Federal Student Financial Aid – What Is It and Who Gets It?

The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, application will determine if you are eligible for federal student financial aid and what types of aid you are eligible for. Not all students are eligible for all aid programs. In short, the federal college aid programs you are applying for via the FAFSA are grants, work-study, and student loans. Below is a partial list of the federal financial aid programs:

Federal Pell Grant – For students with demonstrated need

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – For students with demonstrated need

Academic Competitiveness Grant – For students who are Pell grant eligible, U.S. citizens and pursue a rigorous high school curriculum

National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant – For Pell Grant eligible Juniors and Seniors in college in eligible majors who achieve and maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average

Federal work study – a subsidized campus based student employment program

Federal Perkins Loan – Low interest student loan for students with demonstrated need

Subsidized Student Loan, Direct or Stafford – The U.S. government pays the interest on these loans while the student is in school and for 6 months after the student leaves school or graduates

Unsubsidized Student Loan, Direct or Stafford – Interest accrues on these loans while the student is in school. No demonstrated need necessary

Direct or Stafford PLUS Loan – Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students. Loan issued in a parents’ name for the students’ education related expenses. PLUS loans are now eligible for Graduate students

Keep in mind that the above list represents the federal aid programs only. Your state may have its own grant and or loan programs you should become aware of. Contact your school’s financial aid office or your high school counseling office to determine the requirements for state aid.

Although there are numerous aid programs out there, not all students are eligible to receive them. All federal aid programs have eligibility requirements. The basic eligibility requirements are:

Having demonstrated financial need based on your FAFSA data
Having U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizen status with a valid social security number
Being a degree or certificate seeking student in an eligible program
Have a high school diploma or the equivalent
Be registered with the Selective Service if you are required to be registered
Maintain satisfactory academic progress once in school (your institution sets its own satisfactory academic progress standards. Please become aware of these expectations)
Now that you’re aware of what is expected of you, did you know that the federal government has some high expectations of institutions of higher learning? To be title IV eligible (the federal code that regulates federal aid and aid eligible institutions) an institution must be accredited, calculate and make public its school loan default rate, its employment rate, and its graduation statistics. The school’s financial aid office must make public the location and hours of the counseling staff, types of aid available, post procedures and deadlines for each aid program and the procedure for selecting financial aid recipients.

Also the FAO (financial aid office) must make clear it’s procedure for determining financial need, its packaging process, its method of financial aid payments, its satisfactory academic progress standards and the details of your work study job if you are awarded one.

You should be aware now that the financial aid process is a commitment by the federal government, the institution of higher learning that you attend, and yourself. Each has its job to do, its processes to follow and its standards to maintain. Your part in the process as both student and consumer cannot be overstated.

Christina Tangalakis is an accomplished college financial aid cou

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