Financial aid can reduce the overall cost of education expenses, but where do you start? There are two main determining factors that are used to determine who qualifies for student aid:
- Need-based aid: based on family income and ability to pay
- Merit-based aid: based on student academic and extracurricular achievement
In order to apply for financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is universal to post-secondary institutions and applicable aid resources (federal, state, schools, private.)
Assessing Student Need
Financial aid provides a specific amount of money to a student in order to assist with paying educational expenses. Financial aid is typically given based on a determination of financial need. The amount of aid is limited to this calculated need. A student’s need is the difference between the total cost of attending college at a particular institution and the available financial resources on behalf of the family to pay.
The Expected Family Contribution (the parent’s and student’s financial resources) subtracted from the Total Cost of Attendance equals the Financial Need.
- The Expected Family Contribution is influenced by these 3 factors:
- The amount that the student’s parents will be asked to pay from their income and assets
- The amount the student will be asked to pay from earnings and savings
- Family size, age of older parent, number of children currently attending college
Sources of Financial Aid
Federal: there are multiple types of resources available from the U.S. Department of Education such as (grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, loans, aid for military families; aid for international study, etc.) A complete list of additional information can be found here: https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types
State: financial aid at the state level differs across each state. In many cases, the FAFSA is the only form that you will need to complete, but you should confirm with your state to ensure that you adhere to all required criteria. A complete list of additional information can be found here: https://www.nasfaa.org/State_Financial_Aid_Programs
Schools: the school that you are applying to will leverage the FAFSA information that you provided to determine your eligibility for Federal, State and school provided resources. The resources available at each school are different so it is important to do the research up front and understand how much aid they can provide separate from Federal and State. Contact the financial aid office of each school to get more information.
Private: Private scholarships and grants are available but will require a significant amount of research and due diligence on behalf of the student to track these down and apply. You can begin conducting a comprehensive search of available scholarships here: https://www.fastweb.com