Where to Find Aid
There are three primary types of financial aid and four general sources for the money. Students and parents should look at several combinations of financial aid to meet their needs and match their particular financial situation.
Types of Aid
Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships
This is free money. No repayment is expected for these forms of financial aid. A grant is money usually based strictly on need, but scholarships and fellowships are based on certain qualifications or characteristics, and may not depend on need at all. One of the largest sources of grants is the Pell grant, a federal grant that can provide up to $5350 per year. Scholarships are awarded to students based on certain qualifications, such as athletic or academic performance. Similar to scholarships, fellowships are usually given to graduate students to help cover their educational costs.
Unlike grants and scholarships, student loans are borrowed money that needs to be paid back -- with interest. However, special student aid programs subsidize the loans to lower the interest rate. Payments on the student loans are also usually deferred until six months after graduation from college. There are also special Parent Loans that the parents of the student can apply for and pay back themselves.
If the student is able to work during the school year or over the summer, they can earn some money in a work-study program. These programs usually require less than a part-time work commitment, and they don't pay very much, but they will help the student cover their expenses. For qualifying students, the Federal Work-Study pays for part of their salaries so that the school can hire them to work on campus. This program is based on financial need.
Sources for Financial Aid
United States Government
The federal government is a large supplier of financial aid for students around the country. There are several federal programs, including grants, scholarships, loans, and work study. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used by schools to measure each student's eligibility for all federal and state financial aid.
State Government (Oregon)
Many states provide scholarships, grants, and loans to students going to one of the state's schools. Get College Funds lists many unique scholarships to Oregon.
Schools and Colleges
Many colleges have scholarships, grants, and other programs unique to their school. Students should check with the financial aid department for each school they are sending applications to.
Private Donors and Foundations
One of the best sources of money comes from private donors and foundations. Many of their scholarships are based on specific characteristics, qualifications, and educational goals. Scholarships are given for a variety of students, for example credit union members, children of labor union members, and graduates of specific high schools.