It’s been said that home is where the heart is. For students seeking financial assistance for higher education, it’s also where a lot of the scholarships are.
Federal assistance programs, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans, serve many U.S. students. But as the cost of college continues to rise, more state governments are offering grants and scholarships to help their residents pay for education.
For students who receive them, these are welcome sources of additional college funding. For the states, they are a way to invest tax dollars in building a skilled, educated workforce in their backyard.
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If you’re interested in applying for one of your state government’s grants or scholarships, here are three things you need to know:
- Most states try to assist a wide range of residents, but the criteria for their scholarships vary.
- States such as California, New Mexico, and North Carolina have Student Incentive Grant programs, which are need-based. The type of institution you attend and your field of study can affect the amount of your award, which might range from a few hundred dollars to full tuition. The state will use the financial information on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your need.
- State merit scholarships are awarded to students on the basis of academic achievement, such as their GPA or SAT/ACT scores, or rigorous coursework. The states set their own guidelines, but many of these scholarships require that students maintain certain academic standards throughout their higher education to be renewed each semester.
- Most states offer scholarships for specific populations of students. High-achievers from ethnically diverse backgrounds, first generation students, and single parents are often eligible for scholarships that will help them through college. Additionally, in many states the children of firefighters, law enforcement and emergency services personnel, veterans, and victims of terror attacks, as well as foster children are eligible for dependent scholarships. These awards can range from partial to full tuition.
- Iowa’s Kibbie Grant program, also known as the Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant, provides financial support to residents enrolled in certain career or technical education programs at the state’s community colleges.
- No matter where you live, you’ll need to file the FAFSA. Once it’s completed, you can then apply for a wide range of grants and scholarships. The federal and state governments use much of the same information collected on your FAFSA and work together to determine what scholarships and grants will be awarded to you. The deadline for filing the FAFSA with the federal government varies by the school year.
- In addition to the FAFSA deadline, there are separate deadlines for your state’s individual scholarships, so you’ll need to keep track of them and submit your applications on time.
State governments understand that one of the best ways to keep students living, studying, and working within state lines is to provide financial assistance. So take advantage of those opportunities! You can get started by visiting Edvisors.com and identifying the scholarships and grants offered in your home state.
Amy Weinstein is the executive director of the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA). NSPA members help students get to and through college with support services and scholarships.