Federal education grants are monetary gifts from the federal, or national, government for educational purposes. In the United States these fall into two categories; grants to schools or similar agencies and grants to individuals. These are paid for from tax revenues and do not have to be repaid as long as the funds are used for the purposes intended.
The first federal education grants in the United States occurred in 1862 when the Morrill Act awarded federal land to states to build schools. School-oriented grants generally provide services to disabled or disadvantaged students, sponsor capital development, fund educational research and development or target certain educational endeavors. Most of the federal grants are administered by the Department of Education.
It is a requirement in the United States that public schools accommodate handicapped students. The requirement does not always come with funding, and there is a need for on-going research to develop improved curricula and methods for teaching students who have learning disabilities. Schools also need effective ways to teach students who arrive with minimal English speaking ability, poverty-related issues and severe family disruption. Some of the federal education grants have been designed to specifically address such issues, while other grants are intended to meet the educational needs of defined people groups, such as Native Americans.
Some federal education grants seek to promote specific areas of instruction. Due to the increasingly global economy, there is a need in the United States for more people with varied language skills, so grants have been designed which support the teaching of foreign language at the elementary school level. Many people point out that students will need to be able to fill the technological needs of the future, so grants are available to develop improved teaching methods and programs for math and the sciences.
There are a few federal education grants available to provide college level education for individuals. Some of these are handled through the Veterans Administration, and are paid as a benefit to qualifying military personnel or veterans. These are not need-based, and depend strictly upon the length and type of service. Those available to the general public, like the Pell grant, are generally designed for individuals whose verifiable income falls below certain specified limits. These grants are paid through the school, and any balance which exceeds the cost of tuition and fees is passed on to the student.
Students who qualify for the Pell grant may also be eligible for other federal education grants. Some examples are the Academic Competitiveness grant for students who have completed an academically rigorous high school program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (national SMART grant) given to third and fourth year students in certain science, math, engineering and technology majors. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) is available to education majors, regardless of financial need, who are willing to commit to teaching a minimum of four years in a poverty-stricken school district.
Schools or organizations seeking grant money for specific programs or projects in the US can access current grant information through the Department of Education website. Grant guidelines are posted and must be followed exactly in order for a proposal to be accepted for consideration. Students who are seeking aid to attend college should first complete the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid, or FAFSA, online. Once the application has been completed, assistance is available in the financial aid departments of colleges and universities.
Many other countries offer federal education grants to their citizens. Canadians who deposit money into a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) on the behalf of a child under 18 can apply for an Education Savings Grant which matches a portion of the individual’s contribution. Canada also offers grants to college students whose income falls below certain limits, who have young dependent children, or who have disabilities. In the UK, means-tested grants are available to full-time college students in England and Wales, and students with dependent children can apply for grants for tuition assistance and child-care. The UK also provides federal education grants to poverty-stricken schools both domestically and internationally.