Students who have lost a parent may be eligible for one of the federal government’s higher education grant programs. There are Pell Grants for students with a deceased parent. Every U.S. state also offers scholarships and grants to students with financial need, especially those with a parent who died while working in public service. And the good news is, a grant is one form of financial aid for education that does not have to be repaid.

Deceased Parent Pell Grants

Families with one deceased parent may meet income qualifications for the federal Pell Grant Program, which offers need-based grants to low income students for post-secondary education and provides benefits for college students with deceased parents. Grant amounts depend on the student's expected family contribution, the cost of attendance, the student's enrollment status (full-time or part-time) and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less. To begin the application process, complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Electronic versions of the FAFSA, available at, making applying for federal financial aid fast and easy.

Government Grants for College

Exploring government grants for college can help you save a lot of money on educational expenses. Students with the highest financial need are awarded Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs). Unlike Pell Grants, the amount of FSEOGs depends not only on financial need, but also on the amount of other aid you get and the availability of funds at your school. Not all schools participate, but if yours does and you are eligible, your FAFSA will serve as your application for both the FSEOG and the Pell grant programs.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

These federal grants are available only to students who are not eligible for Pell grants and whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. Apply by completing the FAFSA.

Department of Veterans Affairs Help

Not limited to dependents of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, the children of military personnel who died in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible to apply for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship. According to the Veterans Administration, eligible children (age 18 – 32) may receive up to the highest public, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, plus a monthly living stipend and book allowance under this program.

State-Based College Grants

Virtually every state in the U.S. has programs to help finance tuition for university, community college and technical schools for low-income and disadvantaged students, particularly the children of those who died while providing public services, such as police officers, firefighters and military veterans. For example, Minnesota offers waivers of tuition at state colleges and the University of Minnesota through the Public Safety Officer's Survivor Grant, Minnesota Educational Assistance for War Orphans and Education Vouchers for Former Youth in Care.

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