Understanding Financial Aid.
What is Financial Aid?
Financial Aid is assistance in the form of grants, loans, and work to help meet college expenses. It is provided by federal, state, local or private sources and it is granted based on financial need, enrollment status, satisfactory academic progress and attendance, and availability of funds. Some aid needs to be paid back or earned, while some aid is a gift.
What are the types of Financial Aid available?
Scholarships & Grants – These are based on your specific financial needs and/or academic merit. You do not need to pay them back; however, you will often be required to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA). They are available through the institution you will be attending, the Federal government, state governments, as well as private corporations and organizations.
Loans – Loans are based on your financial need and are required to be paid back. They are also available through the institution you will be attending, the Federal government, state governments as well as private corporations and organizations. If you are awarded a loan as part of you financial aid package, you may be eligible for either subsidize or unsubsidized funds, or a combination of both. Subsidizes loans are awarded on the basis of financial need. You won’t be charged any interest before you begin repaying the loan because the federal government subsidizes the interest during this time. Unsubsidized loans charge interest from the time the money is first disbursed until it is paid in full.
Student Employment – These programs provide you with jobs with financial compensation depending on your need. The Federal Government and state governments, including Texas, offer work-study programs.
Exceptions – States allow certain individuals to attend college or university without incurring any tuition fee. In Texas, for instance, there are exception programs for adopted students, blind and/or deaf students, students wounded in combat, students with outstanding rankings in high school, etc. Ask a financial aid officer at the college your are applying to for details on exceptions.
Imagine College – A tuition initiative available at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College that covers all tuition and fees for first-time, full-time freshman Texas residents with a family income of $30,000 or less. Ask a financial aid officer at UTB and TSC for more details about this program.
Project VIDA: The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, or Project VIDA, is a community-based agency devoted to helping the underserved residents of the region through education and training. VIDA’s approach is to connect students with career counselors and case managers to address the barriers they struggle with when it comes to postsecondary education. Contact Project VIDA to find out how they can help you with your financial aid needs.
What are the eligibility criteria for Federal Student Aid?
The general requirement is that you demonstrate financial need. You must also be a U.S. citizen or be an eligible noncitizen and be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at a college or career school. For more detailed information about these criteria, talk to a financial aid officer at your school. There is no age limit when it comes to receiving federal student aid.
How do I apply for student Financial Aid?
In order to apply for federal student aid, including the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan and work study, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are different applications for people with different statuses, so visit fafsa.ed.gov for details. Timing is very important in obtaining financial assistance, so make sure you meet the application deadlines for the various awards. Check with the college(s) you are interested in attending for specific deadlines.
Need additional information?
If you have questions regarding your eligibility to apply for financial aid or which status you fall into, contact the Financial Aid Office at the college or university you plan to attend.