How the Government Can Help Pay Your Tuition

At the federal level, college students have a variety of options in tuition assistance. Here, we explore a few of the avenues that students need to be taking advantage of.


A grant is a set amount of money the government gives a student that doesn't have to be paid back and are usually doled out either by financial need or academic merit. Two that are based on financial need are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). With the Pell Grant, the amount changes yearly and is a maximum of $5,645 for the 2013/14 school year. The FSEOG, also financially based, offers a little less at between $100-$4,000, but when used in conjunction with another form of assistance, can make a big dent in your tuition.

One of the biggest grants that's centered more on academic merit than financial need is the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. Students have to meet a number of criteria: good grades must be achieved and maintained (75% or a 3.25 GPA), and the student has to agree to teach in a high-needs area for four years within eight years of finishing their education. The government's website gives examples of high-needs like math, science and foreign languages, and students can receive up to $4,000 in grant money.

Subsidized Loans

For students who can demonstrate financial need, a direct subsidized loan can help them out. The government lets your school determine how much money you're eligible for, the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on the loan while you're in school, and you have a six-month grace period after you finish where you don't have to pay interest on the loan. Once that time is up, though, the loan turns into a regular one and you have to make monthly payments with interest.

Unsubsidized Loans

A direct unsubsidized loan isn't based on financial need but again, your school determines how much you get based on the cost of attendance. However, one key difference is that you're responsible for paying the interest on it during all periods.