In Pennsylvania, there are many different education grants and loans available to students. The requirements for the grants and loans all vary, as well as how much aid they offer. It is important for students to understand the differences between a grant and a loan. With a loan, a student borrows a set amount of money, which he or she must ultimately repay at a later date. Loans accumulate interest over time, and are often paid back through a monthly payment plan. Grants are similar to scholarships, but instead of being merit based, they are need based. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid. Because of this, grants often provide smaller financial support than loans. Paying for college is a very stressful process, for both parents and students. Many students end up basing their college decisions around what is affordable in the area. Paying for college is an even greater struggle for lower income families, but there are ways to help alleviate the costs through educational scholarships and grants. The following is a list of some of those funding opportunities in PA.
FAFSA is frequently brought up whenever anyone asks about education grants in Pennsylvania. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA itself does not refer to any specific education grant. Instead, FAFSA is a universal application that determines eligibility for various federal, state, and local educational grants in Pennsylvania.
FAFSA was created to greatly simplify the application process. It is also easier for schools. High school counselors only have to learn the FAFSA application instead of multiple application models, and colleges have an easier time processing the FAFSA application.
Certain education grants have set deadlines, which means students must have their FAFSA submitted by those dates instead of the general FAFSA deadlines. In addition, all the information is saved, which is very helpful when students have to reapply for grants.
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
PHEAA is an agency responsible for issuing all the state grants and scholarships. PHEAA works alongside both students and schools in the state. PHEAA also runs the American Education Services (AES) which helps to provide loans through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). The other loan program established by PHEAA is FedLoan. Students that are looking for educational grants or loans will most likely go through one of these groups.
Pennsylvania Federal Pell Grant
The Pell grant is one of the most common federal educational grants. It was designed to help lower income students pay for colleges. Because it is so common, there are over 5,000 colleges which support the Pell grant. How much a student receives from the Pell grant is dependent on a few different factors, most notably the cost of the school he or she is attending and the expected family contribution of the student. Whether or not the student is attending school full time will also have an impact on how much he or she receives from the Pell grant. Students typically choose between receiving the full payment at the start of the year, or receiving two smaller payments spread out throughout the academic year. Students are able to reapply for the Pell Grant if they have not received their bachelor’s degree, and there are some postgraduate programs which still allow for the Pell grant.
Blind or Deaf Beneficiary Program in Pennsylvania
The blind or deaf beneficiary program provides $500 dollars during the academic year for applicants that are either blind or deaf. Students must be enrolled for at least half of the academic year in order to receive this education grant. The application must be submitted by December 31st, but applicants are encouraged to submit earlier, since the money is distributed on a first come, first served basis.
Pennsylvania Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
GEAR UP is an educational grant that is only available for students who attended high schools which participate in the GEAR UP program. In addition, the students must be eligible for the Pell grant in order to receive a grant from GEAR UP. The program essentially acts like an addition to the Pell grant, since it matches whatever funds are provided from the Pell grant, up to $5,550 dollars.
Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant Program
The Chafee program is available for students who are leaving the Foster Care system. Students may receive a grant from the Chafee program up until the age of 23. In addition, students cannot be in default on any federal student loans in order to be eligible for the Chafee grant. Students may receive up to $2,500 dollars each academic year.
Pennsylvania Work-Study Program
The Work-Study program offers students the chance to work while also attending college. The employers must be part of the Work-Study program for the student to receive any benefits. Students cannot work more than 20 hours each week while classes are in session. During school breaks, the student is allowed to work up to 40 hours. PHEAA provides an online database for students to locate eligible employers in Pennsylvania.
The GI-Bill is a unique education grant that is only available to military veterans who served after September 11th, 2001. The education grant covers the entirety of tuition costs, and also provides a small stipend and monthly housing payments for the veteran. Veterans must have served for at least 90 days, or 30 days if they were dismissed because of an injury or disability.