Federal Student Aid

Dollar Sign and Cash

The federal government offers several Student Financial Aid Programs. These programs offer you extremely low interest loans and grants (free money) for school.

Unlike the GI Bill, these programs are paid by the Dept. of Education through the school; however, like the GI Bill, Federal Student Aid is designed to assist you in meeting the cost of tuition, books, fees, and living expenses while you go to school. That means that once the school has taken its share, the remaining loan or grant balance goes to you.

Financial Student Aid Eligibility

It doesn't matter whether you are active duty, reserve, veteran, retiree, on GI Bill, or not -- you should be taking advantage of these programs. There are numerous examples of even senior active duty members receiving federal loans and large grants. Remember: Grants are gifts that you don't repay!

Eligibility for most federal student aid is based on financial need and on several other factors. The most basic eligibility requirements to receive federal student aid are as follows:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen,
  • You must have a valid Social Security number,
  • You must register (if you haven't already) with the Selective Service, if you're a male between the ages of 18 and 25,
  • You must maintain satisfactory academic progress (defined as having at least a 2.0 GPA and being on track to graduate within 150% of the normal timeframe) in college or career school, and
  • You must show you're qualified to obtain a postsecondary education by:
    • having a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate;
    • meeting other federally approved standards your state establishes; or
    • completing a high school education in a home school setting approved under state law.

Applying for FSA

Applying for federal student aid is quicker and easier than ever. You can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at https://fafsa.ed.gov.

Money Saving Tip: FAFSA is a Free Application for Federal Student Aid; however there are some websites that offer to complete the FAFSA for you, for upwards of $50. The FAFSA form only takes a relatively short time to complete. It is worth your time to complete it yourself.

Every accredited school that is recognized by the Education Department will be eligible for some form of FSA. The schools you select will send you information on how to get the funding you need to reach your education goals.

Available Loans and Grants

The following table gives you a quick breakdown on some of the types of loans and grants, applications, current interest rates and monetary limits:

Loan/Grant Program

Apply Process & Forms

Loan Fees

Interest Rates Undergrad

Interest Rate Postgrad

Loan Limit Undergrad

Loan Limit Postgrad Loan Source

Direct Loans Stafford (Subsidized*)





$5,500 @ year


Federal Govt.

Direct Loans Stafford (Unsubsidized)





$5,500 - $12,500 @ Year

$20,500 @ Year

Federal Govt.

Pell Grant





Up to $6,095 @ Year


Federal Govt.

Federal Student Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)





$100 - $4,000 @ Year


Federal Govt.

Direct PLUS (for Graduate and Professional Degree Students)

FAFSA 4.276% 7.60% 7.60% Up to Full Cost Minus Other Aid Up to Full Cost Minus Other Aid Federal Govt.
Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant FAFSA No N/A N/A Up to $6,095 @ Year Up to $6,095 @ Year Federal Govt.
TEACH Grants FAFSA No N/A N/A Up to $4,000 @ Year Up to $4,000 @ Year Federal Govt.

To learn more about these and other Federal Student Aid programs visit the Department of Education website.

Interest rate cap for military members

If you qualify under the Service Members Civil Relief Act, the interest rate on loans you obtained before entering military service may be capped at 6% during your military service. You must contact your loan servicer to request this benefit.


FSA Loans are Financial Aid that is either funded or backed by the federal government, and paid directly through the school. Each type of loan has different fees (a percentage charged up front), interest rates and payment deferment plans.

Direct (Stafford) Loans

There are two different types of Direct Loans, Unsubsidized and Subsidized. These loans are identical in most ways, except how and when you begin to be charged interest.

*Subsidized - Direct Subsidized Loans are for students with financial need. Your school will review the results of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and determine the amount you can borrow. You are not charged interest while you’re in school at least half-time and during grace periods and deferment periods.

**Unsubsidized - You are not required to demonstrate financial need to receive a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Like subsidized loans, your school will determine the amount you can borrow. Interest accrues (accumulates) on an unsubsidized loan from the time it’s first paid out. You can pay the interest while you are in school and during grace periods and deferment or forbearance periods, or you can allow it to accrue and be capitalized (that is, added to the principal amount of your loan). If you choose not to pay the interest as it accrues, this will increase the total amount you have to repay because you will be charged interest on a higher principal amount.


Grants are free money for school paid by the Federal Government through the school's business office. After your school bills are paid, the remaining balance goes to you.

Pell Grants

You must be an undergraduate student who does not have a bachelor's or a professional degree. If you are enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teaching certificate program, you also may receive a Pell grant. Depending on your financial need and tuition costs, you can receive up to $5,920 each school year.

FSEOG Grants

These grants are reserved for the most needy candidates, and are paid in addition to Pell grants. Like the Pell, FSEO Grants are also limited from $100 to $4,000 per school year.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

You may be eligible to receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant if

  • you are not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant on the basis of your Expected Family Contribution but
  • meet the remaining Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements, and
  • your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, and
  • you were under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of your parent's or guardian's death.

TEACH Grants

The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching.

As a condition for receiving a TEACH Grant, you must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve in which you agree to (among other requirements) teach

  • in a high-need field 
  • at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families 
  • for at least four complete academic years within eight years after completing (or ceasing enrollment in) the course of study for which you received the grant.

IMPORTANT: If you do not complete your service obligation, all TEACH Grant funds you received will be converted to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. You must then repay this loan to the U.S. Department of Education, with interest charged from the date the TEACH Grant was disbursed. 

For More Information

To learn more about Federal Student Aid please visit the Department of Education's Student Aid Website.

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