Getting a higher education can be a transformative accomplishment. A college degree from an accredited institution can open doors to fulfilling careers, financial stability and a better life for you and your loved ones. But college can also be pricey, and you may find yourself putting off going to school because of how financially straining it may be.
Luckily, post-secondary education isn’t exclusively reserved for wealthy individuals from affluent families. There are many educational institutions offering affordable programs and financial aid opportunities so anyone with a drive for success and a passion for learning can obtain a degree of their choice.
What Is Financial Aid?
There are a variety of financial aid options offered to students to help them pay for college. Students of different ages and backgrounds apply for financial aid when they can’t afford to pay for things like tuition, books, school supplies or boarding out of pocket. Students might also use financial aid to support themselves if they are offered prestigious unpaid internships.
Financial aid isn’t limited to student loans. Many schools help students pay for education through grants and scholarships.
What’s the Difference Between Need-Based Aid and Merit-Based Aid?
If you’ve ever applied for financial aid or are planning to apply, you may be wondering about the difference between need-based versus merit-based aid. Need-based financial aid is given to students based on their financial profile, such as family assets, income and expenses. This type of aid can take many forms, including loans, work-study positions and scholarships.
Merit-based aid is awarded to students based on their academic performance, such as a good high school GPA or other outstanding academic accomplishments. Typically, to be eligible for merit-based aid, you don’t need to meet any financial requirements. Unlike need-based aid, merit-based financial assistance is given in the form of scholarships or grants that don’t need to be paid back.
What Are the Different Types of Financial Aid?
Both need-based and merit-based financial aid come in several different forms:
- Federal student loans: These are government loans that come with many benefits, like low interest rates, income-based repayment plans and eligibility for loan forgiveness.
- Private student loans: These loans are offered by banks, credit unions and other financial institutions and generally end up being more expensive than federal loans.
- Scholarships: These are gifts that don’t need to be paid back unless the student breaks the terms of the scholarship agreement. Scholarships are typically merit-based and funded by universities, private donors, non-profit organizations or federal and state governments.
- Grants: A grant is like a scholarship but is typically need-based instead of merit-based. Grants are usually offered by federal and state governments, nonprofits, private donors and educational institutions.
- Work/study: These are programs that provide students with part-time work while they’re enrolled in school.
Many colleges and universities, including St. Louis College of Health Careers, offer some type of student aid. At SLCHC, we connect students to different types of financial assistance, including student loans, grants and student employment.
Applying for Financial Aid
There are two primary ways to apply for financial aid. Firstly, students are encouraged to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is sponsored by the U.S Department of Education. Completing this form doesn’t guarantee financial assistance but it’s the only way to determine if you are eligible to receive federal aid or state assistance and how much money you qualify for. If you’re planning to apply for federal aid, be sure to fill out your FAFSA as soon as October 1, but no later than June 30, which is the federal deadline to submit your application.
You can also submit a College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile) if your school of choice uses it as part of their financial aid process. The CSS Profile is used mainly by private colleges and universities to award nonfederal aid. The application is maintained by the College Board and becomes available online on October 1 each year. The deadlines depend on the school or program you’re applying for.
Financial Aid Repayment
Generally, grants and scholarships are considered gifts, therefore you don’t have to pay them back. Conversely, federal and private loans need to be repaid.
The repayment process for federal loans begins after a student has graduated, with a grace period of up to six months. Many private loans need to be repaid during the academic year.
Can I Get Financial Aid for a Healthcare Program?
Are you interested in a career in the healthcare field but you’re questioning whether you can afford pursuing a degree? At St. Louis College of Health Careers, we offer a variety of affordable healthcare programs and access to many financial aid resources. Our goal is to provide an education to people from diverse walks of life, regardless of what their financial situation may be.
To learn more about our programs and how we can assist you financially in your educational journey, call (866) 529-2070 or send us a message.