Federal Financial Aid for Graduate & Professional Students

Congratulations! You got that degree. With many cups of coffee and late night snack wrappers in your wake, you’ve done it! So what’s next; job, travel, graduate or professional school?

For those accepted to graduate and professional programs, congratulations! Now a new issue arises. How do you pay for it? Especially if you already have loans from undergraduate studies, it can be stressful trying to figure out what to do. The good news is there are options.

The Federal Student Aid portion of the US Department of Education provides large amounts of financial aid to students every year for both undergraduate and postgraduate education. One important thing to remember when applying for this financial aid is that graduate and professional degree students do not have to include parent information on their FAFSA. This could help you receive more aid, as you most likely do not have the current income your parents do.

Some examples of aid available include:

  1. William D Ford Federal Direct Loan Program—the Education Department is your lender:
    1. Direct Unsubsidized Loans-students may borrow up to $20,500 per school year and some health profession enrollees may receive more
    2. Direct PLUS Loans-for those students who need more than the maximum direct unsubsidized loan—be aware, a credit check will be performed on you
  2. Federal Perkins Loan Program: school-based loan program that you can get up to $8,000 each year depending on your need and funds available from your school
  3. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: grants up to $4,000 for students working to begin a career in teaching (must take certain classes to qualify)
  4. Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program: provides part time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial aid through jobs to pay off education expenses
  5. Federal Pell Grant: does not have to be repaid, eligible if you are in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program

To qualify for federal student aid there are certain requirements which you can find at StudentAid.gov/eligibility. Be sure to complete the FAFSA for free at www.fafsa.gov to qualify for federal student aid.

Some other helpful places to look for financial aid include:

-StudentAid.gov/types -other agency funding

www.ed.gov/sgt -state offered assistance

-Your school

-www.careerinfonet.org/scholarshipsearch

-Foundations, organizations, or local businesses

-Your employer may offer some educational assistance programs

The best way to finance your education is to use scholarships and grant money first, then work-study money, and finally borrowed money. Scholarships and grant money don’t have to be paid back, whereas loan money does. Always pay attention the source of the loan, what its terms and conditions are, and make sure you only borrow what you need. The key is to research your options. You never know what might be available to you. The Department of Education can be a huge help in finding and verifying loans and aid.

Article by Erik Witt, SMMC Volunteer

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