How to Get Education Grants to Pay for College

by Nancy

Obtaining a college education is important to also obtaining the career and salary you desire. College tuition is expensive, however, which makes acquiring financial aid an equally important part of the equation for students today. Student loans are available but loans require repayment with interest. Free education grants to help pay for some or all tuition expenses are also available and have additional benefits loans cannot offer.

Qualifying for education grants is a competitive process. Understanding where to look for these types of grants and how to start the application process helps give you an advantage over other applicants. Read ahead for vital information on how to get education grants to pay for your college expenses today.

Education Grants Help You Achieve Your Goals

One of the primary reasons prospective U.S. students do not attend college is an inability to afford tuition. Education grants are awarded to qualified applicants based on academic merit and achievements but also financial need. Grants are available from the U.S. federal government as well as private organizations and participating colleges/universities. In a world where new problems and challenges to success are increasingly frequent, education grants provide solutions to help achieve your education and career goals fast.

Understanding Education Grants vs. Student Loans

Education grants and student loans both help pay for some or all your college tuition and other applicable education-related expenses. Both grants and loans are referred to as types of financial aid, but one primary difference exists between them. Loans require repayment and usually with interest. Grants, however, commonly do not require repayment in any amount unless funds are misused or not used at all. Grants are therefore commonly referred to as “free money,” because obtaining the funds involves neither repayment of principal amount nor payment of finance charges assessed as the cost of doing business.

Federal vs. Privately Funded Education Grants

Federal education grants involve monies funded by the U.S. federal government. Most federal education grants are awarded to qualified recipients based on financial hardship. Some federal grants, such as those provided in the Federal Pell Grant program are based solely on financial need and not at all on academic achievements or a student’s grade point average (GPA). Federally-facilitated grant programs are funded by the U.S. federal government but not all are provided to students directly through federal programs. Some education grant money is provided to individual U.S. states by the federal government to be disbursed through state-run programs. The Federal Pell Grant program disburses awarded grant money directly to participating schools, which in turn apply the funds directly to recipient tuition costs or to the recipients themselves when/if applicable.

Grants funded by private organizations are more commonly disbursed directly to awarded recipients, but (again) not always. Federal grant money is not required to be repaid under most circumstances. Stipulations do require students use the money for its intended purpose or else risk repayment and (under rare circumstances) possible fine-based ramifications. Privately-funded grant programs also have rules/regulations but they vary greatly per provider and are often less strict than those enforced by federal programs. Because federal education grants are awarded based on highly competitive financial need, stricter stipulations are enforced to prevent the fraudulent manipulation of grant funding away from legitimate students in need.

How to Qualify for Free Education Grants

Qualification requirements for free education grants is dependent on the funding provider, purpose of the grant and additional/regional scenarios. The two main aspects affecting qualification for education grants are financial hardship and merit. Various grant programs qualify recipients based on one, the other or both these aspects. Qualifying for grants awarded based on financial hardship involves proof of household income and how it compares to the national poverty level. Qualifying for merit-based grants involves proof of academic achievements including high school/college transcripts, GPA and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.

A third and not as well-known aspect impacting educational grant qualification requirements involves regional statistics and associated competition levels within those regions. Certain areas of the country are less affluent than others. Grant funding is limited and federal monies are commonly disbursed around the country in percentages based on regional needs. Competition ends up elevated in high and low areas of affluence around the country. More grant funds are potentially disbursed to areas in need, but more students experiencing financial hardship live in those areas. Fewer students in need live in areas of higher affluence, but less grant funding is distributed to those regions. Therefore, qualifying for free education grants requires more than meeting eligibility requirements. It also requires persistence and the early submission of multiple applications.

Where to Look for Free Education Grants

The first place to start looking for free education grants is on the official website. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) sets multiple options for financial aid in motion. Sallie Mae also offers grants for college through the federal government, as does the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DE). Various types of grants, including education grants are also available through the website. Grants and additional financial aid discovered through these resources are all federally funded but private organizations offering education grants (and resources to find them) are also available.

For example, helps locate grants for general college students, female college students and specific state-supported scholarships and grant programs. Many churches and religious organizations offer education grants based both on merit and financial need. Charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army also offer some grants for education purposes, as do foundations set up by large corporations such as Ford and Walmart. Submit as many applications to various grant programs as possible the help mitigate rejections. Qualifying for one grant program does not disqualify you from receiving funds from another and vice versa.

Specialty, Minority and Veteran-Based Grants

Education grants are also awarded based on gender, minority and U.S. veteran status. These specific and/or specialized types of grants are designed to negate discrimination and provide equal educational opportunities to Americans regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliations or social status. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant is awarded to applicants who seek careers as professional teachers. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant (IASG) is awarded to applicants who are otherwise ineligible for the Federal Pell Grant program. A list of additional specialty, minority and veteran-based grants and resources includes: