Ensuring every student can achieve as much education for which he or she is willing to work has been one of my top priorities in Congress. In fact, The Recovery Act included my proposal for a new higher education tax credit, also known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the tax credit – up to $1000 – would be refundable—this means that families that need help the most will benefit from this tax credit. It is estimated that in 2012, the AOTC will provide $9 billion in tax relief for those seeking more education after high school. For the first time since higher education tax credits were created, my tax cut expanded the definition of a “qualified education expense” to include textbooks, making them more affordable for students. In the State of the Union, President Obama called on Congress to make permanent this tax cut. Click here to read my op-ed in the Daily Texan about this important tax cut and other issues related to investing in higher education and students’ ability to achieve their God-given potential through higher education. My office can be a resource of information on how to apply for student financial aid. In addition, here are links to other web sites that might offer assistance:
- The Department of Education's (DOE) Student Guide
- The College Board's Financial Information page
- Federal Family Education Loan Program's (FFELP) "Mapping Your Future"
- DOE's Federal Student Aid Portal--Other Sources
- Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation
- Texas State University
- The University of Texas at Austin--Office of Student Financial Services
- Austin Community College
- St. Edward's University
- Huston-Tillotson University
Financial Aid for Students
The basics: getting started
· Start gathering information early.
· Free information is readily available from:
High school counselors
College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend)
Local and college libraries
Student Aid on the Web (U.S. Department of Education)
Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
· Ask questions of counselors: you may have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.
· Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must reapply for aid each year.
· Parents of students: save money long before your child attends college.
FinAid: for Parents
College Savings Plan Network (state "Section 529" plans)
Tax incentives for higher education expenses
· Good overviews:
Cash for College
FinAid: The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid
Mapping Your Future
Paying for College
· Beware of scholarship scams -- don't pay for free information!
Department of Education
Federal Trade Commission
Student aid and where it comes from
Basic assistance categories:
- Financial need-based
Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can-- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.
- Non need-based
Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.
Federal Student Aid:
- Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
- Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
- Free information from the U.S. Department of Education:
- Loans, the most common federal aid, must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.
- Scholarships/grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment:
- Other grants, scholarships, and fellowships, mostly graduate level: search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) by Beneficiary, such as "Student or Trainee" or "Graduate Student".
- "Congressional" scholarships:
- Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fellowships)
- Merit-based and highly competitive
- Members of Congress do not play a role in selecting recipients
- Work study programs allow you to earn money while in school:
- For questions not covered by the Department of Education website, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
States offer residents a variety of scholarships, loans, and tuition exemptions.
- Check with your State Higher Education Agency and State Guarantee Agency.
- Consider prepaid tuition and college savings ("Section 529") plans: College Savings Plans Network.
- Search your Internet browser under terms such as student financial aid or assistance AND your state.
Colleges and universities provide some 20% of aid, most need-based. Check university websites and the institution's financial aid office when you apply for admission.
Private foundations, corporations, and organizations offer scholarships or grants:
College Board Scholarship Search
Grants for Individuals
Targeted aid for special groups
- Grants for Minorities: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and Other Ethnic Groups
- African Americans: For Students: Scholarships
- Disabled students: Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities
- Foreign students: Financial Aid for International Students
- Hispanic Americans: Scholarships
- Law school students Financial Aid for Law School
- Medical students: Association of American Medical Colleges
- Native Americans: American Indian College Fund
- Study abroad (for U.S. and non-U.S. citizens): International Financial Aid
- Veterans: Education Benefits
Interested in public service?
Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where there's a particular need (such as doctors in underserved areas); encourage underrepresented groups to enter a particular profession; and provide aid in exchange for services provided (such as military service).
- AmeriCorps Education Award
Volunteers who complete one year of service receive an education award for current higher education expenses or to repay student loans.
- Army Tuition Assistance
Additional benefits for Army personnel.
- Bureau of Health Professions
Scholarships and loans to needy health profession students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Student Educational Employment
Employments, internships, cooperative education, scholarships, grants, and fellowships with federal agencies.
- Indian Health Service
Scholarships for American Indian/Alaskan Native health profession students and loan repayment for persons working in IHS facilities.
- Military academies:
U.S. Air Force Academy
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
U.S. Military Academy
U.S. Naval Academy
- National Health Service Corps
Scholarships and loan repayment for health profession students who agree to work in underserved areas.
- Nursing Scholarships
Offered in exchange for two years of service in areas with critical nursing shortages.
- Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC):
For students who want to be commissioned as officers after graduating from college.
U.S. Air Force ROTC
U.S. Army ROTC
U.S. Navy ROTC
Aid for private K-12 education: No direct federal assistance, check with schools themselves:
- Coverdell Education Savings Accounts: for elementary and secondary school expenses as well as higher education.
Repaying your loans
After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.
- Eligibility depends upon the type of loan, when it was made, and whether it's in default. Check with your loan officer to find out if you qualify.
- Loan Consolidation: combine your federal loans into a single loan with one monthly payment.
- Sometimes loans may be canceled in exchange for public service.
Teachers: Cancellation/Deferment Options
Health professions: National Health Service Corps
Law school graduates: State Loan Repayment/Forgiveness Programs
Medical school graduates: Loan Repayment/Forgiveness Programs
- Federal employees: Federal Student Loan Repayment Program
- If you are having problems with your loan and all other approaches fail, contact the Department of Education's Office of the Ombudsman.