For the majority of Americans who don’t think they qualify for Pell Grants, the federal grant for low-income students, it’s easy for them to think that financial aid beyond student loans won’t happen for them. But that’s just not the case. Here are few other types of financial aid every family paying for college should know about.
1. State Grants
Pell grants get much of the publicity, but state states add up. Where can you find out about them?
From an igrad.com article: “You can learn about state grants by calling your school’s financial aid office. For instance, the state of Oregon offers a limited supply of $2,000 state grants, according to Jim Brooks, financial aid director of the University of Oregon. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are of receiving these funds. You should also remember to list state schools first when filling out the FAFSA. If you’re already in college and don’t plan on transferring, just list the school you’re currently attending.”
2. Payment Plans
Tuition payment plans can help you avoid student loan borrowing by allowing you pay off a semester or a year’s tuition over an extended period of time. Divide payments over several months. Just make sure you’re only paying off what you can afford.
3. Endowment Money/University Grants
Some schools have a stack of cash they can dole out to students that may come from university donors or other sources. The availability of this funds is partly why students should always fill out the FAFSA form regardless of a desire for student loans or qualifying for Pell Grants.
- Community Scholarships
Any student that only applies for scholarships from their school is doing themselves a disservice. Make sure to also look within the community for sources of funding. Asking their high school counselor is a great start but also look towards community organizations and the parents’ workplaces.
- 529 Plan Grants and Scholarships
Yay! Some states will essentially reward you for saving for college. For instance, 529 plan matching and program enrollment grants offered in some states can give students a few hundred dollars annually to add to college savings. A 529 plan is a college savings plan and a matching grant program is when the plan matches a contribution up to a specific dollar amount by either a percentage or dollar amount.
From usnews.com: “States differ widely on how often grants can be distributed. “Some grants are one-time-only matches that are made by the plan when the account is opened; others are made on an annual basis up to the match limit,” says College Savings Plans Network’s Fitzgerald. For instance, Maine offers $500 grants, called Alfond Grants, to start 529 plans for babies born in the state or who are moving to the state before their first birthday.”
Bottom line: There’s a lot financial aid available to families who look in the right places. Fill out the FAFSA but also look around for money for college, whether your student is a college freshman or an infant who can benefit from 529 plan matching grants programs.
Reyna’s a financial journalist who’s authored two editions of “CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life” and writes iGrad’s advice column Ask Reyna.