Low Income or Bad Credit Education Grants
If you are struggling to pay your tuition and other college costs, you are not alone. Unless you have an education nest-egg stashed away, or parents that are well-budgeted for college, you re probably looking for student aid to ease the financial burden of earning a college degree.
Loans are financing options that cover your expenses today, in return for repayment (with interest) tomorrow. The cost of college goes well beyond tuition and books, so loans are used to keep students afloat during school. Living expenses including rent, transportation and groceries are real-life reminders that independence is expensive. It is not uncommon to borrow money for school, but remember that student loans add to your debt load once you graduate.
Grants and scholarships are key financial aid resources, because money you earn does not require repayment.
Scholarships are typically merit-based awards, which are distributed based on student achievement and performance. Popular scholarships are tied to athletics and academics, but others take into account charitable contributions and civil activism. A range of qualifications are applied to scholarship candidacy, in combinations that might require eligible applicants to stand-out in more ways than one.
Most scholarships, especially renewable awards, impose GPA requirements that students must maintain to remain eligible. Financial need is sometimes considered by scholarship administrators, but it is usually secondary to performance.
Grants, on the other hand, are primarily need-based. Students who need the money most are targeted first for college grants. And since most grants come from government agencies, there is no credit check required for application. If your credit is bad or your income is low, government grants are in place to augment your college cash fund.
Your limited credit history and low income will work against you in your bank s loan office, but publicly funded government grants are issued to students with little or no credit. Start down the path to college cash with a standardized request for financial aid called the FAFSA.
Income Contingent College Money
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) compiles information about your family finances, and your ability to pay for college. Income and family size are used to determine how much money your family can reasonably devote to college expenses. Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is used to calculate the difference between what you can afford, and what your education costs.
Your personal Student Aid Report (SAR) paints a cash-flow picture for individual colleges to use as they draw from all the available financial aid resources to create your individual financial aid offer. The first aid sources that are tapped for needy students include federal and state grants.
The Department of Education Pell Grant program provides substantial relief for low-income college students. Eligibility is determined based on the information drawn from your FAFSA. Four important criteria influence the amount of your Pell Grant:
- Student financial need that exceeds EFC
- Year-long enrollment status
- Full-time academic standing
- Cost of attending your chosen university
Pell maximums hover around $5000 per student, for each academic year, based on congressional funding. FAFSA results are generally sufficient, but some students are asked to provide additional documentation before being considered for this need-based grant.
The neediest students who file FAFSAs are considered for additional federal grant money. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) target students whose Expected Family Contribution is zero. Once applicants with this level of financial hardship are given grants, additional funds are disbursed to the next neediest groups, until the FSEOG program runs out of money. If you are counting on this aid, file your FAFSA as soon as possible, to avoid disappointment.
Other federal grants have specific eligibility requirements that go beyond financial need.
Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) and Science and Math Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants are reserved for needy applicants studying in STEM subject areas. Science, math and other technology majors who maintain rigorous academic standards during high school and college are invited to apply for these grants. Awards range from $500-$1300 annually, with ACG serving first and second year university students, and SMART grants going to juniors and seniors.
Students who have lost a parent as a result of his or her military service automatically qualify for Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. Financial need does not factor-in to this grant, which recognizes the service of military families.
Students entering teaching programs enjoy access to government grants aimed at bolstering the profession. Teacher shortages across the country, particularly in low-income areas, have prompted targeted efforts to recruit and train qualified educators. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) program is a service-for-tuition arrangement that generously compensates college students, in exchange for their commitments to teach at low income schools.
Education majors earn four-thousand dollar grants annually by agreeing to work as teachers in critical shortage facilities for at least four years. Recipients who fail to meet their teaching obligations are required to pay their TEACH grants back, with interest.
Bad Credit Grants and Your Education
Your credit history does not determine your eligibility for government grants, but conventional loans and other financing sometimes require formal credit checks. Keep your limited credit history on the right track by paying your phone and credit card bills on-time.
If you borrow money from a private lender or through the Federal Government s Direct Loan Program, use your repayment schedule as an opportunity to build a favorable credit rating. If a loan cosigner is on board, protect his or her credit by making payments on-time. Once you illustrate regularity in paying the debt, most lenders will release your cosigner from responsibility for the loan.
Low-Income Grants from States and Other Sources
State financial aid for college students often mirrors federal programs. If you qualify for loans and grants on the federal level, then you might also be eligible for state funds.
California administers a generous student aid program that assists most of the state s college students. CalGrants helps students through the entire financial aid process, including FAFSA advising. California students tap CalGrants for general need-based grants, as well as performance-based scholarship awards offered as part of the state s Cash For College initiative.
In Wisconsin, need-based grants are issued to low-income college students without formal credit checks.
- Wisconsin Higher Education Grants (WHEG) serve low income residents who are enrolled at least half-time, in the pursuit of undergraduate credentials at Wisconsin State Universities and Technical Colleges. The grant is renewable for up to 10 semesters, with a $3000 maximum annual value.
- Wisconsin Tuition Grants aid students attending independent colleges and universities within the state. Financial need is a prerequisite. The program attempts to bridge the gap between public and private tuition, by extending grants to private school students.
- Talent Incentive Program (TIP) supports Wisconsin students with the highest levels of financial need and educational dysfunction. Students are recommended for these grants by financial aid offices and counselors in the Wisconsin Educational Opportunities Program (WEOP). Freshmen receive initial awards up to $1800, and may renew for up to ten consecutive semesters. This program is funded jointly by the state and federal governments.
Universities maintain their own student aid programs, including no-credit-check grants. Your campus financial aid office is best equipped to provide current information about the financial aid opportunities that are unique to your school. Your FAFSA is the only application that s required for some state and institutional grants, but other grant funds must be requested with seperate individual applications.
And even the FAFSA is subject to multiple filing deadlines. Your state might require you to submit your FAFSA well before the federal filing date. CalGrants, for example, requires your FAFSA to be in-place by March 2nd, while you have until June 30th to file within federal limits.
To round out your quest for college assistance, search general financial aid sources like Pell and other large programs, but also consider individual traits that might make you eligible for special scholarships and grants. Some college aid is reserved for specific student groups, so take advantage of your unique features to capture the financial aid you need. Grants provide college cash for these and other student populations: