The United States government assists students in financing the cost of a college education in the form of grants and low-interest loans to those who qualify. Because taxpayer money funds these federal programs, certain laws and regulations are in place to ensure that the money goes to the people who need it the most. In addition, some criminal convictions may temporarily disqualify a student from receiving financial aid.
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when applying for each type of government financial aid. The U.S. Government offers Federal Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, PLUS Loans and specific grants to math and science students. In addition, there is a Federal Work-Study (WKS) program and federally-funded campus programs. (See Resources)
Federal financial aid offers low-income students a chance at a higher education. Federal law provides that all citizens are eligible for financial aid as long as their financial status qualifies under the terms laid out in the FAFSA. For students who can be claimed as a dependent on their parent's income taxes, the government expects the parents to donate to the child's educational expenses. If completed online, the FAFSA will immediately tell the student what his or her Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be.
File your FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible but definitely before the end of your chosen school's filing date. Since the FAFSA determines need and distributes Pell Grants based upon a first-come, first-served basis, it benefits a student to submit the application as early as possible. The FAFSA requires that the student include Income Tax information for the current year but many applicants do not have that information in January. If this is the case, the FAFSA includes a method for estimating tax liability.
In the 1998, Congress passed the Higher Education Act, disallowing students with a prior drug conviction from receiving financial aid. Due to that ruling, many students don't bother to apply for federal financial aid. However, subsequent changes in the law now allow most students with drug convictions to apply as long as they were not convicted during the past year and they were not receiving financial aid during the time of their conviction. (See Resources)
The federal government allows distribution of financial aid by the state and, under that premise, a number of states now allow the children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition as long as they have attended a state high school for the past three years. (See Resources)