Getting an education without going into debt can be difficult, but it's not impossible. Both federal and state governments provide financial assistance to students in the form of grants, service benefits, tax credits and student loan forgiveness.
Serve in the Military
The GI Bill assists both active duty service members and veterans, while the Dependents’ Educational Assistance program provides funds to the spouses and dependents of dead or disabled veterans. Other programs include the Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship program for ROTC cadets and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program.
Become a Teacher
The federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant offers cash to students who plan to become teachers. TEACH Grant recipients must agree to teach in a high-need field in a low-income community for at least four years after graduation. Some states offer scholarships, grants or tuition waiver programs to current or aspiring educators. Teachers may eliminate or reduce their student loan debt through the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or the Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge Program. Participants in the Teach for America program may enroll in AmeriCorps during their Teach for America tenure. AmeriCorps volunteers are eligible for a monetary award that can be applied toward student loans or future education costs.
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Demonstrate Financial Need
The federal government offers the Pell Grant to qualifying undergraduate students. Many states also offer need-based grants to students. To qualify for government grants, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and request that the FAFSA results be sent to the schools to which the student has applied. The school will complete the financial aid award process, which may require additional information from the student.
Get Good Grades
Some states provide merit-based scholarships to students who perform well academically. One example of this type of financial aid is the Georgia HOPE Scholarship, which provides assistance to students who maintain a high grade point average in high school, take academically challenging courses and attend a participating college, university or trade school. Students can get information on applying for state merit scholarships through their state’s student aid commission, a high school guidance counselor or a school’s financial aid office.
Perform Public Service
Individuals who work in public service may be eligible for student loan debt forgiveness. To qualify, the individual must make 120 timely monthly student loan payments and work full time for a government or nonprofit organization. After an individual meets the program's qualifications, the U.S. Department of Education forgives the full balance of her federal Direct Loans. Student loan borrowers can visit the Federal Student Financial Aid website at studentaid.ed.gov for more information. Individuals who participate in the AmeriCorps service program are also eligible for an educational award they can use to retire student loans or to fund future education.
Claim a Tax Credit
The American Opportunity Tax Credit provides an annual cash credit for individuals during their first four years of higher education. The Lifetime Learning Credit provides tax credits to individuals who have completed academic or professional course work. Individuals can apply for these credits using IRS form 8863.
- Federal Student Aid: Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge
- Corporation for National and Community Service: Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
- Federal Student Aid: Types of Aid
- Illinois Student Assistance Commission: Monetary Award Program
- Federal Student Aid: Grants and Scholarships
- U.S. Army: Army ROTC
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Survivors and Dependent Assistance
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
- Military.com: GI Bill FAQ
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: National Call to Service Program
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