How to Find, Apply & Win Grants for College

Student grants are funds for education that, in general, never have to be repaid. Grants are typically awarded based on financial need but some are merit-based.

Grant funding is limited. Always apply early.

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Public Student Grants

Most grant money comes from public funds, i.e., taxpayer money. In most cases, submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is sufficient to apply.

Publicly-funded grants tend to be need-based and may be limited to certain demographics, such as former foster youth and other high-risk populations. Other limitations may include education levels; there are grants available to community college students only or graduate students only.

Federal Grant Programs
Grant Program Max. Award Eligibility
Federal Pell Grant $6,495 Undergraduate students & qualifying postbaccalaureate students*
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSOEG) $4,000 Undergraduate students
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant $3,772 Undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, & graduate students
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant $6,125 Any qualifying student

*Must be enrolled in a teacher certification program.

Federal Grants

Federal grants, such as Pell Grants, come from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In the 2022-2023 school year, students may be eligible for up to $6,495 per year in Pell Grants.

Eligibility for federal grants varies. The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSOEG) is only available with attendance at certain institutions. Students in the 2022-2023 academic year may receive up to $4,000 in FSEOG money.

The Chafee Education and Training Grant is not only restricted to former foster youth; it’s also administered by state governments. Though the FAFSA is required, states determine eligibility and distribute funds according to their own rules (as long as those rules do not violate any federal regulation).

Tips to Win Merit-Based Grants
Apply early Submit the FAFSA early to compete for limited funds with high-achieving applicants.
Emphasize leadership roles Demonstrate leadership at school, at home, at work, or in the local community.
Highlight achievements Go beyond grades; include advanced courses, awards, and evidence of growth and improvement.
Acknowledge setbacks Explain any obstacles that have limited opportunities or impacted performance in or out of school.
Share future plans Share ambitions that illustrate how grant money will ultimately benefit the greater community.

Discretionary or Merit-Based Grants

Applications for discretionary grants go through a thorough review. Because awards are merit-based, the process is highly competitive. Evidence of extracurriculars and leadership roles is critical for acceptance.

When searching for discretionary grants, note that many awards are available to organizations or institutions instead of individual students. For example, the Office of Special Education Programs offers a number of discretionary grants to state agencies for the purposes of student support, which may include direct and indirect support such as technology services and personnel training.

Formula Grants

Formula grants are awarded based on need as determined by the FAFSA. In other words, it is not possible to benefit from formula grants without submitting the FAFSA.

An example of a formula grant is the College Access Challenge Grant Program or CACGP, which is designed to increase the number of low-income students who not only enter postsecondary education but succeed there, as well.

TEACH Grant

The TEACH Grant has many special requirements. Applicants must complete the FAFSA, enroll in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program, and score above the 75th percentile on one or more portions of their admissions test.

TEACH Grant awardees must also maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25 and complete TEACH Grant counseling every year.

The TEACH Grant is one of the few that an awardee may be required to repay if they do not meet certain obligations following graduation; such obligations include, but are not limited to, teaching in a high-need field and a period of working full-time serving low-income students.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

Students qualify for this grant if they meet multiple special eligibility requirements. For example, students may not be simultaneously awarded a Pell Grant and an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.

Another critical requirement is that the student must have had a parent or guardian who died due to military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Applicants must have been under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of their parent’s or guardian’s death.

National Map: States with Student Grant Programs,  AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY

State Student Grants

When states provide student grants, awards generally go to attendees of the state’s public schools. Nationwide, out-of-state students are more likely to receive grants than in-state students. Some grants are only available to state residents, however.

For example, Alabama’s Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) offers the Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP), which is a need-based state grant. To be eligible to receive between $300 and $5,000, students must be Alabama residents attending one of Alabama’s 80 eligible institutions.

ASAP is not the only state-affiliated grant available in Alabama. Likewise, most states have a variety of funding available to their college students; not all states provide student grants, however.

