A grant is money given to you for educational costs that does not have to be repaid. There are four federal grants offered to students by the U.S. Department of Education, two need-based and two based on other eligibility criteria. There are also federally-funded scholarship programs for students interested in going into medicine and former or current foster children. Besides federal grants, students may also qualify for institutional grants or private scholarships and those hoping for extra money should apply for non-federal aid as well.


For students with financial need:

Federal Pell Grants

The Higher Education Act of 1965 allowed for the creation of Federal Pell Grants. These are grants intended to provide need-based financial aid to students from low-income families to encourage them to pursue post-secondary education. Over 5,000 colleges and universities participate in the Federal Pell Grant Program. Students who are eligible may use their grants at any of these institutions, but not at multiple institutions at the same time (due to dual enrollment, for example). In the 2015-2016 academic year, about 7.6 million students were awarded Pell Grants to help with the cost of education.

  • Award amount: The maximum amount awarded can change yearly, but it is set at $5,920 for the 2017-2018 school year. This money does not have to be repaid.
  • Eligibility: Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who do not yet have degrees and who demonstrate financial need based on their EFCs, the cost of attendance at their schools, their level of enrollment (full-time vs. part-time), and the duration of their attendance at the school (full vs. partial academic year).
    • Pell Grants are offered to every eligible student.
    • Students cannot receive Pell Grants from multiple schools at the same time.
    • Students cannot receive funds for more than 12 semesters.
  • Special circumstances: Students are eligible for a larger Federal Pell Grant if a parent died as a result of military service in either Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. At the time of the parent’s death, students must have been younger than 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time. In these situations, eligibility is calculated with a $0 family contribution.
  • Payment: Students can be paid directly or have grant funds applied to the outstanding balance due to the institution. You can also choose a combination of payment methods.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

The Higher Education Act of 1965 also allowed for the creation of Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs). These grants provide need-based aid to low-income undergraduate students to help with the cost of attending college. They are available at 3,800 institutions across the United States. As these grants are administered by the institution’s financial aid office, not by the U.S. Department of Education, you will need to contact your school to see if it participates in the program.

  • Award amount: Grants range from $100-$4,000 per year, depending on need. This money does not have to be repaid.
  • Eligibility: FSEOGs are available to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need. They are first offered to students with the lowest EFCs and to those who have been offered Pell Grants.
    • Timing matters for these grants. Schools set their own deadlines for campus-based funds, so you will need to contact the financial aid office at each of your prospective schools to ensure your application is submitted on time.
    • Grants offers cannot go to every eligible student due to limited funding.
  • Payment: Students can be paid directly, have their FSEOG funds applied to the outstanding balance due to the school, or request a combination of both payment methods. The grant requires that funds be paid out to students at least twice per year.

For students interested in teaching:

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 created the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH). This grant is awarded to students who are completing or planning to complete courses that will jump-start their careers in teaching. To participate in the TEACH program, students must agree to teach full-time for at least four years at an institution serving low-income students. This service must be completed within eight years of finishing college. Students must also specialize in a high-needs field such as bilingual education, ESL, foreign languages, math, reading, science, or special education. This is not a need-based grant.

  • Award amount: The maximum award amount is $4,000 per year. However, due to federal budget cuts meant to reduce the deficit, the maximum for the 2017-2018 school year is only $3,736. The maximum total award amount for undergraduates is $16,000, while graduate students can only receive $8,000.
    • This grant does not have to be repaid unless service is not completed within the given eight-year time frame. In that case, all grant money will be converted into loans which then must be repaid, with interest, to the U.S. Department of Education.
    • The award amount will change depending on a student’s enrollment (full- vs. part-time).
  • Eligibility: Applicants must complete the FAFSA but do not have to demonstrate financial need. They must also meet the academic requirements to maintain enrollment in TEACH Grant-eligible programs at participating colleges. Once students receive their grants, they must undergo TEACH Grant counseling each year and sign the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve. In this agreement, the student consents to teach in a high-needs field and in a primary or secondary school that serves low-income families for at least four years. He or she must complete the service within eight years of finishing his or her own education. If a student chooses not to sign the agreement, he or she is no longer eligible to receive the grant.
  • Payment: Students will be paid by their school. Contact your financial aid office for more information.

For students interested in medicine:

National Health Service Corps

The National Health Service Corps scholarship is a federally-funded scholarship program to help students pay for medical education programs in exchange for service commitments. Students who receive this scholarship must serve full-time for at least two years in a high-needs community; the more years a student receives funding, the longer their required service commitment.

  • Amount: This scholarship covers full tuition, fees, and a living stipend for up to four years.
  • Eligibility: Student must be enrolled full-time at an accredited institution located within the United States or a U.S. territory and be eligible for federal employment. This scholarship is only available to students entering primary care medical programs. These include aspiring physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physicians assistants, and Doctors of Nursing Practice. The student must commit to work for a minimum of two years in a medical field in an underserved; high-needs; rural, urban, or frontier community.

For students whose parent died in combat:

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

These are federal grants available to students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in either Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of September 11, 2001. This includes, but is not limited to, participants in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Resolute Support, Operation New Dawn, Operation Inherent Resolve, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. This is not a need-based grant.

  • Award amount: The maximum annual service grant award for the 2017-2018 year is $5,529.28.
  • Eligibility: Grants are available to students whose parent or guardian died as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 10, 2001. At the time of the service member’s death, the student must have been less than 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time at a college or technical school. To receive these grants, students cannot be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant on the basis of EFC but must meet all other Pell Grant requirements.
  • Payment: As with Pell Grants, students can choose to have their Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants paid directly to them, have grant funds applied to the outstanding balance due to the institution, or receive a combination of payment methods.

For current and former foster children:

John N. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program

This program intends to help previous and current foster children with their postsecondary education through the Educational and Training Vouchers Program. It awards federally-funded, state-administered grants to eligible students. Learn more here.

  • Amount: Students can receive up to $5,000 each year depending on their federal aid awards and the cost of attendance at their schools.
  • Eligibility: The student must have been or currently be in foster care and need help paying for postsecondary education. This includes children who are likely to remain in foster care until turning 18 years old, children who were adopted or placed under guardianship after the age of 16, and young adults between 18 and 21 years old who have aged out of the foster care system.
    • Students must also have high school diplomas or the equivalent and be accepted or enrolled at accredited Title IV colleges or vocational schools.
    • Students must enroll before turning 21 years old but can receive support until they turn 23.

Page last updated: 08/2017