Financial Aid 101
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 institutional financial aid programs, check with each individual school 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.
How to Apply
The first step to applying for many forms of financial aid begins with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Before completing the application, students and their parents are encouraged to set up an FSA ID. For free help completing the FAFSA, students can attend one of the many FAFSA Frenzy events held throughout the state of Missouri each year.