Post-secondary education can be the key to a student's future success and the beginning of a fulfilling career. Unfortunately, the cost of attending a college or university often prevents otherwise eligible students from pursuing the dream of a higher education. Luckily, within the United States, there are a number of federal, state, and university grants available to help defray the high cost of attending a university.
In order to be considered for most university grants, an applicant must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA may be completed online and has a priority deadline of March 1st each year for the following school year. The FAFSA determines the "expected family contribution" (EFC), which is used to determine eligibility for a number of different financial aid programs, including university grants.
At the federal level in the U.S., there are four basic types of university grants for which a student may be eligible, including the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant (SEOG), the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant). Both the Pell Grant and the SEOG grant are based solely on the student's EFC, while the ACG and the National SMART Grant are based on the EFC as well as academic standards or abilities. Recipients of any of the federal grants may receive the full amount or a portion of the maximum amount based on the EFC as well as available funds. These grants to do not have to be repaid.
In addition to federal university grants, many states also offer grants for residents of the state. As an example, the state of Florida offers a Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) to eligible Florida residents attending a college or university. Most states have a similar grant for state residents. The amount of state grants will vary by the state and also do not require repayment.
Many universities themselves offer a number of university grants for students. In most cases, these grants are private grants funded by donations of past alumni or philanthropists who believe in the concept of higher education. The eligibility requirements for university-based grants will vary depending on the university and the rules of the grant itself. Private grants do not require repayment.
A variety of additional conditions may apply to university grants. The student must generally be enrolled at least half-time and maintain satisfactory academic progress. The definition of satisfactory academic progress will vary by university, but usually requires completion of a majority of the credit hours attempted and maintaining a certain grade point average.