What Is Financial Aid for School?

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Financial aid for college or career school can come from the United States federal government, a state, a college or a nonprofit or private organization. Each of these types of aid has different application processes and eligibility criteria. Within these categories of financial aid, there are many different options for students to gain financial support. Students generally fund their educational expenses using a combination of these three types of financial aid, coupled with help from family and individual income.

Federal Government Aid
There are a few different types of financial aid awarded by the U.S. federal government to students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal government gives aid based on financial need demonstrated by information about the student and the student's family, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This information determines a figure that the student is expected to be able to contribute to the cost of college. Aid from the federal government comes in the form of loans, grants and work-study programs, as stated by the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education. A grant is a financial award given in cases of financial hardship and does not need to be paid back. Federal grants typically do not cover the entire cost of attending school, so other types of aid were created to fill in the gaps. A federal financial aid loan, unlike a grant, does have to be paid back with interest. There are also private student loans offered by banks and financial institutions but federal student loans typically have lower interest rates.

There are two types of federal financial aid loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. For subsidized loans, the federal government covers the interest while the student is in college. Unsubsidized loans, however, start accruing interest immediately. The third type of federal financial aid is work study. The federal government provides money for schools to hire students in work-study jobs where they can earn money to help pay for their education. The federal government also provides student financial aid like aid for military service or military families, tax benefits, awards for public service, vouchers for students who have gone through the foster care system and loan forgiveness for certain professions following school.

State Financial Aid
The governments of each state also offer financial aid, including grants and loans, through the state public universities and colleges. Each state has an education department and granting agencies that can provide information about the state's financial aid policies, as listed on the Federal Student Aid Office website.

School Financial Aid
Colleges and career schools also provide financial aid from their own funds. Most of this aid is distributed in the form of scholarships. Just like grants, scholarships do not have to be paid back, but students do not qualify for scholarships based on financial need. Scholarships can be given for many reasons, mostly merit-based. Separate studies within a school might give scholarships to students studying that subject, and certain student organizations may give scholarships to students within that group.

Private Organizations
Many private organizations and nonprofits offer scholarships and grants to help individuals attend college or career school. Grants are often based on financial need while scholarships are mostly based on merit. There are thousands of scholarships available across the country and several scholarship search services online to find scholarships that may suit every student.