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Do you help families to get grants?

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Do you help families to get grants?”  It’s often the first question out of a parent’s mouth when I introduce my business.


“I mean free money, money that doesn’t have to be paid back” often quickly follows even before they hear the answer to their first question.  And the answer is yes, “I help families find grants” rather than “get” grants.


The difference between finding grants versus getting grants is subtle but illustrates what a college planner can and cannot do.  Families get grants because they qualify for grants.  College planners simply direct them to the grants they are qualified to receive from the federal government, state government, or college itself.  A family’s income and assets will qualify or disqualify them for grants.


Qualifying for a grant


How does a family qualify for grant?  Most grants that income dependent.  If your family income is within the parameters of the grant, then your family can qualify for a grant.  If your family income is outside the parameters, then your family will not qualify for a grant.


A grant is “gift aid” or money that is provided to students pursuing a college education that doesn’t have to be paid back.   While students are not required to pay back grant money, in most cases they are required to qualify for a grant.


To qualify for most grants, students need to demonstrate they need the grant in order to receive the grant funds.  To qualify for federal grants, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


Federal grants


The federal government has several grants that a family could qualify for.  The first is the Pell Grant.  The Federal Pell Grant is available to students who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree.  The amount varies based on need, year in school and whether a student is attending college on a part-time or full-time basis.


The next type of federal grant that a family can qualify for is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).   Students who have the most need that also receive a Pell Grants will receive a FSEOG first.  The amount that is awarded will also vary based on your financial need, when you apply, the amount of other aid you get, and the availability of funds at your school.


The next two grants offered by the federal government have additional requirements beyond need.  The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant requires you to take certain classes and work in the teaching profession after graduation in order prevent the money you receive from turning into a loan.  To receive this grant, you will also be required to sign a TEACH Agreement to Serve.


The final federal grant that a family can qualify for is the Iran and Afghanistan Service Grants.  To be eligible for this grant, a student must not be eligible for a Pell Grant based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  You must also be a student either full or half-time when your parent or guardian died in Iran or Afghanistan in military service.


Once you’ve determined what federal grant you qualify for, the next step is to start looking for state and college grants you are eligible to receive.  The FAFSA is often used to determine who qualifies for state and college grants.


Where to find state and college grants


Each state has state grants that families can qualify for. Within this article, it will be impossible to outline the myriad of state grants that are available.   The best place to research grants in your state is to visit the State Higher Education Authorities.


You can also research college grants at any of the colleges that you are interested in attending by going to college’s website and searching for grants.  Most will have a list of grants like the images below on their financial aid or grant page of their website.



Uc Irvine grants page

Uc Irvine grants page


But I won’t qualify for grants


An unfortunate truth is that not all families will qualify for need-based grants.  Their income and assets will exclude them from receiving this type of financial aid.  It is also an unfortunate truth that many families assume their income and assets are too high to qualify for grants so they don’t even apply for financial aid.  What I tell the families I work with is you will only know what grants you qualify for by applying for financial aid.  As Wayne Gretzky famously said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”


Summing It All Up


If your college funding plan includes being considered for college grants, begin with completing the FAFSA form.  If your income is within the parameters of the federal grants, you will be awarded one of the grants that are available.


The federal grants include the Pell Grant, FSEOG, TEACH Grant and the Iran and Afghanistan Service Grants.  Each have their own eligibility requirements based on need, year in school and whether a student is attending college on a part-time or full-time basis.  In addition, the TEACH and Iran and Afghanistan Service Grant have additional requirements to qualify for them.


Finally, there are also state grants available and the college themselves will able have grants available.

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