Posted February 11, 2016

Grants: Where they come from and how they help

With your FAFSA filed and your scholarship search underway, know how grants will assist you in paying for college.

An owl with a commencement cap above the word grants.
More free money? Grants, like scholarships, are a form of gift aid, which means it doesn't need to be paid back.

Some of the best gifts in life aren’t wrapped: They’re tucked in a financial aid package, and they’re called grants.

Welcome back to Owl About the Money, where our finance gurus help break down student financial matters so you don’t have to figure it out alone. With your FAFSA out of the way and your scholarship search started, it’s a good time to understand the other forms of financial assistance that you may encounter as you prepare to pay for college. Where better to start than grants?

Here are five things to know, courtesy of our experts:

  1. Apply to be granted.
    That free application we keep telling you about (yes, the FAFSA) is the first step in securing free money (read: grants). You’ll be considered for grants as your school prepares your financial aid package, assuming you’ve filled out the holy form. Because unlike most scholarships, grants are need-based funds. And though they come in different flavors—federal grants (see Federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant), state grants and university grants—they’re all pretty sweet.

  2. The rules of the (grant) game.
    They’re as easy as the following A, B and C.

    a) There are criteria to follow: “For scholarships, sometimes there’s not a lot of eligibility criteria tied to it. But for grants, there’s often very specific eligibility criteria,” said Emilie Van Trieste, CLA ’05, EDU ’13, associate director of Temple’s Student Financial Services (SFS). That means that factors such as your status as a full- or part-time student are considered when your award is calculated.

    Changing your status after your award has been applied can alter the amount you’re awarded, SFS Director Craig Fennell points out. “If you’re considering making a significant change in status,” he said, “it’s always a good idea to talk to Student Financial Services first to understand the impact of that change on your financial aid.”

    b) Things could change: File your FAFSA to be considered for grants each year and realize that you’re not guaranteed the same grant or amount from one year to the next.

    c) There are time limits: Many grants are “exhausted after a certain period of time,” Van Trieste said. For example, Federal Pell Grants can be awarded for no more than 12 semesters (about six years).

  3. For those from the Keystone State...
    If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, you’ll be considered for a Pennsylvania State Grant by filing the FAFSA (the program’s application is embedded in the process). Eligibility requirements apply. The state grant deadline is May 1.

  4. For those *not* from the Keystone State...
    Some states have arrangements to provide grants that can be used at Temple. Those include: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont and West Virginia. Contact your state directly to pursue those dollars. See the “Non-PA State Grants” section on this Student Financial Services page for contact information.

  5. For those coming to Temple...
    You’ll be automatically considered for Temple University grants as part of your financial aid package, assuming, again, that you’ve completed the FAFSA. After you’ve paid Temple’s enrollment deposit, the university can also review your eligibility for a Fly in 4 grant, a program for students with significant financial need tied to our innovative effort to help students graduate in four years. Because the only gift cooler than a grant is a grant that pushes you to sport a cap and gown on time.

Next week: Loans.

Related stories:
Scholarships: Fantastic bucks and where to find them
Five things to know about the FAFSA
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