Explainer~What are College Grants?

2 little kids reading about what are college financial aid grants

What does it mean?

College grants are a type of financial aid you do not have to repay. In simple terms, it’s free money to spend on college. They fall under the category of “gift aid.”

How does it affect how much you pay for college?

Obviously, the more grants you have, the less money you will pay for college. The reason you need to pay attention to grants is because many people see the term “grant” and assume that it is awarded based on need. This is not always true.

The largest and most well-known grant is probably the federal Pell Grant program. Pell Grants are awarded based on your EFC. Students must demonstrate financial need to qualify for a Pell Grant.

However, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, another federal program, is not based on need. In fact, it explicitly states that the student must not be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant.

There are non-government grants that also are not based on need. For example, the SPE Vinyl Plastics Division Educational Grants makes no mention of need in qualifications. It could have just as easily been referred to as a scholarship.

Another aspect of grants many families aren’t aware of is that colleges award their own grants. Most need-based aid awarded by colleges is usually listed as some form of a grant. Students with need at UC Santa Cruz may be eligible for the UC Santa Cruz Grant. Another example is grants by Meredith College, which are awarded to students with demonstrated need.

The point is that you could end up paying more for college by ignoring grants because of some false assumptions about who give them and who gets them.

Where can you learn more?

Federal Grants

State Financial Aid Resources

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