Paying for School
Applying for student grants is one of the smartest and easiest ways to finance your health care education. Unlike loans, financial aid grants do not have to be repaid. Grants are essentially free money earmarked for your health care education. Grants are different from scholarships in that they're awarded on the basis of need, not merit.
The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office added new requirements for federal student aid programs in July 2012. Read on to see if you meet qualifications to apply for valuable grants.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
If you enroll in higher education for the first time after July 2012, in order to be eligible for federal student aid—including grants—you must have either a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent. Those include a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or a homeschool education.
Expected Family Contribution
The lower your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is, the higher your eligibility for grant aid will be. You receive this EFC number, based on your annual income, when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Applying Through the FAFSA
By completing and submitting the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), students are immediately eligible for student grants, loans and work-study opportunities.
All of the federal grants listed below are awarded through student FAFSA applications. In addition, most colleges and universities use the FAFSA to award their institution's financial aid. To receive the best financial aid package possible, you should apply on January 1st of each year.
Common Student Grants
The Pell Grant
Federal Pell Grants are generally reserved for undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. They are the foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other sources (federal and non-federal) can be added. Eligible students can receive a Pell Grant for up to 12 semesters.
The amount each student is eligible for changes annually and depends on a variety of individual factors, including need, school costs and full-time or part-time status.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program is designed for undergraduates who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Recipients of the Pell Grant with the lowest expected family contributions (EFCs) as outlined on the FAFSA application are first in line for these education grants. FSEOGs are awarded at approximately 3,800 participating postsecondary institutions.
Other Student Grants
While federal grants are a good jumping off point, there are many grants available for tenacious students who know where and how to look.
Some grants are geared specifically toward a particular population, serving minority students or women. The Department of Education offers a grant honoring fallen servicemen and women called the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Other student grants, known as merit awards or merit scholarships, are awarded on the basis of academic achievement or from a department based on an individual's field of study. Some merit awards are reserved for students whose families demonstrate financial need; others are bestowed regardless of family finances.
You'll want to investigate the types of grants offered by each health care college or university you are applying to.