Grants for Low Income Students
Even though filling out all the paperwork and hunting for a solution to financial problems may seem like such a hassle, college has come a long way from its traditional methods. In the beginning, only those who could afford to shell out a large sum of pocket money were admitted.
After education became a more prominent piece in the puzzle of prosperity, loans and grants entered into existence. Unfortunately, there was this ignored middle gap.
Students were either rich enough to settle into the first category, or they were so poor their families could barely keep food on the table which made them eligible for the grants. The ignored group was the low income families that weren’t considered in poverty or a minority.
What is a Grant?
As simple of a concept as it is, many students ignore them and the possibility of obtaining them. At its core, grants are free money. College grants offer free money for tuition, books, housing, and more that does not need to be repaid like a loan. Even better, grants are easier to obtain than loans for many reasons.
The first is that they are based on income as opposed to credit score, which may inhibit the offer for a loan. The determining factor is income. If your income is considered low, not necessarily at the poverty level, you are qualified. However, your parent’s income is also taken into consideration, but do not let this be a discouragement.
Even if your parents have a substantial income, you may still qualify for federal grants if you can prove that paying your tuition would be a financial hardship for them. Finally, because grants do not need to be repaid, a cosigner is not needed. This is ideal for students that do not have parents or guardians with stable credit.
The most common federally funded sources of money are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants. The federal grant program was designed to promote accessibility to postsecondary education for low income students.
The amount of money awarded to the student is dependent on the individual’s financial need and calculated through a formula designed by the U.S. Department of Education. The main factors are:
- The student’s expected family contribution
- Cost of attendance at their school
- Whether the student is full-time or part-time
- Whether the student attends for the entire academic year or a single semester
While most education institutions participate in the federal grant program, double check with your school before committing to it if tuition is a determining factor.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your ticket to federal grants. It is managed by the Office of Federal Student Aid, which is a part of the Department of Higher Education, and it disburses approximately $80 billion in financial aid to about 14 million applicants per year.
Filing a FAFSA application takes only an hour to fill out if you have the necessary documents before you begin, and it can all be done online. Information is needed from five separate categories: Information about the student, student’s dependency status, student’s parents, and student’s finances, and a list of the schools the results of the FAFSA should be sent to. Make sure you have:
- Your most recent tax return
- Your parent’s most recent tax return
- Current bank statements
- Current investment records
- Records of any untaxed income
- Driver’s license
- Social security number
- Alien registration or permanent resident card
After filing a FAFSA, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) and the designated school will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). Also, nearly all educational institutions also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their school’s individual financial aid awards.
Improve Your Chances
Many low income students need more than the federal grants can offer. This is when it becomes necessary to look for other options such as the minority grants and those offered by private organizations and companies. To improve your chances of being qualified, there are several tips to consider.
Fill Out Multiple Applications
Do not put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. For as many low income grants that will accept you, just as many will reject you. Filling out several applications will increase your odds of getting accepted. Make it a goal to fill out as many low income grant forms as possible.
Make sure you are honest on every application. When a program is freely giving a substantial amount of money, chances are that much of the information you provide will be double checked. If they uncover even a single lie, albeit small, it is likely that they will automatically disqualify your application even if you may have qualified otherwise.
Find three or four references that are dependable and in a position of authority if possible. Teachers, volunteer organizers, pastors, and work managers are ideal candidates. Grant programs want their money to go to someone deserving but do not have ample time to get to know much about you. References can make the difference between otherwise identical applications.
Also, the fact that you have a volunteer organizer or something similar solidifies the idea that you are active outside of academics which is another selling point when trying to win a low income grant. If you are not already involved in an activity that demonstrates commitment and drive, now is the time to start.
Do not wait until last minute to start your research and applications. Beginning your junior year of high school, compile all the low income grants you even mildly qualify for. Make notes of the deadlines to apply. When it comes time to apply, keep a record of the grants to avoid confusion.
Watch the Money
When you are applying for grants, be careful not to have too much money sitting in your bank account. Those reviewing your application will likely mistake that the money you have saved up for months to pay for books or rent is the indicator of a high paying job. Removing the money from your account is not lying as long as you have honestly revealed you income and financial situations.
State Level Grants
Many states offer grants and financial aid programs to further the development and growth of colleges within their boundaries. In most cases, states provide grants for low income, minority, or students pursing an education in a field that is high in demand. Inquire at the institution you plan to attend; visiting the financial aid department will likely provide information regarding the state level grants they accept.
Minority Low Income Grants
Students that are Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, and more often qualify for low income grants offered specifically to minorities. Looking deep enough can even uncover grants for majority students if you are a certain percent Polish, German, Irish, etc. If your school needs to meet a quota for ethnicity, this will work to a minority’s great advantage. Just be prepared to have proof of your heritage.
Private Organizations and Companies
Unlike the FAFSA, there is no widespread application to receive grants from private organizations and companies, but by dedicating time to research, you can find many that suit your individual pursuits. For example, students entering college in the medical field can find grants specifically for nurses.
Other grants focus less on academics and more on situations. One example is Coca Cola who offers grants to students with the honor of being the first in their families to attend college or come from a disadvantaged background.
As sad as it is, there are many scams floating around the internet. Too many students have become victims of stolen identity due to a website that promised grants for low income students.
The eager soon-to-be student than releases every bit of information necessary for the scam artist on the other side to ruin his credit. Make sure that you research each grant before offering out any vital information.