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Guide to State Financial Aid

Grants, Student Loans, & Fellowships

Anyone preparing to attend college knows how expensive higher education can be. For this reason, it is important to educate yourself on financial aid availability. Most universities and colleges offer several financial aid options, including state-funded aid. There are three types of state financial aid: state or in-state scholarships; state grants; and, state loans.

Obtaining State Financial Aid to Help with College Expenses

Regardless of your career path, college expenses can be pricey. Seeking financial aid is a great way to defray some of those costs. But like most college-bound individuals, the questions are endless:


  1. Where do you find state financial aid?
  2. How and when do you apply for it?
  3. Who qualifies for state financial aid?
  4. What types of state financial aid are available?

State financial aid is state-funded assistance available to college students who qualify. To be considered, students are required to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By filling out and submitting a FAFSA, you are applying for federal financial aid. Once the form is submitted for federal financial aid, the information is automatically forwarded to the state agency where it is filed for state financial aid. Most states have their own FAFSA deadline, listed on the FAFSA website. If you miss the state deadline, you miss the chance to receive state financial aid for the entire school year.

Students are evaluated based on the information provided on the FAFSA to determine if financial assistance is needed. The student’s and parent’s income, assets, and other factors contribute to the determination of state financial aid awarded, and the amount of funds available. Students may be awarded in-state scholarships, state grants, or state loans.

Scholarships and grants are gift aid because it does not have to be repaid. Loans, on the other hand, have to be repaid. Most offer low-interest rates and repayment usually begins several months after graduation.

State Scholarships for College Students

Most colleges and universities offer state scholarships. These scholarships are usually merit- based. The most common state scholarships are funded by state lottery ticket sales. Other in-state scholarships are gift aid-for-service agreements. This means students agree to work in a facility and in return their tuition is waived. This type of state scholarship applies to high need fields such as teaching.

And it doesn’t stop here. Every state has a wide range of in-state scholarships to offer. To find out what your state offers, check out the State Higher Education Agency listing, and choose the state where you’re attending or plan to attend college.

State Grants Offered to College Students

In addition to state scholarships, most universities and colleges offer state grants to qualifying students. State grants are usually awarded to students based on a combination of merit and financial need.

There are a number of state grants available including minority state-funded grants, well-funded state grants like California’s Cal Grant, and more. Most grants are awarded based on merit, profession, and financial need. To find out more about state grants in your state, check with your financial aid office.

State Loans Can Supplement Your Financial Aid Needs

When seeking state financial aid, don’t forget states also administer loan programs. Unlike scholarships and grants, loans are gift money that has to be repaid. Many universities and colleges partner with loan agencies and private loan agencies to offer loan programs for its students. State loan types include: low-interest loans, career specific loans, and loan forgiveness programs.

The loan forgiveness program usually seeks students in specific careers to work in exchange for paying a portion of their loan. An example of this type of loan is the Delaware Teacher Corps loan program. With this loan program, teachers work in a Delaware public school and earn up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness for every year they teach.

Florida also offers a similar program called the Florida’s Critical Teacher Shortage Student Loan Forgiveness Program. This program helps students with loan repayment and provides the public school system with qualified teachers.
For other state loan possibilities, check with the attending college or university. Financial aid offices typically provide information on loan types and loan availability.

Key Points about State Financial Aid

  • Be prepared. In order to be considered for state aid, you must fill out and submit a FAFSA. Know your deadlines so you don’t miss the cutoff date. Most states have their own FAFSA deadline.
  • Educate yourself. There are many books, magazine articles, and online resources that provide detailed information about state financial aid programs.
  • Talk to school officials. Contact a financial aid representative to answer any questions you may have regarding state financial aid.

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