Knowing where to locate funds for your college education can make the difference between overwhelming loan debt and a fresh financial start. According to a 2012 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt has risen by 8 percent from a year ago to $904 billion. If your federal and private loans are maxed and you still need funding, there are alternatives that can help you continue your degree program without the financial stress.
Free Application for Financial Student Aid
The Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) is available for all Americans on the FAFSA website. In order to apply online, you need a copy of your household's tax forms and a PIN supplied to you on the website. It is a fairly easy process that can lead to a maximum of $5,550 in Pell Grant funding for your education each year.
State Student Aid Programs
Once you apply to federal student aid, you are able to apply for local grants at the state level. State assistance grant types and amounts vary by state. FinAid.com and CollegeScholarships.org have listings of state financial aid websites. Your state aid website will provide links to other grants available based on both merit and need. Your state's college assistance site will also have information on scholarships and programs within your college or university that can help lighten your financial burden.
The easiest search for scholarships is within your school. Visit your college website and talk with counselors within your department and the financial aid department to determine your options. If you are ineligible or are still short on funds, try searching online. Scholarships.com, CollegeScholarships.org and FinAid.com provide lists of grants and scholarships tailored for your situation. They can find scholarships based on your interests, skills, background, ethnicity, gender, religion, and even military involvement.
Grants are often provided by organizations or individuals who want to give back to the community. Websites including Grants.com, CollegeGrant.com, and CollegeGrants.org provide grant information for a wide variety of circumstances. If you are studious, college clubs and honor societies may provide grants to new members. Sometimes corporations provide grants to employees or individuals they want to recruit. Search the companies for whom you want to work to see if they can provide assistance.
If you are still falling short on cash, try a work-study program. Some high schools provide work-study opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. Some colleges team up with local businesses to provide work-study opportunities. A wide array of work-study programs can be found at the Federal Work-Study website.