Federal Student Grants

Grants for college students make the cost of higher education affordable. Also referred to as gift aid, grants for college do not need to be repaid as these are given to students in order to obtain their education.

Individuals apply for grants using the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA). The FAFSA requests information from the student, which helps the school and the federal government decide how much financial aid the student requires.

FAFSA grants come in a variety of forms, including a federal work study option. The Pell Grant is a needs-based award available only to undergraduate students who meet the eligibility criteria. The FSEOG grant is also a needs-based award, however, as it is only available to those who are deemed to be in exceptional need. Students working towards a degree in education are eligible for a grant that requires them to perform teaching service as a condition. Here is more information on grants for college students and how to apply for each.

Overview of Federal Grants for College

Grants for college are known as gift aid. FAFSA grants are free money given to students to help pay for their postsecondary education expenses. Unlike loans, the money does not need to be repaid. There are a variety of grants available to students based on need and field of study. Students apply for college grants via FAFSA. The form gathers information from the student to help schools determine an applicant’s eligibility for federal aid.

Grants may come from schools, for-profit and nonprofit organizations and state or local governments. The U.S. Department of Education offers a variety of federal grants to help make school affordable for both graduate and postgraduate students.

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While in most cases, grants do no need be repaid, there are instances when a student must repay all or part of the grant. Students are required to repay a grant if they withdraw from their program early. They are also required to repay when their enrollment status drops to below half-time. Those under an agreement for a TEACH Grant will also need to repay their grant if they do not fulfill the terms outlined in their service agreement. Lastly, if the amount of scholarships and other grants reduce their financial need, students must repay their gift funds.

How to Apply for College Grants

Students must complete a FAFSA grant application to apply for college grants. They must also meet eligibility criteria for FAFSA grants which include:

  • Enrollment at least half-time in an approved program of study towards a degree or certificate.
  • Proof of a valid Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Registration with the Selective Service if a male.
  • Not being in default on any federal student loans.

The office of Federal Student Aid gathers important information about the student and their parent(s) such as their income, citizenship status and enrollment status. Once completed, the FAFSA is sent to the student’s school(s) of choice. The school makes the determination to award funding based on the applicant’s financial need.

Most schools receive federal funding each year to allocate for certain grants, such as the FSEOG grant. Once the funding runs out for the year, no further FSEOG grants are awarded. Therefore, students must apply early to increase their chances of securing funding.

Pell Grant Eligibility Rules

The Pell Grant is a form of grant for college that is based on a student’s financial need. Individuals must apply using a FAFSA and meet the following general eligibility criteria for a FAFSA grant:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • Be current on all federal student loans
  • Be registered with the selective service if a male
  • Be an undergraduate student who has not yet obtained a first undergraduate degree

Students who demonstrate sufficient need for this grant are automatically awarded the funds. The student’s financial need is calculated as the total cost of attendance minus the expected family contribution (EFC). The grant awarded may not exceed their financial need. The amount the student receives does not count against them on their FAFSA and thus does not affect their expected family contribution. There is a maximum award limit of $6,095 per academic year for FAFSA grants.

How an SEOG Grant Helps Those in Exceptional Financial Need

The SEOG grant, also known as the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, provides college funds for students with the greatest financial need. Priority for these grants for college is given to students with an EFC of zero when submitting a FAFSA application. The award amount varies based on the applicant’s financial status. Students may receive up to $4,000 per year for their FSEOG grant.

To be eligible for the program, students must meet the general eligibility criteria for federal financial aid. They must also demonstrate academic progress towards their degree or certificate.

The TEACH Grant and How it Benefits Aspiring Teachers

Individuals enrolled in a program that leads to a degree or certificate in teaching may be eligible for what is known as the TEACH grant. The federal TEACH grant is a form of financial aid that requires individuals to fulfill an agreement to serve. Specifically, grant holders must agree to teach in a high-need, low-income area for each year they were awarded the grant. They must sign a service agreement stating their intent to do so. Anyone who does not fulfill their service requirement will have their grant funds automatically converted to a loan which must be repaid.

Service Required

Each student must perform their duties in what is known as a high-need field. These fields are ones that the U.S. Department of Education deems as lacking in qualified teachers. Some of the fields include:

  • Reading.
  • English language acquisition.
  • Math.
  • Science.
  • Special Education.


Eligibility criteria for the program include the general requirements for obtaining federal student aid. However, there are additional criteria which each applicant must meet. First, they must be enrolled in an undergraduate, post baccalaureate or graduate program. The program must be one that is registered to offer the TEACH grant. Next, the student must meet academic achievement requirements. They must score above the 75th percentile on their college entrance exams and they must maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA.

Related Article: After Completing the FAFSA

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