There are three types of financial aid available.
Grants and Scholarships
Grants and Scholarships are often called “gift aid” because they do not need to be paid back. The Federal government issues need-based gift aid in the form of Pell Grants, while the Pennsylvania state government offers grants and scholarships through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). Colleges may also offer need-based and/or merit-based grants and scholarships to students that meet specific criteria. Private organizations, like companies, religious organizations, and non-profits also offer scholarships and grants to college students.
Work study is a form of financial aid that allows you to earn money by working part-time for your college or a participating non-profit. The money you earn is paid directly to you, but you can request that it be sent to your school to pay for tuition.
- Being offered Federal Work-Study does not guarantee you a job
In order to receive work-study funds, you need to earn them, which means you need to start by finding a work-study job.
- Work-Study earnings are removed from your FAFSA calculation for next year
Benefit alert: Work-study earnings do not count against you when you complete the following year’s FAFSA form.
- Federal Work-Study is not guaranteed from year to year
Several factors like family income or financial need will determine if you receive work-study each year.
- Students who are offered work-study receive funds in a paycheck
Paychecks are based on hours worked, just like a normal job.
- Pay may vary
Like all jobs, work-study jobs vary in qualifications and responsibilities so the pay will depend on the job that you are hired to do.
- Hours worked may vary
Your weekly hours will depend on the type of job you get and your employer’s expectations.
- Some Work-Study jobs include positions with nonprofit employers
This means some work-study jobs are available for off-campus work. Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what’s available.
- Work-Study jobs may be limited
Many campuses offer jobs for students with or without work-study. Apply ASAP to save your spot!
When you apply for financial aid you may be offered loans as part of your financial aid offer. If you have to borrow money, federal loans should be your first choice. Federal loans are offered at a low interest rate, and there is a grace period, meaning you have time after graduating before you have to start repaying. There are two basic types of Federal loans:
- Subsidized: The US Department of Education will pay interest on your loan while you are enrolled in school at least half time, for the first six months after you leave school and during a period of deferment.
- Unsubsidized: You will be responsible for paying the interest that is charged to your loan while you are enrolled in school, as well as the original amount you borrowed.
Low Interest Loans
Parents may borrow money to help pay for their student’s education through the federal Parent PLUS loan program. Like federal student loans, Parent PLUS loans offer lower interest rates than loans from a bank.
If you do not receive enough federal or institutional aid to cover the cost of your degree, you may have to take out a private loan. Private loans should be a last resort because they tend to have high interest rates and might require payment while you are still in school. Make sure you have exhausted all other avenues of aid. You must apply for private loans separately – they are not included in the FAFSA. Use this ranking of the major private loans available to compare interest rates, term limits, and award limits. You can also visit FinAid.org and check out their loan calculator.
Financial Aid Resources
- Office of Federal Student Aid
The U.S. Department of Education can offer information about grants, scholarships, work-study and loans.
- Pennsylvania College Affordability Guide
- Loan Consolidation and Refinancing Guide
- Annuity’s Student Guide to Financial Literacy covers topics like how student loans work, choosing a college that is a financial fit, and what students should consider before opening a credit card.
- Campus Philly’s Financial Resource Guide Presented by Citizens offers easy to digest, beginners tips on budgeting, managing your bank account, and earning money while in school.