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:

Financial Aid for Students

The basics: getting started

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·  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

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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.

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
FastWeb
Grants for Individuals

 

Targeted aid for special groups

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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).

Aid for private K-12 education: No direct federal assistance, check with schools themselves:

 

Repaying your loans

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After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.