A wide variety of grants and scholarships exist to help offset the financial burden of a college education. Eligibility requirements vary, and marital status is a determining factor in some instances. Several programs exist specifically to help married students.
Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The first step in determining what type and amount of financial aid you may be eligible to receive is to complete the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA online. The information you provide is used to determine how much money you are expected to contribute toward your education costs, or your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Additionally, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which outlines any grants you may be eligible to receive. FAFSA requires you to have a valid Social Security Number, Selective Service registration if applicable, and a high school diploma or equivalent. As a married student, you must also provide the income and assets of your spouse, which impacts your EFC and SAR.
Eligible married students may apply for the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and the SMART Grant, all of which do not require repayment. The Pell Grant and the FSEOG are based on need, as well as a student’s attendance status, and degree program. The FSEOG gives priority to students with the lowest EFCs. The SMART Grant, or the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant, has more stringent requirements. Qualifying students must maintain a 3.0 GPA, and be in their third or fourth year of an eligible five-year undergraduate program.
College or University Grants and Scholarships
Many institutions offer grants and scholarships in an effort to increase or diversify enrollment. Contacting the financial aid offices at various institutions will help you determine what opportunities exist and what eligibility requirements must be met. For example, the Carolyn Reinbold Scholarship from Dixie State College of Utah gives priority consideration to married students who have completed 62 credit hours, or have earned an Associate’s degree, while maintaining a 3.0 GPA. The Episcopal Divinity School in Massachusetts offers the Hobson Scholarship for married men, a restricted, need-based scholarship providing up to $2,000 per year toward the tuition costs of eligible students.
Private Grants and Scholarships
A variety of corporate, religious or civic scholarships are available to college students, as long as specific eligibility requirements are met and all necessary applications are submitted. For example, Lowe’s offers the Carl Buchan Scholarship to its employees, based on academic and leadership achievements, as well as community involvement. The Walmart Foundation offers various scholarship programs to its employees and even their dependents. Qualifying employees must attend an accredited institution and demonstrate financial need.
If you are the spouse of an active duty or retired military service member, significant financial aid benefits are available through MyCAA, or the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program. MyCAA offers $4,000 of financial assistance, disbursed equally over two years, to qualifying spouses. The degree or certificate must be obtained within three years, and enrollment must be in a degree or certification program that will lead to employment in a portable career. Qualifying portable careers include information technology, hospitality or homeland security.
Blyss Cruz has called Alaska home for 30 years. She has written numerous business, financial and legal documents related to her long-time employment in both the public and private financial sectors. Cruz holds a B.S. in Paralegal Studies and an MBA in business and accounting.