Grants for College and Online Courses

Find the grants that are available for college and online classes. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported almost three fourths of graduating high schoolers planned to attend college.

This is in addition to the thousand of adults each year who decide to get a degree, as well as returning students already in college. Even when most of the world shut down in 2020 because of Covid-19, millions of students continued to attend classes digitally.

For many careers, the only way to be successful is getting your degree. Unfortunately, not all students have the money to afford classes. For these students, there are multiple forms of financial aid available, including educational grants, loans or scholarships. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are several key differences between the various forms of educational financial aid.

Differences Between Grants, Loans and Scholarships

Students have two big questions when looking for financial aid, how much money is available, and how it must be repaid. Student loans typically provide the most money possible, but you are required to pay all of the money back, with interest. Negotiating for a student loan is also difficult, since your interest and repayment rates are largely determined by your credit score. To get the best deals, you need a high credit score. For adults, this is much easier, but graduating high school students rarely have a credit history.

Scholarships do not provide as much money as student loans, but you are not required to pay back the funds. Getting a scholarship is much more difficult than other forms of financial aid. Scholarships are rewarded based on merit, while educational grants are need based. This means eligibility for grants is determined by your financial need. There are also some grants designed to help students who do not have traditional educational opportunities. For these grants, factors like race, gender or religion may be eligibility requirements.

In comparison, scholarships require you to complete educational projects, attend a specific school or pursue an approved major. The funding for scholarships is frequently less than grants, generally offering between $500 and $1500, while grants often provide several thousand dollars.

There is much more competition among scholarships as well, with most scholarship sponsors only giving funding to a handful of students. The application process for scholarships is much more involved as well, making it harder to apply for other financial aid options.

Educational grants also have less restrictions than scholarships. Many scholarships only providing funding specifically for classes, while grants offer general funding you can use for tuition, books, room and board or other costs associated with college.

Applying for an Educational Grant

There are many reasons why students prefer educational grants over other forms of financial aid. Applying for educational grants is much simpler than scholarships or loans, which often involves going through a private lender or other third party. With educational grants, the main requirement is completing a free application for federal student aid (FAFSA).

FAFSA is a universal application for student grants and other forms of educational financial assistance. Since so many student grants use FAFSA to determine eligibility, it is much easier to apply for multiple forms of assistance. When you first complete your FAFSA, you receive a list of what grants you are initially eligible for. FAFSA has multiple sections, but the largest influencers for determining eligibility are your educational history and expected family contribution (EFC).

Many student grants have a maximum EFC limit. If you exceed this limit, you are unable to apply for the grant. Grants frequently have some educational requirements as well, but these are not nearly as strict as scholarship requirements. For example, some grants are only available if you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Grants often require you to maintain a certain GPA, but it is not particularly high. This is essentially a safeguard to keep applicants from pocketing grant money and skipping their classes.

Federal and General Grants

While there are many grants available, they fall under two classifications, general or federal. The difference between the grants relates to where the funding comes from. Federal grants get money directly from the U.S. Department of Education, which in turn influences the eligibility requirements for these grants. General grants receive funding from a wider group of sources. Some examples include:

  • Schools

  • State programs

  • Nonprofit groups

  • Private industries

In terms of assistance, both grants are similar. Federal grants do have a few advantages over general grants. In general, federal grants are easier to use than general grants. Federal grants are universally accepted at any college. There are some general grants that are also useable across multiple schools, but they are often meant specifically for schools within the state the grant is offered in. Funding from federal grants is also more compatible with other forms of financial aid. In some cases, the funding you receive from general grants counts towards your EFC, while federal grants do not.

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is one of the better-known grants because of how widely it is available. As a federal grant, it is available to all students who meet the basic income requirements. You must also be an undergraduate who has not earned a bachelor’s or other professional degree. The maximum amount available from the Pell Grant changes each year. As of writing, the 2021 maximum is $6,345. The exact amount you receive changes based on:

  • EFC

  • Cost of tuition

  • Whether you attend school full or part time

  • Whether you attend school for the full year

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

FSEOG is another commonly recognized federal grant. This grant does not provide as much funding as the Pell Grant, only offering between $100 and $4000, based on the same eligibility requirements as the Pell Grant. Each college receives a set amount of funding each year for the FSEOG. Unlike the Pell Grant, it is possible for this funding to run out, so students are encouraged to apply whenever the college starts accepting applications.