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Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships are the best types of aid because they are essentially ‘free money’ or money that doesn’t have to be paid back.  They are often referred to as gift aid, but there is a difference between the two. 

Grants are normally awarded based on financial need.  The two main federal grants are the Pell Grant and the, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.  The Pell Grant is awarded based on financial need, usually only awarded to full or part-time undergraduate students, and is provided to every eligible student. The maximum award amount for the 2014-15 academic year is $5,730, but the actually amount you may get is based on your individual financial need and cost of attendance. 

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is administered directly through a participating school’s financial aid office.   The school is given a set amount of money from the US Department of Education each academic year, and once all of the school’s FSEOG funds have been awarded, no more awards can be made for that year.  The range of FSEOG awards is $100 to $4,000 per year and is based on financial need, time of application, amount of other financial aid you receive, and the availability of funds at the school.

Other federal grants include the Teacher Education Assistance for Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which is specifically for students planning a career in teaching and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, for children of parents or guardians that died serving in the armed forces in those two countries as a result of 9/11.  The TEACH grant has additional requirements, such as a commitment to teach at an elementary, secondary, or educational service agency for low-income communities in four out of eight years after completing the degree.  If the commitment is not fulfilled, all of the TEACH funds will convert to a Direct (unsubsidized) Loan which much be repaid with interest.

In Pennsylvania, there is a State Grant Program for eligible residents up to a maximum of $4,363 based on allowable expenses and need.  The grant is for both full and part-time undergraduate students in PA Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) approved schools both in and outside of Pennsylvania. 

A scholarship is a financial award given to students based achievement, such as academics, athletics, music, arts, and other fields.  Some scholarships are awarded based on financial need.  Scholarships are usually not taxable as long as you are a degree candidate and the money is used for tuition, fees, books, and required supplies/equipment, and does not exceed your expenses.  Note that money received for room and board is not exempt from federal income taxes.  There may also be certain stipulations attached to the funds such as minimum GPA, full-time status, playing sports, etc. in order to prevent a repayment trigger.

PHEAA recommends searching for scholarships, even if you’re not a 4.0 student, star quarterback, or music protégé. There are many relatively unknown scholarships out there such as:  the Asparagus Club Scholarship for students majoring in a relevant field in the grocery industry; the Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship for high school seniors; the Tall Clubs International Scholarship for women at least 5’10” and men at least 6’2”.  Be cautious though of scholarship scams.  Avoid such things as paying a fee to search or apply for scholarship, being asked for a credit card number to hold the scholarship for you, and any ‘guarantee or your money back’ pitch. provides links to free grant and scholarship searches.

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