Financial aid can help you afford the education you need for your career.
Even though costs keep going up, going to college or training may be more affordable than you think. Most students get some kind of financial aid that helps pay their school costs.
The basic types of financial aid are:
- Grants are awards you don't have to pay back. Federal Pell Grants are awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. The maximum Pell grant award is $6345 for 2020-21. Colleges and universities also offer grants to students. Check with the financial aid office of schools you are interested in to learn about grants and find out if you might be eligible. Learn more about grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Financial Aid Office.
- Scholarships are financial gifts that help you pay for school. They can come from a college, community group, business, or the government. Scholarships are granted based on different criteria, including your location, race, ethnicity, life experience, music ability, sports ability, or other characteristics. Use the Scholarship Finder to see opportunities.
- A loan is money that you have to pay back. Government-backed loans usually have the lowest interest rates, while loans through a private bank or other financial institution may cost you more in the long run. Learn more about loans from the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Financial Aid Office.
- Work-study is on-campus employment offered through the school. It helps you earn money to pay for your education. Learn more about work-study jobs from the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Financial Aid Office.
Students may receive a combination of these in a financial aid package that the school puts together after you've been accepted. The first step to get financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Learn more about the FAFSA, and start your application.
Other ways to help pay for education
- If you pay any amount for higher education, you will probably qualify for a tax credit or deduction on your next year’s taxes. Read about Tax Benefits for Education.
- Veterans may be eligible for a variety of education benefits through GI Bill programs. Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to learn more.
Learn what your actual costs would be
You can find the average total cost of U.S. colleges and universities at College Scorecard. This will help you compare schools and figure out the best investment for you. You will find:
- Total average costs
- Graduation rates
- Average salaries of students 10 years after enrolling
- Typical debt amounts for students
- Typical monthly debt payment of students
- Much more!
Once you know the average cost of your class, program, or school, make sure you understand what's included and what might be additional expenses, such as: books and supplies, transportation, and room and board if you live on a campus.