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Types of Financial Aid

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College can be expensive. That’s why, whether you’re dorming at a university or are taking classes from the comfort of your own home, financial aid is necessary for just about everyone. Financial aid is monetary help offered to individuals though government agencies, individual schools, or other sources. There are several types of aid available to students.

Loans

When you borrow money, it is called a loan. All loans must be paid back. Students can apply for loans at www.fafsa.ed.gov, at their schools’ counseling office, or at their bank.

Government Loans
The government offers several loans to students going to school. The cap of the loan is generally set by the school you are attending and may include enough money to cover tuition, housing, and other expenses. All loans must be paid back. However, the terms are very reasonable. The government agencies will determine the type of loan you are offered through several factors, including your income level. Some students are offered subsidized loans, in which the government actually pays the interest of the loan for them. Others are offered unsubsidized loans. Their interest accrues while they are going to school. Generally speaking, government loans are the best type of loan to take out because they are designed to benefit the student and usually offer the most reasonable rates and terms.

Private Loans
Some students don’t qualify for government loans. Those who are not United States citizens, men who fail to register for the draft, and students enrolling in unapproved schools are not able to receive funding from government agencies. These students have the option of taking out private loans from individual banks. Bank loans require that the student has established sufficient credit, or is co-signing with someone who has. These loans generally have a higher interest rate and less negotiable terms.

Grants

A grant is a gift of money. You do not need to pay it back. Students can learn more about qualifying for grants at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Government Grants
The government offers grants of money to students who fall in the lower brackets of income level. Usually students must maintain a minimum gpa in order to qualify for the grant. The required gpa depends upon how much money a student (or, more often, a student’s family) has. The minimum gpa varies, but is generally in the 2.0-3.0 range. Grants do not have to be paid back.

Scholarships

A scholarship is an award based on academic performance, talent, or other factors. It may have certain requirements, but you do not need to pay it back. Students can learn about individual scholarships from their schools’ counseling office (or web site) or from online scholarship databases, such as www.fastweb.com.

School Scholarships
Almost all schools offer some sort of scholarship to their students. These scholarships are based on a number of factors including your incoming gpa, the review of a portfolio, or your athletic or artistic contributions. Most schools require that students apply for individual scholarships. The amount of these awards varies; some are worth a few hundred dollars while others cover the entire tuition and living expenses of the student for the duration of their education.

Private Scholarships
There are thousands of private organizations that offer scholarships to students. The qualifications are too varied to list. Some organizations offer scholarships to the winners of contests they facilitate. Others are looking for people who fit particular standards (i.e. people with a certain last name, a particular nationality, or a certain field of study).

Distance Learning Considerations

As long as your school is accredited by the appropriate regional agencies, you will be granted the same financial aid options as any other student. If your school is accredited by a different agency, or is not accredited, you will need to check with your school to see what financial aid options are available to you.

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