Don't let your financial situation become a roadblock to higher education

By Susan Pohorski

Many students don’t even bother to apply for college because they think it’s unaffordable. Families struggling to get by or those with several children don’t see how college education is possible for them.

On the contrary, there are many financial aid options for low-income students in Wisconsin, including aid for public, private and technical colleges. Here are some possibilities:

  1. The Fund for Wisconsin Scholars  (FFWS) provides need-based grants to graduates of Wisconsin public high schools attending Wisconsin public colleges including Wisconsin technical colleges. FFWS is a private foundation and you won’t have to repay the grants. Students attending 2-year institutions can receive $1,800 and those attending 4-year institutions are eligible for $3,500 per student, per year.
  2. Wisconsin Higher Education Grant - Up to $1,084 per year for Wisconsin residents for up to 10 semesters. Must be enrolled at least half-time. Based on financial need.
  3. Technical Excellence Scholarship – This is a new scholarship awarded by the State of Wisconsin to Wisconsin high school seniors who have demonstrated high levels of proficiency in technical education subjects. The $2,250 scholarships can only be used for Wisconsin technical college tuition.
  4. Federal Pell Grants also do not need to be repaid. For the 2015–16 award year (July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016), the maximum award is $5,775.  The amounts vary depending on: your financial need, the cost of attendance, full-time or part-time status and plans to attend for full academic year or less. Generally, your grant will cover a full academic year and your school will disburse (pay out) your money in at least two payments called disbursements.
  5. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant provides grants of between $100 and $4,000 per year, depending on your situation and when you apply. Each participating school receives a certain amount of FSEOG funds each year. When that amount has been awarded, no more grants can me made that year. So find out the deadline for your college and apply early.
  6. Need-based privately funded grants or scholarships – Every public and private college and university including Wisconsin technical colleges have foundations that issue grants and scholarships to students who qualify. Ask the financial aid officer at your college what grants or scholarships you might qualify for.

The first step to receiving any of this financial aid is to apply using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Awards are made based on the information in this document. Remember, some funds run out quickly, so apply as soon as you can.

Related post: Steps to make financial aid application less painful.

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