Furthermore, some states only provide grants through institutions. Hawaii, for example, offers state and institutional grants, such as the UH Opportunity Grant and Hawai’i Promise Scholarship, to students who enroll in the University of Hawaii or Hawaii Community College.

Most states accept the FAFSA as the application for their grants. Some states, however, require submission of their own application form, such as the Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CAFSA).

Note that the table below is not exhaustive; new education initiatives are constantly introduced to legislation.

State-Affiliated Student Grant Programs
State Authority/Institution Grant Program(s)
Alabama Commission on Higher Education Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP), Alabama Student Grant Program, Alabama National Guard Education Assistance Program, Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivors Education Assistance Program (POFSEAP) Link
Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education Alaska Education Grant Link
Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (AzLEAP) Link
Arkansas Department of Higher Education Arkansas Future Grant (ArFuture) Link
Arkansas Health Education Grant (ARHEG) Link
California Student Aid Commission Cal Grants (multiple) Link
Colorado Department of Higher Education The College Opportunity Fund Link
Fund My Future Grant Link
Connecticut Office of Higher Education Roberta B. Willis Need-Based Grant Program Link
Delaware Higher Education Office, Delaware Department of Education Scholarship Incentive Program (SCIP) Link
Educational Benefits for Children of Deceased Veterans and Others Link
Florida Office of Student Financial Assistance Florida Student Assistance Grant Link
First Generation Matching Grant Link
José Martí Scholarship Challenge Grant Link
Georgia Student Finance Commission HOPE Grant, Zell Miller Grant Link
Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant (GTEG) Link
Hawaii Community College, University of Hawaii UH Opoortunity Grant, Hawai’i Promise Scholarship, Hawaii Community College Achievement Grant, Second Century Scholars Link
Illinois Student Assistance Commission Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant Link
Illinois National Guard Grant Link
Illinois Veteran Grant Link
Grant Program for Dependents of Police of Fire Officers Link
Indiana Commission for Higher Education Frank O’Bannon Grant Link
Adult Student Grant Link
Workforce Ready Grant Link
Iowa College Aid Iowa Tuition Grant Link
Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant Link
Kibbie Grant (Iowa Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant) Link
Future Ready Iowa Grants (Pending) Link
Kansas Board of Regents Kansas Technical Workforce Grant, Kansas Comprehensive Grant Link
Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority Kentucky Tuition Grant Link
College Access Program Grant Link
Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance GO Grant Link
Completers Grant Link
M.J. Foster Promise Link
Finance Authority of Maine Maine State Grant Program Link
Maryland Higher Education Commission Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access Grant Link
Howard P. Rawlings Educational Assistance Grant Link
Part-Time Grant Link
Near Completer Grant Link
Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant Link
Jack F. Tolbert Memorial Student Grant Link
Massachusetts Department of Higher Education MASSGrants Link
Gilbert Matching Student Grant Link
Cash Grant Link
Part-Time Grant Link
Public Service Grant Link
Foster Child Grant Link
Paraprofessional teacher Preparation Grant Link
Michigan Student Aid Michigan Tuition Grant Link
Children of Veterans Tuition Grant Link
Police Officer’s and Fire Fighter’s Survivor Tuition Grant Link
Minnesota Office of Higher Education Minnesota State Grant Link
Public Safety Officer’s Survivor Grant Link
Minnesota Student Teacher Grants Link
Postsecondary Child Care Grant Link
Minnesota Future Together Grants Link
Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant Link
Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant Link
Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP) Link
Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development Advanced Placement Incentive Grant Link
Access Missouri Financial Assistance Link
Public Service Officer or Employee’s Child Survivor Grant Link
Wartime Veteran’s Survivors Grant Link
Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant Link
Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education Nebraska Opportunity Grant Link
Community College Gap Assistance Link
Nevada System of Higher Education Silver State Opportunity Grant Link
State of New Jersey, Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, Higher Education Student Assistance Authority Tuition Aid Grant Link
Community College Opportunity Grant Link
New Mexico Higher Education Department Student Incentive Grant Link
College Affordability Grant Link
New York State Higher Education Services Corporation NYS Aid to Native Americans Link
The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Link
Part-time Tuition Assistance Program Link
Aid for Part-time Study Link
