How the Government Can Help You Afford College
The entire country benefits when you go to college. Your advanced education enhances your productivity and earning potential, keeping you more self-sufficient and bolstering the economy significantly. What’s more, college degrees are becoming increasingly necessary in the American workplace; by 2020, roughly 65 percent of all American jobs will require some formal education beyond high school, be it an associate or bachelor’s degree — or more.
Thus, the federal government is more than interested in helping more students reach higher education. Through the U.S. Department of Education, the feds offer a handful of financial resources and aid programs, so you can rely on them for the financial assistance you need to find academic — and lifelong — success.
Like corporations, charities, and universities themselves, the federal government awards scholarships to special students based on different qualifications. For example, you might earn a scholarship from the Department of the Interior if you are of Native American descent, or you might obtain money from the National Institute of Health if you commit to a health-related major and are willing to spend two summers performing research in their labs. Typically, federal scholarships are offered through federal agencies and designed to help disadvantaged students, but anyone can apply and win the financial aid.
Loans are the most common type of federal student aid. Because these loans are offered by the government, they boast several advantages over private student loans, including:
- Federal student loans have fixed interest rates that are usually low.
- Federal student loan repayments are delayed until after you leave school.
- Federal student loans do not require credit history.
- Federal student loans do not require a cosigner.
- Federal student loans structure repayment plans around income, and they might postpone or lower payments when financial stress is proven.
Most students supplement other forms of financial aid, like scholarships and grants, with a few student loans, and you will probably need to do so, as well.
Though the terms scholarship and grant are often used interchangeably, the financial products are actually vastly different. While scholarships are usually merit-based, grants almost always go to applicants who need them most. Additionally, grants are almost always provided by government entities, be they at the federal, state, or local level. The Pell Grant is perhaps the most famous federal grant, awarded to thousands of financially needy students every year, but there are other grants that fund specific education endeavors, such as science-related majors.
Rather than just getting money for relatively nothing, you might be more interested in earning your pay. Federal Work-Study places students into part-time jobs to help them pay for their educations. Your job might include tutoring other students, working in college offices, or assisting non-profit organizations or agencies. Universities tend to administer these opportunities, so you should communicate with your college to better understand the Work-Study programs available to you.
In addition to providing financial aid, the federal government is more lenient on taxpayers who are striving to better themselves through higher education. Thanks to loans, grants, and other aid, you are likely eligible for tax credits and deductions that lower how much you pay come tax time. For example, you can reduce your income tax by up to $4,000 by claiming tuition and fees on your tax forms, and even after you leave school, the interest you pay on your student loans is deductible.
AmeriCorps is a national network of service programs with the united goal of improving America’s education environment, public safety, health, and security. Anyone can join AmeriCorps — and those who do have the opportunity of earning the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. This money can be used to pay for education expenses at college or to repay student loans. The amount you can gain is tied directly to your participation with AmeriCorps; for example, if you devoted more than 1,700 hours to service, you can earn upwards of $5,000 per year for your education.
Aid for Military Service
Military service members have access to dozens of education benefits. The most robust of them is the G.I. Bill, which effectively pays for any and all education service members, vets, or their families wish to acquire. If you were already considering joining the military, this is an excellent extra incentive to sign up.
Aid for Foster Children
Surviving the foster care system is a feat in itself, and striving to attain higher education after such an ordeal is commendable. Thus, the U.S. government provides special financial aid to foster children, orphans, or wards of the court. Available amounts depend on time and age spent in foster care, but they generally align with the restrictions of the Pell Grant.
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