Unveiling the World
of College Grants

Securing funds to support a worthwhile college education can be an intimidating endeavor, especially for students who come from low-income backgrounds. Nevertheless, grants play a pivotal role in easing the financial strain and empowering students to pursue an education that they previously believed was beyond their means.

Grant or Scholarship?

Grants and scholarships are often mentioned together, but it's worth noting the unique qualities of grants that can make them a more favorable option for some students. Both grants and scholarships provide financial assistance without repayment obligations. Scholarships are typically awarded based on merit or exceptional accomplishments, while grants primarily consider the financial need of the recipient.

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What’s The Difference


Often based on merit or achievement

Don’t require repayment

View Our Scholarships Guide


Based solely on need

Don’t require excellent grades or athletic ability

Don’t require repayment

Determining Qualification

When grants are solely based on need, accurately determining a family's financial situation becomes crucial, and it is equally vital for schools to employ the same measurement when comparing the needs of multiple students. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) fulfills this role, requiring students to complete the form each year. As a result, officials receive hundreds of thousands of these forms annually.

When students complete the FAFSA, they are not solely applying for federal aid but also determining their eligibility for various funding sources, including private sector grants. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that federal sources often provide the most significant grants.

Pell Grants

Undergraduate students who can demonstrate financial need and do not hold a bachelor's or professional degree are eligible for Federal Pell Grants. While the assistance from a Pell Grant can be invaluable, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities points out a decline in the percentage of tuition covered over time, currently accounting for only 36% of the cost. In comparison, in 1976, these grants covered approximately 72% of the cost.

Pell Grants exhibit exceptional portability, permitting students to use them at almost any educational institution that accepts federal financial aid. The National Center for Education Statistics indicates the existence of over 6,000 schools falling within this category.

These institutions may provide access to other federal programs, making the grants enticing for individuals who may or may not meet the eligibility criteria for a Pell Grant.

Despite this, the Pell Grant program has the capability to reach out to 9.7 million students and extend significant assistance, totaling a noteworthy $33.4 billion.

Alternative Federal Grants

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is specifically structured to support undergraduate students who can display a remarkable level of financial need, as assessed by officials. The grant amount provided can vary significantly, ranging from $100 to $4,000, depending on the level of need demonstrated by the student, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The TEACH Grant, like the aforementioned grants, targets low-income students pursuing a teaching career, with the stipulation that they complete specified coursework and commit to serving in high-need fields upon graduation.

  • Foreign languages
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Special education
  • Bilingual education
  • English as a second language

Concluding the list of federal grants, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is uniquely designed to provide assistance to students who have suffered the loss of a parent in Iraq or Afghanistan due to military action. Available statistics indicate a considerable population of students who could potentially benefit from this grant.

Private Grants

While federal grants present substantial opportunities, they are not the sole avenue for financial aid. Many states provide grants that can be valuable, such as Virginia's undergraduate grants reaching $3,100 and graduate grants up to $1,500, or Texas' grants ranging from $2,400 to $7,400.

Virginia – 2013-14

Undergraduate Students: $3,100

Graduate Students: $1,500


Texas – 2012-2013

State College Students: $7,400

Community College Students: $2,400

Technical College Students: $4,400


Moreover, grants exist that factor in specific elements of a student's life, including their:

  • Ethnicity
  • Cultural affinity
  • Work background
  • Family circumstance
  • Chosen course of study


These grants can be as valuable as those awarded by the federal government. Consider the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation, which offers education grants of up to $3,000 to low-income women with children.

Grant Fallacies Debunked

The notion of obtaining a set amount of money that doesn't require repayment may seem overly enticing, leading to the propagation of numerous misconceptions regarding grant mechanisms in the online sphere. These unfounded myths can dissuade students from applying for the vital assistance they need, highlighting the importance of dispelling them.

A prevailing myth suggests that the amount of grant money diminishes each year, dissuading certain students from pursuing applications. Yet, as reported by Inside Higher Ed, the National Association of College and University Business Offices refutes this notion.

These figures are being hailed as "unprecedented," as experts attribute them to the cost sensitivity of students and their parents. With an increasing number of families becoming adept at evaluating their options, they may prioritize grants as a crucial factor in their decision-making process when selecting a specific educational institution. It is noteworthy that colleges and universities appear to be responsive to this shifting demand.

Do I Need to Stop by the Financial Aid Office?

There is a mistaken belief among students that their changing circumstances do not necessitate a follow-up visit to the financial aid office, potentially resulting in missed opportunities to access funds that could contribute to their educational expenses.

The U.S. Department of Education, as cited in University Business, highlights the importance of students promptly contacting their financial aid office in case of severe financial challenges. These difficulties might encompass situations such as:

Financial Difficulties
  • Employment changes
  • Foreclosure
  • Death of a breadwinner
  • Unexpected medical bills due to a costly illness

If a student's financial circumstances experience a drastic shift, it is important to get in touch with the financial aid office to tap into all available funding sources, including the Pell Grant, which is granted to eligible students.


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