According to the U.S. Department of Education’s “Student Aid on the Web,” there are four types of federal grants available to qualifying college students: [i]
- the Pell Grant
- the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- the Teacher Education for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH)
- the Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant
Because these awards are grants, these funds do not need to be repaid (unless you withdraw from school early or – only in the case of the TEACH grant – you violate your teacher service agreement). The first two options are need-based awards, meaning your family’s income is the first consideration in whether or not you will qualify. The last two options are reserved, respectively, for future teachers and for students who lost a parent due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The first two federal grants are also limited to undergraduate studies, which only include associate degrees, bachelor degrees, and certain certificate programs – like post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs. The last two options may include graduate (master degree) programs. Beyond those generalities, each type of grant has its own set of eligibility requirements, as outlined below.
The Federal Pell Grant
Description: A federal grant that isn’t affected by other forms of financial aid or by the available funds at your college; all qualifying students (see eligibility requirements below) will receive the maximum they are owed. Students who first receive a Pell Grant after 2008 may receive the grant for a lifetime limit of 18 semesters.
Amount: Currently up to a maximum of $5,550 for each school year, although the maximum award may change annually. Generally speaking, students attending more expensive colleges on a full-time basis will receive more Pell Grant money than students attending less expensive schools and/or studying part-time. Some students may qualify for two Pell Grants in a single award year for accelerated studies (i.e. summer semesters).
Eligibility Requirement One: Recipient must be an undergraduate student at a Title IV-approved school or college, and must not yet have earned a bachelor or professional degree. In some instances, students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs may qualify. If you’re not sure that your college is Title IV eligible, contact its financial aid office. Any eligible college should supply you with a Federal School Code, otherwise known as a Title IV Institution Code.
Eligibility Requirement Two: Recipient must have a low expected family contribution (EFC), defined by the U.S. Government. Many factors are used to determine your EFC – including the size of your family, the number of family members attending college, and your family’s annual income.
Application Requirements: All students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application will automatically be considered. Students must complete a new FAFSA for each academic year during which they will enroll in classes.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
Description: If you are Pell Grant eligible and the Pell Grant does not provide enough aid to meet your cost of college attendance, you may additionally receive FSEOG funds. Your eligibility for FSEOGs depends on the other forms of aid you receive (for example, through private scholarships or work-study) and on your school’s participation in the FSEOG program. Not all colleges participate; contact the financial aid office of any college you are considering, and ask about FSEOG participation.
Amount: Between $100 and $4,000 per year. Each year, participating colleges receive different funding levels from the federal government. Depending on the number of low or middle-income students colleges accept, they may be more or less equipped to meet students’ FSEOG needs. Priority is usually given to students with the lowest expected family contributions (EFC), but colleges also observe a first come, first serve policy – meaning eligible students who apply early have a better chance of receiving some FSEOG funding.
Eligibility Requirement One: Recipient must first qualify for the Federal Pell Grant.
Eligibility Requirement Two: Must be attending a college that awards FSEOGs.
Application Requirements: All students who complete the FAFSA application will automatically be considered. Still, you may wish to contact your college’s financial aid office to determine whether or not the school participates in this program, and how often qualifying students are denied grants due to budget shortfalls.
The Teacher Education for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH)
Description: The TEACH Grant is one of two federal grants that are not awarded based on financial need. Instead, this grant is offered in exchange for the agreement that its recipient will teach for four years in a low-income school district and/or in a critical shortage area.
Amount: Up to $4,000 for each year of the eligible teacher training program.
Eligibility Requirement One: Recipient must be a full-time undergraduate, graduate or post-baccalaureate college student, enrolled in a program that is designed to prepare certified teachers.
Eligibility Requirement Two: Must score above the 75th percentile on college entrance exams (SATs/ACTs) and/or maintain a 3.25 college GPA.
Eligibility Requirement Three: Recipient must sign a contract that she will teach for four academic years at a low-income school or in a critical shortage subject area, within eight years of completing her college program. If she defaults on this agreement, all the grant money she was awarded will be converted into a federal loan.
Application Requirements: Students must complete the FAFSA application and inquire at their colleges’ financial aid offices. Not all colleges participate in the program.
The Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant
Description: The Service Grant is one of two federal grants that is not based on financial need. Instead, this grant is offered to any student who suffered the loss of a parent who was a U.S. military member killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, after September 11, 2001. The terms of the grant are the same as those of the Federal Pell Grant.
Amount: Currently up to a maximum of $5,550 for each school year, although the maximum award may change annually, according to the Federal Pell Grant maximum.
Eligibility Requirement One: Recipient must have been a college student, enrolled at least part-time, at the time of his parent’s death. He must be ineligible for the Pell Grant only insofar as his financial need is insufficient to qualify for that program.
Eligibility Requirement Two: Recipient must be 24 or younger at the time of his parent’s death.
Application Requirements: All students who complete the FAFSA application will automatically be considered.