Federal and state grants serve as the biggest source of direct student aid. Unlike a loan, a Grant doesn’t have to be repaid. Grant money, however, is usually based largely on need and is often parceled out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Types of Grants

The federal government is putting more money into the hands of college students than ever before and much of the impetus behind it is the No Child Left Behind Act. More students stand a chance of attending college when the right financial and social resources are available to them along with educators with the know-how and experience to guide them to the right academic and career choices.

The following federal grant programs offer hundreds of thousands of students the necessary assistance that makes college a financial reality:

  • The Federal Pell Grant is by far the most common grant. It remains one of the staples of federal funding for millions of low-income students. The Pell Grant is awarded by the U.S. government based solely on financial need. However, there are other requirements: you must be an undergraduate, working on your first undergraduate degree, attend a federally approved school and not be incarcerated in a state or federal prison.
  • The Academic Competitiveness (AC) Grant is available to undergraduate freshman and sophomores with outstanding academic records and with demonstrated aptitudes for leadership and service. Qualifying candidates must also be Pell Grant eligible.
  • The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART Grant) picks up where the Academic Competitiveness Grant leaves off – with $4,000 awards to undergraduate juniors or seniors studying computer science, engineering, mathematics, or sciences. Applicants must be eligible for and receiving the Pell Grant.
  • The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is available to a student who is not eligible for a Pell Grant but whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 may be eligible to receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program is for undergraduates with exceptional financial need. Pell Grant recipients with the lowest expected family contributions (EFCs) will be considered first for a FSEOG.

Types of State-Funded Grant Programs

Chances are good your state provides money that could help you finance the college program you need: college, university, community college, and technical and career schools. But you’ll never know unless you check it out.

States administer need-based aid that offers educational support to various types of students:

  • Minority state-funded grants are plentiful. Grants for ethnic minorities—African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students—and grants for women provide a critical part of college funding.
  • Low-income and disadvantaged students must not neglect their state coffers. That lottery game your parents play could be your ticket to educational freedom. Education is the driving force behind most state lottery programs and almost every state now has its own form of the games.
  • Students pursuing a high-need field of study, such as nursing or teaching may get assistance in a number of ways from state governments. Nursing and teaching grants for service agreements offer mutual assistance—a trade off: you agree to work for the state in a medically underserved facility or educationally underserved school and we’ll cover your tuition in nursing school or as a student teacher.

For for more information on each U.S. state’s grant programs for students enrolling or enrolled in degree and continuing education programs, go to the U.S. Department of Education.

Grant Categories