Financial aid is money given to students to help pay for college and career training, distributed primarily from the federal government and colleges in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, or work-study programs. Approximately two-thirds of full-time students attend college with the help of financial aid. The financial aid process looks slightly different for each student with many variables that go into determining eligibility. Students are encouraged to explore the many financial aid options to help offset the costs. For many students, their financial aid will come from a combination of sources.
The U.S. Department of Education is the largest provider of financial aid. Every year, the Office of Federal Student Aid awards over $100 billion to more than 10 million students. Every student who meets certain eligibility requirements can receive some type of federal aid, regardless of family income. The federal government offers a number of financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and work-study programs. See Federal Grant Programs and Federal Student Loan Programs for more details.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission offers several financial aid programs for Maryland residents enrolling at Maryland institutions, such as the Guaranteed Access Grant the Educational Assistance Grant and the Campus-Based Educational Assistance Grant. Information is also available about the Academic Common Market that affords Maryland students the opportunity to enroll in certain out-of-state institutions at the in-state tuition rate to pursue majors unavailable at Maryland colleges and universities.
Also known as institutional aid, college aid is financial assistance provided by colleges and universities for prospective students and vary widely by school. Some aid may come directly from the school, such as loans or reduced tuition, while other grants and scholarships are endowed by individuals, usually alumni, and are administered by the school. To learn if a school offers this type of financial support, visit the financial aid section of their website or contact the school’s financial aid office.
Students planning on pursuing a military career can enroll in an Reserved Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) college-based program. For students who qualify, the ROTC programs offer scholarships that cover the cost of their education. These scholarships are competitive and merit-based, and each branch has its own application process, scholarship eligibility requirements, and active-duty service commitment after graduation.