College Grants Explained

World is in a recession. The economic slowdown is bigger than any slowdowns we have seen in our lifetime. This means we are in a time period where it is a good idea to stop doing what we are doing and rethink our life strategy. In this period we can improve our competitiveness and master few trades, or skills that will help us in our professional life later on.

For many of us in order to improve it will mean to receive higher education. I believe now is the best time to enroll in some kind of a college or university. This creates a small problem: enrolling and receiving higher education costs money. Some of you are thinking this makes no sense, how will I be able to pay for college in an economic slowdown? The answer is easy. US Government provides many Education Grants for students who want to go to college. If free money for school excites you, please read on.

What are College Grants?

College grants are awards given to students by both federal and state governments. Also, they are one of the favorite methods when it comes to Financial Aid. Very often these awards do not have to be repaid. They should be one of your first strategies of financing your education. Education grants are awarded based on financial need, eligibility and funds availability. This implies they are distributed on first come first serve basis. Education Grants can pay for tuition and other college related expenses. These government education grants exist for both undergraduate and graduate students.

In 2009-2010 school year our government awarded $26,265,147,289 in total federal college grants. The average award across grants per student per year was $2,278 with the maximum award being $5,350. That is a lot of money per student. It is definitely well worth it to apply for school grants.

Here I am going to list of some of the most important college grants we are going to talk about. They are: Pell Grants, TEACH Grants, National SMART Grants, Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG), and Federal Supplemental Edu. Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). Let us review these common government grants and see what they have to offer.

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are the heart of education grant programs. A Federal Pell Grant is also the foundation for financial aid. This great grant was formerly called: Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (BEOGs). It is your first funding when it comes to college financial help. Other types of financial aid and other grants supplement this grant. As with most of the grants this award does not have to be repaid. This grant program carries the most money and is the first grant you will be considered for when you submit your FAFSA application.

In 2009-2010 the average award for one academic year for the Pell Grant was $3,611. President Obama has proposed to increase the grant budget. The new proposal would raise the maximum Pell Grant award by $200, to $5,550 for the 2010-11 academic year. This would make additional 260,000 students eligible for this program.

The award amount for this grant depends on: students expected family contribution, cost of attendance, students enrollment status, whether the student attends for a full year or less.

TEACH Grants

TEACH Grant otherwise also known as The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program is a brand new grant for those who want to become teachers. This program was created through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. The purpose of this program was to find more teachers. Students must agree to teach after they graduate.

In this category the average award is $2,941 per academic year and the TEACH Grant provides funding up to $4,000 per year to applicants who want to teach in a public or private elementary, or secondary school with one important condition: the school has to server students from low income families.

Students who graduate but do not complete the required teaching service will have to pay off the grant as it will turn into a un-subsidized loan, where interest will have to be paid from the date the TEACH Grant award was disbursed. College students who want to receive this grant need to agree to serve as full time teachers. The teaching will need to be for 4 academic years and it has to be performed within the 8 calendar years of the graduation date. Applicants do not have to show financial need in order to be eligible for this program.

National SMART Grant

The National Smart Grant is also well known as National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant. National Smart program was established by The Higher Education Reconciliation Act as a main program to meet the growing need for math and science instruction. SMART Grants are available during the third and fourth year of undergraduate study only. The purpose of this program was to support students majoring in physics, mathematics, technology, engineering, life, computer science, critical foreign language, or non major single liberal arts program. National SMART grants are only available as the supplement to the Pell Grant. One must receive the Pell Grant first, before being able to receive money from the SMART Grant.

Maximum award in this grant is $4000 in academic years: three and four. Applicants must meet Pell Grant eligibility requirements in addition to a high GPA score of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)

ACG Grant Established by The Higher Education Reconciliation Act carries a role of a supplement grant to the Pell Grant. This is a sister grant to National SMART Grant. Academic Competitiveness Grants are available to students for their first and second academic years of college. Later on students can use the SMART grants for their third and fourth academic year. This is a fairly new program helping those applicants who take challenging high school courses and those who pursue challenging college majors. Students must receive the Pell Grant first, before being eligible for the Academic Competitiveness Grant.

