The Department of Education will provide more than $67 billion this year, about 70 percent of all student aid, to help millions of students and families pay for postsecondary education.
Federal Student Aid (FSA) Programs are the largest source of college financial assistance, each year providing billions of dollars in funding.
This aid comes in many forms: gift aid in the form of grants (money that does not have to be repaid); self-help aid in the form of work study (job earnings), and loans (money that must be paid back with interest).
The FSA programs comprise:
The last three - FWS, Perkins Loans, and FSEOG - are known collectively as the Campus-Based Programs.
Loans through the DL Program come directly from the U.S. government, while loans through the FFEL Program come from private lenders such as banks.
This information is provided directly from the US Department of Education Federal Student Aid website.
If you are in high school, a good introduction to financial aid for college is the booklet, Funding Your Education.
If you've already graduated from high school and want more details, then the Student Guide is a good place to start. A Student Aid Audio Guide, which is a simulated conversation between a student and a counselor that you can listen to with RealPlayer, is also available.
If a college offers Stafford or PLUS loans through the Department of Education's Direct Loan Program, the Direct Loan website will tell you about the program.
If your college offers Stafford or PLUS loans through the FFEL Program, you can get information about that program from your school or its private lenders.
For a comprehensive website dedicated not only to financial aid but to all phases of getting a college education, the Students Portal is a good resource. "Looking for Student Aid" is a webpage that answers some common questions, such as those regarding scholarship search services, and also provides links to other sites and to the publications mentioned above. Whether you are saving for college, are in college now, or have graduated, the IRS offers several tax breaks that can save you a lot of money.
Check out the website for Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
Another portal for students is students.gov, which serves as a gateway to a wide variety of resources provided by the federal government that are of interest to college students. State higher education agencies offer a wealth of information on college education and financial aid that are particular to each state. There are other federal sources of financial assistance besides the Department of Education. The U.S. Army, for example, has long provided funding to help persons in that service to pay for college.
We hope the summary provided here has been of help to you. Please keep in mind that there are many sources of information on federal aid. Valuable information is available for free from the U.S. government and from your college financial aid office - so please take a look, and let us know if we can be of further help.