A college student smiles as she walks to class because she has enough financial aid to get her through school.

Financial Aid: It Makes the College Years Easier to Bear

A college education can provide the opportunity to obtain a meaningful and fruitful career. However, a college education is expensive. Even a local college can cost more than $10,000 a semester. This can make it difficult for parents who don’t have large savings and parents with low incomes to pay for their child’s schooling. Students can also find it difficult to pay for college when they’ve only been able to work minimum wage jobs. Financial aid gives families the opportunity to help their children go to college.

What Is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is a term that means monies for educational expenses. Such expenses cover all aspects of obtaining an education, up to and including housing, curriculums, textbooks, and more. A family that needs help with educational expenses can receive such help from private organizations such as banks or the school itself. The largest contributor to financial aid is the government, however. The government supplies millions of dollars of financial aid to families each year.

How to Qualify for Financial Aid

Financial aid is available in the form of grants and loans. Students do not have to pay back grants, but they do have to pay back loans. The Pell Grant is the most popular form of non-payable financial aid available. The U.S. Department of Education grants Pell Grants of more than $5,600 per school year to low-income students. Students must meet income requirements and school attendance requirements. A full-time student who meets income requirements will generally be eligible for the Pell Grant. The student must select a school that will accept financial aid.

The government also provides subsidized and unsubsidized loans for which low-income families may apply. Perkins loans are the most popular forms of student loans. An undergraduate student can apply for a Perkins loan of up to $5,500 per school year. A graduate or professional student can request an amount of up to $8,000. The Perkins loan is popular because of its low-interest rate around 5 to 6 percent. The unique aspect of educational loans is that they are easy to obtain. Someone with poor credit can still qualify for student loans.

How Financial Aid Helps Families

Federal financial aid helps families by removing the burden from them until the student finishes his or her education. A student can defer loan payments for a period of six months after graduation. Additionally, anyone having financial difficulty can request a forbearance or a deferment from paying the loans until he or she is in a better financial situation. Furthermore, the government has consolidation programs that help a struggling student survive. Some students can qualify for repayment based on their income levels. Millions of students are getting the help they need through these programs.