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What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.

 

Federal Scholarships for College

 

It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.

 

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

 

You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.

 

Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.

 

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

 

Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:

 

 

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.

 

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 – 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.

Amount Received Dependent On:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?

 

 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

 

 

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation.

Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School)

Qualifications:

  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.

 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.

 

 

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.

 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

 

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3 Student Loan Refinancing Topics That Need a Second Look

Many students will agree that student loans are a welcomed and often necessary part of the financial aid package when pursuing higher education, and most people don’t look forward entering the repayment phase, there certainly are smarter ways to manage their outstanding education loan debt. Fortunately, student loan refinancing programs, along with qualifying for certain rates, help borrowers by combining one or more federal and private student loans into a single loan with new terms, a new monthly payment amount, new repayment terms, and hopefully a lower interest rate. With the many positives of student loan refinancing — all of which may help borrowers save money during their repayment period — there are also some lesser-known topics that borrowers should not avoid addressing when researching their refinancing options.

Take a Second Look at These Topics When Refinancing Student Loans:

  1. Always Research the Best Options:

Student loan refinancing programs should be given just as much consideration as the school in which you attended when said loans were created. Like choosing the wrong school, selecting the wrong refinancing program can be detrimental. Simply put, performing an internet search for “student loan refinancing” is not enough to obtain the terms needed to save money. There are hundreds of financial institutions, and with so many programs to consider, it is extremely important to find a program that is going to work for you and your budget. The best way for you to ensure that the lending institution is leading you in the right direction — and doing what is right for you and your budget — is to do research and ask questions. Start by making sure you understand the repayment terminology, and then investigate the company. Look for reviews and call the lending institution to ask questions. At the very least, lenders must be credible and reputable, but they should also be available to kindly and thoroughly answer all of your questions. Finally, if you choose to refinance your loans, make sure you understand exactly what you have to gain or lose with each. Do this, and you are on your way to protecting your wallet and your financial independence.

  1. Always Weigh the Implications of Refinancing a Federal Loan:

Refinancing student loans with a private lender involves a bit of debt consolidation, which means multiple student loans (federal and private) are combined into a single loan, with a single monthly payment. This newly refinanced student loan will have new terms, hopefully, a lower interest rate, a new monthly payment amount, and/or a new repayment length. Before this process takes place, however, it is especially important to understand exactly what changes will take place if you choose to include any or all of your federal loans into the refinancing package, as refinancing a federal loan may nullify federal student loan protections, such as public service forgiveness and income-based repayment plans. With this in mind, and given that many private lenders are willing to offer similar benefits in order to help their clients remain in good standing, some people still choose to include federal loans in the refinanced package simply to create a single, more convenient repayment plan.

  1. Always Compare Fixed and Variable Interest Rates:

When considering student loan refinancing, borrowers commonly forget to compare their options regarding the two types of interest rates on loansfixed interest and variable interest rates.

  • Variable rates change over time based on current financial and economic conditions. They can do so at any time in the financial climate, thereby affecting the interest applied to a loan. Variable interest rates will often start lower than fixed interest rates, but there is always the possibility that, as they fluctuate, they will rise and cause an increase in monthly payments.
  • Fixed rates, on the other hand, maintain the interest rate that was agreed upon in the initial contract, and remain at that rate over the life of the loan. With a fixed rate loan, borrowers are protected against the possibility of rising interest rates during the entire repayment period.

Choose the Right Program

Finding the right student loan refinancing program (along with agreeable terms and rates) can be time-consuming and daunting, especially for first-time refinancers. However, understanding your options is the best way to obtain a firm grasp on your finances and find the best refinancing loan possible. If you need any assistance, Education Loan Finance’s refinancing experts and management team — with over thirty years of experience in the student loan industry — will gladly help!

 

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