College Students

Guides students through the process of locating and applying for financial aid.  Prepared by the Congressional Research Service for the U.S. Senate, updated February 2014.

Getting started

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Student aid and where it comes from

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Basic assistance categories:

  • Financial need-based
    Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can-- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.
  • Non need-based
    Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.

Federal Student Aid:

  • Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
  • Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
  • Free information from the U.S. Department of Education:
  • Student Aid on the Web
  • Financial Aid Resource Publications
  • Loans are the most common federal aid and must be repaid when you graduate or leave college:
  • Stafford Loans
  • Federal PLUS Loans parental loans, not need-based.
  • Perkins Loans for the most needy undergraduates; through participating schools.