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A tuition assistance grant is any amount of money given to a student, or potential student, to assist in the payment of his or her school tuition. A grant differs from a loan in that it does not have to be repaid. Tuition assistance grants are typically offered for undergraduate and graduate level college students to defray the costs of attending school.
There are many forms of tuition assistance grant, and may include money to cover the purchase of school books, room and board, course tuition, or general school supplies. A tuition assistance grant is usually created for a specific purpose in a specific community. For instance, a particular community's Hispanic leaders may raise money to offer a grant to a Hispanic high school student who might not be able to afford college without financial assistance. Non-profit organizations also offer tuition assistance programs for individuals who fit the demographic of that non-profit. For example, the Catholic Church offers a tuition assistance grant to registered members of the church who meet qualifying guidelines.
A tuition assistance grant can also be merit-based. In this case, they act more like scholarships, but are still awarded for a specific purpose. For instance, a grant may be attainable for a student who has a high grade point average or other academic distinction. A local athletic club may offer a grant to a gifted student athlete, such as a football player or swimmer.
In some cases, a tuition assistance grant may be retroactive, whereby the grant is given to the student after he finishes a particular course and submits an invoice. This is typical of grants offered by employers. The student would take the course, covering all costs himself, and then would request reimbursement from the employer. In these situations, the employer offers the grant as a reimbursement if a minimum grade is met. Anything below that minimum grade, and the grant is forfeit.
Sometimes there are drawbacks with employer-offered tuition assistance grants. While they don't require that the money be paid back, they may require the student remain under the employ of the company for a specified amount of time. For instance, every course the employer pays for may require an extra month of employment at the company. A student who uses employer tuition assistance grants for an entire semester of school could wind up owing the employer several years of work, or face paying the employer back for the tuition.