Federal loans and grants

Pell grants and FSEOGs

Gift-aid programs include the federal Pell grant program and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program. These grants are generally available only to students who do not yet have bachelor's degrees. In some cases they might be awarded to students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs.

Pell grants come in varying amounts -- depending on your need and the cost of attendance and whether you attend full time or part time -- from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

FSEOGs go to students with exceptional financial need. As with Pell Grants, FSEOG-award amounts range from several hundred dollars to several thousand a year, depending on the student's financial need. Students who receive Pell grants also are at the top of the priority list for receiving FSEOGs.

Grants and loans
  • Pell grant program
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program
  • Federal work-study program
  • Perkins loan
  • Stafford loan
  • Parent Loan for Undergraduate Student (PLUS)
FSEOGs have a few limitations that Pell grants don't. For one, the amount of your FSEOG can be reduced if you receive other forms of student aid. Also, each school receives a limited amount of FSEOG money; when it's gone, it's gone. That's why it's very important to apply for financial aid as early as you can. You'll have a better chance of obtaining FSEOG money if you're eligible for it.


The Federal work-study program is a key form of self-help aid. Work-study allows undergraduate and graduate students to work part time and earn money while they're in school. And more money earned equals less money needed in student loans.

Work-study jobs are usually on campus, but some schools make arrangements for private, non-profit organizations or public agencies to provide work-study jobs, too. These jobs pay undergraduates by the hour and at least the minimum wage. Graduate students may earn an hourly wage or a modest monthly salary. Students aren't allowed to work more than the number of work-study hours awarded to them in their financial-aid package.

Like FSEOGs, work-study funds at each school are limited, and are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. Students who apply for financial aid early have a better chance of getting work-study funds -- and a campus job they might actually like.

Perkins loans

Low-interest-rate federal Perkins loans are another first-come, first-served option. The federal government only guarantees each school only a certain amount of Perkins loan money each year. This program is yet another reason for students to fill out FAFSAs as early as possible.

Unlike grants, loan money must be paid back. However, students can take up to 10 years to repay Perkins loans. If you attend school at least half-time, you have nine months after you graduate, leave school or drop below half-time status to begin to repay your loan, or perhaps longer if you're in the military. Payments are scheduled over a 10-year period. Perkins loans carry fixed interest rates.

Perkins loans also can be discharged or canceled in full or in part for various reasons, including for graduates who are employed in specific teaching positions, certain public or nonprofit family services jobs, and law enforcement or in military service in certain hostile areas.


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