Once you’ve selected your top school and found the right degree program for you, the question of how to pay for college is top of mind for almost every student. Your school’s financial aid team will be key in helping you apply for financial aid* and create a financial plan that fits your needs and helps you to invest in your future. Here are some of the common financial aid options that could help you to pay for college.
7 Common Sources of Student Financial Aid and Support
1. Federal grants and loans
Grants are a form of federal financial aid that students may not have to repay as long as they remain in school. Eligibility is based on standards set by the Department of Education and is usually need based. On the other hand, federal student loans are borrowed funds that must be paid back to the Department of Education with interest. Students are not required to make payments while actively attending school and are provided a 6-month loan grace period prior to entering repayment. The grace period begins after graduating, leaving school, or dropping below half time enrollment.
To apply for federal student grants and loans, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You will need to complete your FAFSA online, after creating your specific FSA ID and providing your email. By following these steps, you can receive a Student Aid Report with details about your financial aid eligibility in as little as 3 days, while other methods can take between 7 days and 3 weeks. By the time you receive a Student Aid Report, your chosen schools should have access to your FAFSA information and, depending on their processes, should be able to discuss your college financial aid options with you shortly. You must meet all federal eligibility requirements to receive federal student aid.
2. State aid for college students
Students may qualify for state-funded financial aid, including educational grants (which do not need to be paid back) and student loans (which must be repaid with interest). Eligibility for state aid also often depends on your FAFSA and may require additional paperwork. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators site is a good starting point for researching what aid is available in your state. Please note, not all institutions in a state may participate in the state grant programs. Please check with your school of choice for the specific programs they have available to you.
3. Institutional scholarships & grants
Schools may offer institutional grants and scholarships based on merit or need. Rather than providing you a check, these grants or scholarships are usually applied directly to your tuition and fees, reducing the overall amount you are charged. In addition to various institutional grants, South University is also proud to offer affordable tiered tuition for students in many programs.
4. Private grants, scholarship and loans
Many non-profit, community and private organizations offer grants, scholarships and loans that could help you to pay for college. These outside sources include college funds and scholarships from industry organizations and businesses related to the field in which you’ll be studying. While many legitimate grants, college scholarships and lenders exist, be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true. Consult with a financial aid officer at your school if you have any concerns about an offer from an outside source.
5. Employer tuition assistance
If you’re currently employed, check with your manager or the HR department to see if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits and whether you might qualify. Tuition assistance programs are designed to pay for or reimburse you for a portion of your college education. Before accepting this source of funding, be sure you understand your employer’s requirements around course eligibility and GPA as well as the terms of payment or repayment.
6. Military benefits
Benefits available for current or past military or military family members vary by school but look for a school that offers programs such as Tuition Assistance, GI Bill® benefits**, the Yellow Ribbon program and more. At South University, we’re proud to accept a variety of military benefits. Finance counselors can help students to determine what benefits may be available to them. South University also offers a Military Tuition Scholarship for qualifying military personnel, veterans and active duty military spouses.
7. Transfer of credit
Transfer of credit can be a great way to reduce the cost of your education and the total time you spend working toward your degree. Your school potentially may accept transfer credit from:
- Prior college credit
- Military experience
- Military training
- Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DSST)
- American Council on Education (ACE) certifications
At South University, our admissions team will work you with to secure prior transcripts and any related documentation that we can evaluate for potential transfer credit.
Connecting with Your Financial Aid Team
Being unsure of how to pay for college is normal and you shouldn’t be left to figure it out on your own. Make sure your school offers a dedicated financial aid advisor who can walk you through applying for financial aid, help you understand your financial aid options and answer questions as they come up. At South University, this person will be your Student Finance Counselor, who will support you through all aspects of the financial process.
* Financial aid is available to those who qualify.
** GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/Trademark_Terms_of_Use.asp.