One of the most common pieces of advice offered to college students today is to seek out as much financial aid as possible. Unfortunately, in many cases, student aid packages are still not enough to cover the full cost of tuition, and many are forced to borrow money. When this happens, some students begin to wonder if welfare or other public assistance programs will help pay for college.
While each state has its own assistance program, in general, welfare will not pay for college. Instead, students who need money for college should investigate the federal student aid programs provided by the US Department of Education. All students seeking federal aid must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which includes questions regarding your and your family’s need for public assistance. In addition to loans, students can qualify for grants, scholarships, or the work-study program. As these programs are specifically designed to help college students, it is unlikely that you will qualify for welfare while receiving funding from federal student aid.
In certain cases, such as those involving single parents experiencing financial problems, students have received some sort of assistance. Most welfare programs require that you have a job or demonstrate that you are looking for one. Instead of working a traditional job, some programs allow recipients to participate in job training or other career-centered education. This means that, in some states, attending college could qualify as receiving job training because it shows you are preparing for future employment. It is important to clearly communicate your educational goals to your caseworker because they must be documented in order to qualify for assistance.
For students who would rather avoid loans, the federal government offers three types of aid which usually do not have to be repaid:
- Grants are needs-based gifts given to students with financial need. Federal grants are easy to apply for – simply submit your FAFSA and you will be notified if you qualify for any available grants.
- Scholarships are usually merit-based awards, such as making dean’s list, participating in community service, or being part of a particular cultural group. Scholarships can come from a variety of sources including your state, your school, and any private organizations you belong to. CareerOneStop, a site sponsored by the US Department of Labor, is one resource students can use to locate scholarships. Ask your guidance counselor or financial aid advisor about additional award opportunities in your area.
- Work-study jobs are part-time positions offered at schools that participate in the federal work-study program. They are given to students with financial need, and the jobs themselves are usually related to a student’s field of study or intended career. Contact your school’s financial aid office to learn what positions are available and how to apply.
With all federal student aid programs, it is essential that you submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. Awards are often given to the first qualifying applicants, so sending the form in early maximizes your chances of receiving funding.