Financial Aid and Grants 

Every year, organizations award billions of dollars in scholarships and grants to students. According to the College Board, scholarships are usually based on specific qualities (e.g., merit or ability), while grants are usually based on financial need. Government organizations, colleges, and private organizations are common sources of scholarships and grants.

  • The Office of Federal Student Aid (OFSA) uses the information reported on the FAFSA to determine qualifications for grants, loans and work-study programs for students attending colleges, universities and/or career schools.
  • States and postsecondary institutions use information reported on the FAFSA to award scholarships.
  • FAFSA completion leads to a Student Aid Report (SAR), which lists the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the financial amount a student/family should be able to provide toward the student's cost of education.
    • Questions or concerns about projected EFCs should be directed to the financial aid office of your postsecondary institution.
    • Federal financial aid is issued directly to the postsecondary institution on your behalf.
    • FAFSA forms and additional information can be accessed here:

A work program to earn money and help you pay for school. It provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school.

  • Available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with financial need.
  • Available to full-time or part-time students.
  • Administered by schools participating in the Federal Work-Study Program. Check with your school's financial aid office to find out if your school participates.

Grants are often called "gift aid" because they are free money—financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually merit-based.

Generally, there are two types of student loans: federal and private.

  • Federal student loans and federal parent loans: These loans are funded by the federal government.
    • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need.
    • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
    • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.
    • Private student loans: These loans are non-federal loans, made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency or school.
  • Aid From Your State Government - Even if you're not eligible for federal aid, you might be eligible for financial aid from your state. Many States have special grants or Student Loan Repayment Programs that will forgive loans based upon service in designated areas within their respective state.
  • A few State of TN Scholarship options include:
    • Tennessee HOPE Scholarship - Nontraditional is  for nontraditional age students and is established and funded from the net proceeds of the state lottery and awarded to entering freshmen or students who have not been enrolled in any college for at least two (2) years from the date of last enrollment in college.  Students must be age twenty-five (25) or older at the time of enrollment, complete the FAFSA application, be a TN resident and meet the minimum family adjusted gross income requirement.
    • TN Reconnect Grant available to students who have not previously earned an associate or baccalaureate degree, are independent according to the FAFSA rules, and are enrolled part-time in an eligible program of study.
    • TCAT Reconnect Scholarship is available to students with a FAFSA status of independent.  Students must enroll in a full-time program at a TN College of Applied Technology in order to be eligible.
    • Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program (TSAA) was established to provide non-repayable financial assistance to financially-needy undergraduate students who are residents of Tennessee. 
    • Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant is established and funded from the net proceeds of the state lottery and awarded to students who are enrolled at a TN College of Applied Technology.  Students must complete the FAFSA application, be a TN resident and be in pursuit of a certificate or diploma program.
    • Helping Heroes Grant is established and funded from the net proceeds of the state lottery and awarded to US veterans who were honorably discharged and who are a former or current member of a reserve or TN National Guard unit.  Students must complete the Helping Heroes Grant application and the FAFSA application, be a TN resident, enroll at an eligible postsecondary institution and were awarded the Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal or Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. 
  • Aid from Your College or Career School - Many schools offer financial aid from their own funds. Find out what might be available to you. Some schools reduce their rates for Military Service Members and family members
  • Aid from a Nonprofit or Private Organization - Many organizations offer scholarships or grants to help students pay for college or career school. This free money can make a real difference in how affordable your education is.
  • Start your search early
  • Use a scholarship search engine (e.g. College Board Scholarship Search)
  • Prepare and organize your information
  • Apply for ALL the scholarships you are eligible for
  • Follow the instructions and complete forms in their entirety
  • Track your applications
  • Be cautious and avoid scams
  • Ask your school, professional associations, and civic organizations about opportunities

For More Information, contact your State Education Office:



GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website.