I often receive calls regarding financial aid for students. Fortunately, there are many options available to Pennsylanians pursuing higher education. Please see below for information on both federal and state assistance programs available to students.
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
PHEAA helps students access loans, grants, and scholarships. While PHEAA is currently not lending from its own funds, it maintains its commitment to assisting students find loans. Visit their website to learn more, www.pheaa.org.
Federal Student Aid
There are many programs for Federal Student Aid available which can be found at www.Studentaid.ed.gov or by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243. To learn the amount and the type of Federal Student Aid you qualify for, you should fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Here are examples of common Federal student aid programs:
- Stafford Loans: This includes Federal Direct Loans, as well as Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), which may be subsidized or unsubsidized by the Federal Government. In a Federal Direct loan, the funds come directly from the Federal Government, where in the FFEL program, the funds will come through a private bank, credit union, or other lending agency. On a subsidized loan, you do not have to pay any interest while you are enrolled at least half time, and your principal will be deferred. Unsubsidized loans will accrue interest as would a typical loan.
- Federal PLUS loans: Also part of the Stafford Loan program, these are unsubsidized loans available to parents of dependent undergraduate students, or to graduate students and are available through the Federal Family Education Loan Program and the Federal Direct Loan Program.
- Pell Grants: Need-based grants that do not have to be repaid.
- Work-Study: Wage-Subsidized positions at the school which will allow you to earn money to pay for your education while you study. The Student Educational Employment program offers positions with the Federal Government to qualifying students. This can be accessed at www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/unique-hiring-paths/students/.
Also search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance for other grants, scholarships, and fellowships.
After applying, you should keep copies of all forms and correspondence as you must reapply each year. Not every school participates in each program. You should contact your school’s financial aid department to learn about the program in which they participate.
Financial Aid Department at Your College
The school you have chosen may have its own student aid programs including merit and need-based scholarships. You should contact your Financial Aid Department to determine what aid they can offer.
There exist an incredible number of privately sponsored scholarships, for some of which you may be eligible. Often these may be difficult to find. If you go to www.pheaa.com, they can help you find some of the scholarships for which you may be eligible. You should speak with local community groups and religious institutions, as well as your high school guidance counselor, to learn of other scholarships that may be available.
Help is available for repaying your loans.
Federal loans can be consolidated once, with some exceptions. While simplifying the management of your loans, loan consolidation in general can lead to a significantly lower, fixed interest rate, decreasing your overall expenses. To learn more about this, please visit http://loanconsolidation.ed.gov/.
Private loans often are able to be consolidated, depending on your individual loan agreement. You should consult your lender to be sure this option is available to you.
There are programs to help individuals pay off their loans, examples:
- Loan Forgiveness for Public Service Employees
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
- Cancellation/Deferment Options for Teachers
- Nurse Education Loan Forgiveness Program
- National Health Service Corps
- Federal Student Loan Repayment Program
- State Loan Repayment and Forgiveness Programs for Law school graduates
If you are having problems with your loan and all other approaches fail, contact the Department of Education’s Office of the Ombudsman.
Other Information Sources
For information regarding targeted aid for special groups, I would suggest these options:
- Grants for Minorities: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and Other Ethnic Groups
- African Americans: Scholarships (UNCF)
- Disabled students: HEATH Resource Center
- Foreign students: Financial Aid for International Students
- Hispanic Americans: Scholarships (HSF)
- Financial Aid for Law School: Law School Admission Council
- Medical students: Association of American Medical Colleges
- Native Americans: American Indian College Fund
- Study abroad (for U.S. and non-U.S. citizens): International Education Financial Aid
- Veterans: Education Benefits
There is often assistance available for those who engage in public service, here are some of those options:
Volunteers who complete one year of service receive an education award for current higher education expenses or to repay student loans.
- United States Army Education Division
Additional benefits for Army personnel.
- Bureau of Health Professions
Scholarships and loans to needy health profession students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, and cooperative education with federal agencies.
- Indian Health Service
Scholarships for American Indian/Alaskan Native health profession students and loan repayment for persons working in IHS facilities.
- Military academies:
U.S. Air Force Academy
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
U.S. Military Academy
U.S. Naval Academy
- National Health Service Corps
Scholarships and loan repayment for health profession students who agree to work in underserved areas.
- Nursing Scholarships
Offered in exchange for two years of service in areas with critical nursing shortages.
- Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)
For students who want to be commissioned as officers after graduating from college.
If you have any further questions or require and assistance in these matters, please contact my district office at (610) 768-4200.
Last updated: May 8, 2018 at 12:34 pm