About $790 millions have been designated to the program in 2006-07 academic year and this program will have 4.5 billion over the next few years. Maximum award in this grant is $4,000 and in 2009 the average award per student per year was $787. In order to qualify for this grant, students must meet the rigorous secondary school program of study requirements. It is worth noting that not all students who receive federal Pell Grants are eligible for this ACG grant.


Federal Supplemental Edu. Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant or sometimes abbreviated to FSEOG, is federal Financial Aid program for students with exceptional financial need. Just like with most other grants the money does not have to be repaid as long as the student remains eligible. Since this grant works on financial need basis, students who apply first will have the first chance of being awarded. If you are a student who is a Pell Grant recipient with the lowest expected family contribution you will be considered first for the program.

Maximum award in this grant is $4,000 and in 2009 the average award per student in one academic year was $787. This particular grant is designed for undergraduate students only. Funding for the grant is very limited. Make sure to be one of the first applicants in order to be considered.


Other Grants

On top of the famous free government grants mentioned above, students can apply for other grants that will help them pay for their education. Some of the institutions that provide grants to students are: states, colleges and universities, public institutions, and private organizations. Check with your school or state for more information on the programs they provide.


Who is Eligible?

Education Grants were designed mostly for undergraduate students, but graduate students may receive these grants in some cases. In order to be eligible students must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment before they apply. Weather grants are awarded or not will depend on your FAFSA application result. Very often the school will make the decision if you qualify for certain state or school based college grants. Sometimes schools are not able to decide automatically. In this scenario you may be required to apply to grant administrator in order to be considered for a particular grant.

When you fill out your FAFSA forms, the information from that application is used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. This EFC report determines whether the student is eligible for a Pell Grants or not. EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. This EFC is the number that is used to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. This number results from the financial information you provided in your FAFSA application. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR).


How to Apply?

Most are provided by the federal government, so you apply by submitting your FAFSA application. For other non federal grants you have to find the administrative contact for the grant. You may contact him directly and see what the enrollment process is for that specific grant program.


Where to Apply

Federal Student Aid Information
Phone: 1-800-433-3243
TDD: 1-800-730-8913
8 a.m. to 8 p.m., M-F (EST)
Phone: 1-800-621-3115 – Default Resolution Group
Phone: 1-800-557-7392 – Direct Loan Consolidation
Phone: 1-888-869-4169 – Disability Discharge Loan Servicing
Phone: 1-800-433-3243 – Federal Student Aid Information
Phone: 1-202-377-3800 – Office of the Ombudsman FSA


Important Questions

Can I apply for student grants if I have a student loan?
This question comes up a lot. Yes, you can apply for student grants if you have a student loan. You can always apply for grants, even if you have a student loan as long as you did not default on your college loan. To be honest I would apply for grants even if I was in default on my student loan. Chances are you will find a program that will give you grants for your education even though you ran into debt problems. It does not hurt to try. Make sure to be legitimate.

Can I receive education grants if I am enrolled less than half-time?
Yes, you can receive education grants if you are enrolled less than half time but you will be able to receive only the Federal Pell Grant and the FSEOG. Moreover, you may not receive as much as if you were enrolled full-time. For the ACG and the National SMART Grant, you must be enrolled full-time.

What is the most important requirement in order to receive college grants?
In most scenarios college grants are awarded based on your financial situation. If you are in a financial need college grants may be awarded to you. In a scenario where you are a wealthy student grants may not be awarded. I believe the most important tip in receiving grants is speed. You must be one of the first students to submit your application. I am sure there will be more than one student in financial need, and we know at this point college grant money is limited.


To Sum it All Up

Education grants exist if you are willing to receive higher education and you do not want to pay for it using your own money. When looking for financial aid, grants are the first thing you should look for as they mostly do not have to be repaid. It is free money for your education. Everyone should apply since the Education Grants were built for everyone in mind. Worst case scenario you may receive less than full amount, but you should be awarded some money.

You made your first step by reading to the end of this article and the next step for you is to fill out and submit your FAFSA application. If you stop right here you wasted time reading the above text. Do not waste time, visit our website and find out more information. In case you are awarded money, visit us back and share your success with us. Good luck.