Paying for College


The cost of college has gone up dramatically over the last decade, and college seems unreachable to many. But the good news is that cost is not necessarily an obstacle to attending your dream school. In fact, more than 60% of students receive some kind of financial aid. This aid can come from many sources.

  • The college you attend
  • The Federal Government
  • The State Government
  • Sponsoring organizations
  • Nonprofit and private organizations

Obtaining the necessary aid for college will be your responsibility, and it will take some time and effort for you and your parents to do the research and fill out the proper forms in time. Let's have a look at the different types of aid.

Aid from colleges

Colleges are your first stop for college aid. Many schools have considerable financial resources and personnel available for granting student aid. This aid is mostly based on demonstrated financial need but can also be based on scholastic merit. It can be direct grants that do not need to be paid back, or it may also involve low-interest loans that will have to be paid back over time.

Merit-based aid comes in the form of scholarships and can range from nominal amounts to the full amount of tuition. Many colleges also offer special scholarships that they give out to qualifying students. Details about these grants are available at the student aid office of the college.

Most schools participate in the ‘Federal Student Aid Program’ which gives them access to federal grants and low-cost loans. It also allows them to offer sponsored work-study aid, where the college receives funds to hire students and pay them a wage while studying, thereby reducing the overall cost of college.

So the aid package that your college may offer you may involve a combination of sources such as need-based grants, merit grants, federal grants, low-interest loans, and work-study grants.
International students are not eligible for federal loans and grants, but a few colleges give need-based and merit-based grants to foreign students.

Aid from the Federal Government

The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion a year in grants, work-study funds, and low-interest loans to more than 14 million students. Federal student aid covers such expenses as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Aid can also help pay for other related expenses, such as a computer and dependent care. This federal aid is administered by the colleges or directly by government agencies. Thousands of schools across the country participate in the federal student aid programs as described above.

Aid from State Governments

Even if you're not eligible for federal aid, you might be eligible for financial aid from the state you live in or the state where you attend college. Contact your state grant agency for more information.

Aid from a sponsoring organization

A number of organizations, such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, National Health Services Corps, and ROTC programs, offer college money in exchange for committing time for service. 

Other sources of aid

About 5% of all financial aid comes from private sources such as chambers of commerce, trade unions, libraries, charitable foundations, PTAs, churches, and fraternal organizations.