Financial Aid: State Programs

State Programs Overview:

States use the FAFSA form to determine state aid, but they may also require a special state form. States usually have income limits for making grants. Many, but not all, calculate aid awards according to Federal Methodology. Assistance may be based on merit or need. Many states offer merit awards to encourage their academically talented students to attend in-state colleges. The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program (LEAP), formerly called the State Student Incentive Grant Program, is funded jointly by states and the federal government. It can be used for current state grant programs and other activities to help students. States vary greatly in what is offered. Keep in mind that government programs and funding levels may change from year to year.

Low Tuition:

The major benefit that states provide is subsidized tuition for residents at their own state colleges and universities. Tuition may be substantially higher for nonresidents. State residents may receive a higher percentage of aid in the form of grants. State tax dollars can provide need-based aid and sometimes merit-based aid. Every state has an agency to oversee grants and loans for higher education. To find up-to-date information that applies to you, contact your high school guidance office and your state agency. If the college that interests you is in another state, also check with that state agency.

Help with Tuition at Out-of-State or Private Colleges:

Regional agreements may allow students to pay low tuition at public colleges in neighboring states. There may be arrangements for students to pay adjusted tuition at an out-of-state school that has a program that is not available at home. Some states help students who attend private, as well as public, colleges. They equalize tuition costs between in-state private and public colleges or give residents money toward tuition at private colleges in certain other states. If a private college has fully met a student’s “need ” for aid, the state grant will replace part of the already-awarded aid package. So, at a college that doesn’t meet full “need” a state grant can be more significant.

Other Benefits:

States may offer benefits such as work-study. They may sell tax-exempt bonds for college savings. State grants and low-interest loans may be available to public and private college students and to students going elsewhere or coming in from another state.

Ask Questions:

If applying to state schools in states other than your own, find out the basics. What is the cost for out-of-state students? Are there any special agreements with your home state? Will the college give financial aid to residents of your state? How much? Grants or loans? Don’t count on being able to establish residency in the other state if your purpose is to pay less for school. Check out the state’s rules.


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