NYS Educational Opportunity Program Link
Veterans Tuition Awards Link
NYS Regents Awards for Children of Deceased and Disabled Veterans Link
Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Link
North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, North Carolina National Guard NC Community College Grant Link
UNC Need Based Grant Link
North Carolina National Guard Tuition Assistance Program Link
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Tuition Grant Link
Tuition Grant for High School Graduates of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Program Link
North Dakota University System, North Dakota National Guard North Dakota State Grant Link
National Guard State Tuition Assistance Link
Ohio Department of Higher Education Ohio College Opportunity Grant Link
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Link
Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant Link
Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion Oregon Opportunity Grant Link
Oregon Promise Grant Link
Deceased or Disabled Public Safety Officer Grant Link
Oregon Student Child Care Grant Link
Oregon Link
Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance Link
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority PA State Grant Program Link
PA Partnerships for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Link
PA Postsecondary Educational Gratuity Program (PEGP) Link
PA Blind or Deaf Higher Education Beneficiary Grant (BDBG) Link
PA Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver (FosterEd) Link
PA Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP) Link
PA National Guard Educational Assistance Program (EAP) Link
PA National Guard Military Family Education Program (MFEP) Link
Children of POW/MIA Soldiers Link
Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner RI Promise Scholarship Link
Prepare RI Dual Enrollment Fund Link
South Carolina Commission on Higher Education SC Need-Based Grant Link
Lottery Tuition Assistance Link
South Carolina National Guard College Assistance Link
South Dakota Board of Regents South Dakota Needs Based Grant Link
Tennessee Higher Education Commission & Student Assistance Corporation Tennessee HOPE Access Grant Link
Tennessee Reconnect Grant Link
Tennessee Student Assistance Award Link
Aspire Award Link
Helping Heroes Grant Link
Tennessee HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant Link
Link
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Link
Toward EXcellence, Access, and Success (TEXAS) Grant Link
Tuition Equalization Grant Link
Texas Public Educational Grant Link
Vermont Student Assistance Corporation Vermont Incentive Grant, Vermont Part-Time Grant, Advancement Grant for Short-term Training Link
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Link
Virginia Commonwealth Award Link
Two-Year College Transfer Grant Link
New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Link
G3 Tuition Assistance Link
Cypersecurity Public Service Grant Link
Washington Student Achievement Council Washington College Grant Link
Washington National Guard Postsecondary Education Grant Link
West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission West Virginia Higher Education Grant Link
Higher Education Adult Part-Time Students (HEAPS) Grant Link
West Virginia Invests Link
State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board Wisconsin Grant – UW, Tech & Tribal Link
Wisconsin Grant – Private Nonprofit Link
Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant Link
Talent Incentive Program Grant Link
Indian Student Assistance Grant Link
Hearing/Visually Impaired Student Grant Link
Wyoming Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Wyoming Link

Local Student Grants

Some counties and larger cities offer their own financial aid for postsecondary education. Local aid is typically referred to as a “scholarship” and is generally only available to students who attend a local college or community college.

Private Student Grants

Private nonprofit schools may offer need-based grant programs for their students. For the most part, these grant funds come from alumni donations rather than federal or state funds. The ED does make some grants available to institutions, which then use those funds to support their students.

Other private nonprofits offer need-based grants; organizations that do so are usually geared toward community service and education reform. Such grants may be available nationwide, or they may be limited to local schools.

It is rare for for-profit corporations to offer student financial aid opportunities. Among those corporations that offer student aid, the funds are generally part of a scholarship opportunity rather than a need-based grant.

Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Federal Student Aid (OFSA), Federal Grants
  2. ED OFSA, FSEOG (Grants)
  3. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: List of Current Digest Tables
  4. Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Student Financial Assistance
  5. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority, Chafee Education and Training Grant (Chafee ETG) Program
  6. U.S. News & World Report, Most Merit Aid for Out-of-State Students