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Federal Grant Basics

As you look at how to pay for college, grants are a very important part of the overall financial aid picture. One of the main reasons for this is that grants, unlike student loans, do not have to be repaid. Federal grants are generally reserved for students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, or career schools. Before you can apply for any federal grant you must first submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which helps the federal government determine your financial need and other factors (grant decisions are based in whole or in part on financial need). Also, keep in mind that many grants are given out on a first-come-first-served basis, so it is important to apply early. Federal grants for the 2012 academic year include:

 

Federal Pell Grant

  • Must be an undergraduate student (or entering your first year as an undergraduate)
  • Cannot already have a bachelor’s or professional degree
  • Can be enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teaching certificate program
  • Can receive the maximum Pell award if you are eligible for the grant and your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed forces and died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001

Maximum Award for 2012: Up to $5,550, depending on financial need, your plans to attend college full- or part-time, the costs to attend your school, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less

 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

  • Must be an undergraduate student (or entering your first year as an undergraduate)
  • Cannot already have a bachelor’s or professional degree
  • Can be enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teaching certificate program
  • Must be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant
  • Must demonstrate exceptional financial need (Pell Grant recipients with the lowest expected family contributions will be considered first)

Maximum Award for 2012: Between $100 and $4,000, depending on how early you apply, financial need, your school’s contributions to your financial aid package, and other factors such as the policies at the school to which you are applying.

 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant

  • Must be an indergraduate student (or entering first year as an undergraduate)
  • Cannot already have a bachelor’s or professional degree
  • Can be entrolled in a postbaccalaureate teaching certificate program
  • Designated for students who are ineligible for the Federal Pell Grant only because of that grant’s financial need requirements and whose parent or guardian died after September 11, 2001 as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • Must be under 24 years old or be enrolled in college at least part time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death

Maximum Award for 2012: Up to $5,500, but cannot exceed the cost of attendance for the award year

 

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant)

  • Must be an undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, or graduate student who is (or will be) taking courses required to become elementary or secondary school teachers
  • Must be a student at a school participating in the TEACH Grant Program
  • Does not require demonstration of financial need
  • Must meet certain academic performance requirements, such as maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25
  • Must sign the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve, which stipulates that students receiving a TEACH Grant commit to teaching full time in a high-need field at a public or private elementary or secondary school serving low-income communities.
  • Must teach for a minimum of four academic years within an eight-year period upon completion of your degree for which you receive the grant
  • Failure to complete the service obligations of the TEACH grant result in all funds received being converted into Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, requiring repayment with interest to the U.S. Department of Education

Maximum Award for 2012: Up to $4,000

 

Academic Competitiveness Grant

As of July 1, 2011 this grant is no longer available from the U.S. Department of Education.

 

National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant

As of July 1, 2011 this grant is no longer available from the U.S. Department of Education.

 

Applying for Federal Grants

To apply for all federal grants, you must first submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can complete the FAFSA online. Once it has been accepted, you will also be able to apply for federal student grant programs online. You will also want to talk to a representative of the financial aid office of the college, university, or graduate school to which you are applying (or already attending) for any necessary coordination with any school grants you may be eligible to receive, requirements you will need to check to be sure the school you are attending meets the eligibility criteria for certain grants (such as the TEACH Grant), and for any assistance the office may be able to provide in applying for federal grants.

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