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Financial Aid Search: Free Money for Students

Jan 22, 2008
A financial aid search can take you through several programs, and confuse the best of us. The programs below offer some help to get you through college. Take a minute and read through it. These programs just refer to free money for college, or nearly free.

One term you may want to learn is FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a form you fill out to determine if you qualify for federal grants or loans. Many states also use it for their programs. Let's get into programs so you can find some money.

1. Government grants, the main grant you can get from the federal government being the Pell grant. Others include the Federal Supplemental Equal Opportunity Grant or FSEOG for cases of extreme need. The Academic Competitiveness Grant or ACG, for the first two years of college for students with great academics and little money. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent or SMART Grant, applies to the last 2 years of a 4-year degree, in a technical field. Math, engineering, chemistry, biology and many other majors would all fit if you apply for this grant program. You must fill out a FAFSA for all federal grant programs.

2. State grant programs: nearly every state has a grant program to offer more aid to their residents. You can find these through the state website, usually the department of higher education. Most of these require a FAFSA to determine need.

3. Scholarships: the subject of scholarships fills pages and pages of books. Why? Because everyone is different, and most only give an award to 1 to 5 people. Essentially, you get a scholarship for demonstrating talent or skill in a certain area, such as music, academic achievement (grades), sports, and so on. Once you have a scholarship, you may be able to renew it. You can find hundreds of scholarships from every organization you can think of, some right in your own neighborhood. Be careful of consultants that offer to find you a scholarship if you'll pay them. Usually a FAFSA isn't part of this, but could be if you are applying for a state or federal scholarship.

In the section below I cover a few programs that you have probably heard of. These programs offer great help, but may require you to plan ahead. Again, just free money for college or nearly free programs here again in this section.

4. HOPE scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits actually aren't a scholarship - sorry. These are tax credit programs. You can use tuition and fees from your family members that you support (think dependents) as tax credits when figuring your taxes. HOPE only applies to the first two years. The Lifetime Learning tax credit you can use over and over again. It phases out as your income goes up. Not financial aid like a grant, where someone gives you a check, but may it apply to you. Talk to a tax pro for more in this one. (Also, several states have scholarship programs named HOPE. Those are different programs than this one.)

5. Tuition waiver programs usually come from states, and offer certain groups either free or greatly reduced tuition. Typically applies to state schools, but some programs include private colleges and universities. As financial aid goes, free tuition is good.

6. Loan forgiveness programs offer to pay your loans in exchange for your work in a specific field. For example, work as a school teacher and you can get some of your loans paid or forgiven. This program also goes by the name tuition forgiveness. Note that this doesn't happen until you go to school, graduate, and get a job that offers this type of aid. Still, borrow and someone else pays it back is a nice package.

7. Tuition Assistance programs or Tuition Reimbursement may sound familiar if you have a job. Many companies offer a program like this to employees, and generally few ever apply to use it. I have worked for a company that offered reimbursement, where you pay, take the class, then fill out a form and get some or all of your money back. And I have also worked for a company that paid the tuition up front for me. Both programs can offset much of the tuition for your schooling. No FAFSA involved.

Several options to choose from, and you can do all of them if you want. Searching for financial aid doesn't have to be hard. Keep looking, and you'll find a way.
About the Author
Need more info in your financial aid search for money for college? Come to come to Beat-Tuition.com and download my free short report on financial aid
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