. Armed Forces. These grants may be offered to spouses and dependent children of veterans or enlisted officers serving in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy. These programs can also benefit students who enlist in the armed forces and who wish to pursue further education.
Colleges, organizations, and governments recognize that higher education has become the need of the hour. So, to help students from specific backgrounds to achieve their academic goals, many student-specific grants are offered by these entities. Some commonly offered forms of student-specific grants include:
1. Grants for Non-Traditional College Students:
The term “non-traditional student” refers primarily to adult learners and individuals who differ from the standard definition of a college student. Eligible recipients for these grants may include single parents, veterans returning from service, and even adults who wish to continue their educational journey to learn new skills or climb the corporate ladder.
2. Grants for College Students with Disabilities:
To help make college more accessible for students with disabilities, a number of grants are provided to them. Students with disabilities such as blindness, autism, physical impairments, etc. may be eligible for some of these grants. Grants for students with disabilities are typically provided by charitable organizations or groups dedicated to improving the quality of life for physically disadvantaged individuals.
3. Grants for College Students from Low-Income Backgrounds:
Education is an expensive dream for many. To turn this dream into reality, several grants are awarded to students from low-income backgrounds. Sometimes referred to as hardship grants, these are generally provided by governments, charitable organizations, and foundations. The FSEOG, mentioned earlier in this article, is an example of such a grant.
Some grants are awarded, often through grant-for-service programs, to encourage students to pursue careers in specific fields. These include:
1. College Grants for the STEM Subjects:
The STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are deemed as high-need subjects. As such, the government and professional organizations are aiming to facilitate more and more students to graduate from these subjects and pursue careers in related fields. While STEM subjects are quite competitive, several grants are available to study these subjects. Two noteworthy examples of such grants:
- Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG)
- Science and Math Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants.
2. College Grants for Teachers:
There is a growing need for qualified educators in America, specifically in sections of society that are as yet underdeveloped. As such, grants provided to educators, or potential educators, are abundant.
The TEACH Grant mentioned earlier is one such example.
3. College Grants for Careers in Healthcare:
Like the American education system, the field of healthcare too requires a lot more qualified professionals. So if you’re looking to pursue a career as a doctor, nurse, primary care physician, etc. you are likely to be eligible for a grant. As with the other grants in this category, the funding could be through an award-for-service program which may require you to serve as a healthcare provider in areas of need.
Many grants are offered through a grant-for-service or an award-for-service program. Such grants require students to maintain eligibility by engaging in certain activities related to the objectives of the grant.
For instance: The TEACH Grant requires students to teach full-time for a minimum of 4 years, and most subject-specific grants require students to undertake responsibilities in the subject for which the grant is being awarded.
If a student fails to meet the requirements of a grant-for-service program, the funding provided may turn into a loan, which they will need to repay after graduation. So if you are opting for a grant that falls in this category, be sure to read the requirements and contract carefully so that you can reap all the benefits it has to offer.
America is known for its cultural diversity. This diversity needs to be reflected in the education system as well. To make this possible, grants are provided to aid students from minority groups in achieving their educational goals. These grants are commonly provided by state governments, colleges, philanthropic organizations, and other entities. Some categorical examples include:
- Grants for Native American Students
- Grants for African American Students
- Grants for Hispanic Students
- Grants for Women
- Grants for students from the LGBTQ+ community
and many more!
If you are not a resident of the U.S. but wish to pursue higher education in the States, you may still be eligible for certain grants. While international students are not eligible to receive federal financial aid after filling out the FAFSA, you should still fill it out anyway, since it may help determine if you qualify for funds from your college or the state government. Some colleges may require you to fill out additional forms such as the International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA). Make sure to go through all documents carefully and do the necessary paperwork only after reading all the provided information.
There are a few grants available to those who pursue unique fields of study. There have been grants offered for very niche subjects such as cereal science, massage therapy, ancient languages, etc. Some colleges also offer grants to members of their sports teams, dance teams, and bands.
So if you have a very specific interest, try to contact organizations and associations in the field, to see if there are grants you may be eligible for. The results may surprise you.
Grants are a form of free financial aid and don’t require repayment. Several grants are available based on a wide variety of criteria such as background, ethnicity, career or subjects of interest, and for service in specific fields. Thousands of grants are awarded to students every year, making them a popular form of financial aid.
If you’re looking for more information on financial aid options, feel free to explore our content repository to learn more about funding your education.