Grant Money for Low Income Students
Grants to low-income students are awarded primarily from federal and state governments. Some funding from private organizations is also available. It is important for low income students to pursue grants because, unlike private loans, credit rating plays no part in eligibility. Grants do not need to be repaid, and income level is the primary factor in determining eligibility. If the student’s or the family’s income is low, even though it is not at the poverty level, the student still qualifies. Although low income can be qualifying factor for some scholarships, scholarships usually also require that the applicant be a superior student. Average students often have a difficult time winning scholarships.
Federal and State Grants to Low Income Students
The most common federal grants are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). These programs are intended to promote accessibility to postsecondary education for low income students. The amount of money awarded depends on the student’s financial need, which is calculated through a formula designed by the U.S. Department of Education. The main factors are:
- The student’s expected family contribution
- Cost of attendance at their school
- Whether the student is full-time or part-time
- Whether the student attends for the entire academic year or a single semester
While most educational institutions participate in the federal grant program, students should double check with their school to be certain. Complete information on the Pell Grant and FSEOG, including instructions on how to apply, is on the U.S. Department of Education website, www.studentaid.ed.gov
Most states offer grants and financial aid programs to extend the opportunity for high education to their low income citizens and to encourage economic diversity at their colleges and universities. These grants are usually aimed at low income or minority students, or students pursing an education in a field that in high demand. Students can begin their own research by visiting the website of their state higher education agency. A complete list, with web addresses and contact information, can be found at http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_ID=SHE.
An example of what may be available is the Idaho Minority and At-Risk Scholarship. Information on this program can be found at http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/scholarship/minority.asp. It is available to high school graduates who are Idaho residents with substantial financial need and who are the first generation of their family to attend college.
In conjunction with their own research, students should work closely with the financial aid office of the institution you would like to attend to ascertain which state grants they accept and whether they can offer you any assistance in the application process.
Private Sources of Grants to Low Income Students
Because there is no central listing of grants and scholarships for low income students, it takes a lot of research and creative thinking to uncover funding opportunities. The following could be places to start:
- The Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation (CKSF) awards scholarships to students who are not eligible for merit-based scholarships but who need assistance nonetheless. High school graduate, undergraduates and graduate students are all eligible. The website for more information is www.cksf.org.
- Every year Coca-Cola awards funds to students who are the first in their immediate family to go to college. Students can find details at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/citizenship/education.html. Students should also talk with a financial aid counselor at their school; the student’s institution must be participating in the program. The counselor can give the student the information they need to make an effective application.
- Sallie Mae maintains an excellent website for finding all kinds of scholarships. Not all of these scholarships require academic achievement – many are aimed at low-income students and students with particular interests whose academic performance so far has been average. Of course, it is so much the better for a student who is above average academically! The site can be found at http://go.salliemae.com/scholarship.
Low-income students who are also minorities have a wealth of organizations and opportunities to investigate. Organizations such as the United Negro College Fund (www.uncf.org) and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (www.hsf.net) exist solely to assist minority students in financing an education. Not all of their programs are academics-based, so any member of the group should do their research. Looking deeply enough can even uncover grants for majority students if you are a certain percent Polish, German, Irish or whatever the target nationality is.
Students should also think broadly and carefully about organizations which might have an interest in assisting low income students improve their lives through education. These organizations may include state Elks Clubs, Kiwanis or Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, and religious organizations.