Higher education is expensive, whether you attend a local career or community college or a well-known private university. Paying for tuition and fees as well as books, supplies and housing expenses may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are four types of financial aid available to Rhode Islanders that can assist you with your higher education expenses.
Grants amount to a really great gift. Grants are not loans, so no matter how much money is available and given to you for your education, if you complete the program for which you obtained the grant, you never have to pay it back (the TEACH grant is the one exception). Grants are almost always based on need and are available to those with less than stellar academic performance.
There are several entities that provide grants, including:
- Federal government
- State government - through RIHEAA
- Individual colleges or schools directed toward a specific career
- Private organizations and foundations
To qualify for a state grant through Rhode Island, students must be residents of the state and must file their FAFSA prior to March 1.
Like grants, scholarships are gifts that do not have to be repaid. Scholarships are available through colleges, universities and career schools as well as many private organizations. Some state scholarships are available. For example, Rhode Island awards scholarships under its Academic Promise Program and considers both the need and academic performance of the applicant. As with grants, for students to be eligible for this Rhode Island financial aid, students must be residents of the state and plan on attending an accredited school in Rhode Island.
Scholarships are often awarded based on academic or athletic performance, although need may also be a consideration as well as personal qualities or interests. Some schools award scholarships to those who have excelled in certain sports, like volleyball or basketball. They are also available through private organizations. Check with the financial aid office of the school you wish to attend for more information. Also check with your guidance office and search locally at www.rischolarships.org.
The federal government sponsors a work-study program that is administered through individual schools. It provides part-time jobs to those accepted in the program. The job will often be in some type of campus employment or in a job related to your major course of study.
The jobs may be on or off campus. You will be paid at least the minimum wage, but the amount you are allowed to earn depends on the money available through your school and the amount you qualify for based on your need.
Generally, the amount earned through work-study covers living expenses, books and supplies but is not enough for direct costs such as tuition and fees. Also, work-study funds are awarded as they are earned so you typically don't receive them until after tuition is due.
There are a number of federal and state student loan programs available as well as loans through private organizations. Students should always maximize their Federal Stafford Loans before looking elsewhere for college loans.
These are loans so, of course, the money will need to be repaid and repaid with interest. The amount of money available and the terms of interest and repayment vary with the type of loan and where the loan comes from.
Rhode Islanders have access to a state-based education loan through Rhode Island Student Loan Authority.
Begin the application process
For any federal aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs and loans, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is also used by the State of Rhode Island. For free assistance completing the FAFSA, make an appointment with the College Planning Center of Rhode Island.
Also, check with the schools you are considering and ask for information on government and private loans, grants, scholarships and work-study programs they offer.