What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is any funds provided to students and their families to help pay for the cost of college. A college education is an investment in the future, and various forms of financial aid are available to help pay for it.


Cost of Attendance (COA)

The Cost of Attendance is an estimate of a student’s total education-related expenses for an enrollment period at a specific college. The COA generally includes tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation costs and other school related expenses.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The Expected Family Contribution is the federal government’s measure of a family’s financial strength used to determine the types and amounts of financial aid. The EFC is not a bill, nor does it indicate the amount owed to the college of your choice.


Categories of Financial Aid

  • Need-based aid is awarded on the basis of a student’s financial need.
  • Non-need-based aid is awarded on the basis of a student’s academic or athletic achievements, service to a local community, unique skills or special talents.  


Types of Financial Aid

  • Scholarships – Financial assistance usually based on merit or ability which typically does not have to be repaid.
  • Grants – Need-based aid that typically does not have to be repaid (often referred to as gift aid).
  • Employment – Jobs available to students as a way to earn money toward their educational expenses. 
  • Loans – Federal and private loans available to students and parents to help pay for educational expenses.


Sources of Student Financial Aid

  • Federal government – The U.S. Department of Higher Education provides the largest source of financial aid through its Federal Student Aid programs.
  • State – The MDHE administers several Missouri grant and scholarship programs in addition to the several other Missouri student aid programs sponsored by the state of Missouri.
  • Colleges & Universities – Institutional aid is awarded by colleges and universities. For more information about their financial aid offered, check with each individual institution website.
  • Private organizations – Research local and national businesses, community groups and religious and civic organizations for grants and scholarships they may have available.
  • Employers – Check with your employer or your parent’s employer for scholarships and educational benefits they may offer.



Seven Steps to Applying for Financial Aid



FAFSA Frenzy

One of the first steps to receiiving financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA. To receive free professional assistance completing the FAFSA, attend one of Missouri's FAFSA Frenzy events during the months of January, February, and March.


Important Tips



The MDHE offers free publications designed specifically for students and their families to help plan, prepare for and pay for a postsecondary education. You may order any of the following publications online:

  • College Portfolio - An expandable, tabbed portfolio allowing you to store and organize your college admissions, enrollment, financial aid, and other important documents
  • Never Too Early - A guide to planning for college from kindergarten to senior year
  • Planning and paying for college informational package - Contains a variety of important Missouri and federal publications, such as The Source, a comprehensive guide to all things financial aid and Planning for Financial Success providing financial literacy and money management tips specifically for students

You may also contact the Missouri Department of Higher Education for more information:

8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday
(800) 473-6757 
[email protected]