Student Financial Aid

Preparing and planning for the costs of a higher education can be overwhelming at times. This page will help guide students and parents through the process of locating and applying for financial aid.

The basics: getting started

Free information is readily available from:

High school counselors; College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend); Local and college libraries; Federal Student Aid (U.S. Department of Education); and, other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)

Ask questions: counselors may know if you have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.

Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must reapply for aid each year.

Parents of students: save money long before your child attends college.

FinAid: for Parents
College Savings Plan Network (state "Section 529" plans)
Tax incentives for higher education expenses

Good overviews:
About Financial Aid
FinAid: The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid
Mapping Your Future

Beware of scholarship scams -- don’t pay for free information!
Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office
Federal Trade Commission

Student aid and where it comes from

Basic assistance categories:

Financial need-based
Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can -- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.

Non need-based

Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.

Federal Student Aid:

Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs. Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based. Free information from the United States Department of Education:

Federal Student Aid

Financial Aid Resource Publications

are the most common federal aid and must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.

Stafford Loans (FFELs and Direct Loans) include: Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) from private lenders, such as banks and credit unions, guaranteed by the federal government. Federal PLUS Loans parental loans, not need-based. Perkins Loans [Download a free PDF reader] for the most needy undergraduates; through participating schools.

are mostly need-based and require no repayment:

Pell Grants

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

"Congressional" scholarships
Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fellowships)

Merit-based and highly competitive
Members of Congress do not play a role in selecting recipients

Work study
programs allow you to earn money while in school:

Federal Work Study Program
: college campus jobs
Student Educational Employment
: jobs with the federal government

For questions not covered by the Department of Education Web site, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

offer residents a variety of scholarships, loans, and tuition exemptions.

Check with your State Higher Education Agency and California's designated student loan guarantee agency, California Student Aid Commission.

Consider prepaid tuition and college savings ("Section 529") plans: College Savings Plans Network.

Search your Internet browser under terms such as student financial aid or assistance AND your state.

Colleges and universities
provide some 20% of aid, most need-based. Check university web sites (such as California Community Colleges, California State University, and the University of California) and the institution’s financial aid office when you apply for admission.

Private foundations, corporations, and organizations
offer scholarships or grants:

College Board Scholarship Search


Grants for Individuals

Targeted aid for special groups

Grants for Minorities (Michigan State University national database): Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and Other Ethnic Groups

African Americans: For Students: Scholarships (at United Negro College Fund website)
Disabled students: Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities
Foreign students: Financial Aid for International Students
Hispanic Americans: Scholarships (at Hispanic Scholarship Fund website)
Law school students: LSAC Resources: Grants
Medical students: Association of American Medical Colleges
Native Americans: American Indian College Fund
Study abroad (for U.S. and non-U.S. citizens): International Financial Aid
Veterans: Education Benefits

Interested in Public Service?

Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where there’s a particular need (such as doctors in underserved areas); encourage underrepresented groups to enter a particular profession; and provide aid in exchange for services provided (such as military service).


AmeriCorps Education Award
Volunteers who complete one year of service receive an education award for current higher education expenses or to repay student loans.

Army Tuition Assistance
Additional benefits for Army personnel.

Indian Health Service
Scholarships for American Indian/Alaskan Native health profession students and loan repayment for persons working in IHS facilities.

Military academies:
United States Air Force Academy
United States Coast Guard Academy
United States Merchant Marine Academy
United States Military Academy
United States Naval Academy

National Health Service Corps
Scholarships and loan repayment for health profession students who agree to work in underserved areas.

Nursing Scholarships
Offered in exchange for two years of service in areas with critical nursing shortages. Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)

For students who want to be commissioned as officers after graduating from college.
United States Air Force ROTC
United States Army ROTC
United States Navy ROTC


Repaying your loans

After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.

Eligibility depends upon the type of loan, when it was made, and whether it’s in default. Check with your loan officer to find out if you qualify.

Loan Consolidation: combine your federal loans into a single loan with one monthly payment. Sometimes loans may be canceled in exchange for public service.

Teachers: Cancellation/Deferment Options
Health professions: National Health Service Corps
Law school graduates: Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
Law school graduates: State Loan Repayment/Forgiveness Programs
Medical school graduates: Loan Repayment Program
Federal employees: Federal Student Loan Repayment Program

If you are having problems with your loan and all other approaches fail, contact the Department of Education’s Office of the Ombudsman.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Student Debt Repayment Assistant.

Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.

Office Locations