Financial aid

Many students depend on financial aid to help them pay for college. Financial aid is money offered to students through government agencies, individual schools, or other sources. The amount and type of financial aid provided is typically determined by financial need. But, some scholarships and awards are given based on academic achievement, talent or by meeting certain criteria.

There are four basic types of financial aid:

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Job/Work study
  • Educational loans

Scholarships

A scholarship is a gift of money to help pay for college expenses. You do not have to pay back this money. Scholarships are provided by colleges, organizations, companies, and private donors and typically awarded based on merit or talent.

Grants

Grants are monetary aid, usually awarded based on financial need, that do not have to be repaid.

Job/Work study

College work-study programs allow you to pay part of your college expenses by working part-time while attending college. Typically, these jobs are subsidized by the federal government for eligible students with financial need. 

Educational loans

An educational loan is money borrowed from the government or private source that must be repaid with interest.

Applying for financial aid


To apply for most financial aid you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Students that are are not eligible for FAFSA because of citizenship status may apply using the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TAFSA.)

Complete the FAFSA or TAFSA and apply for financial aid once you’ve been accepted to a college or university. Repeat this process each year that you attend college.

You should apply for financial aid every year, even if you think you do not qualify. There are many factors that affect eligibility for financial aid. A student who does not qualify one year might become eligible during the next year when a brother or sister enrolls in college. Also, a change in the student's family financial circumstances can affect his/her eligibility for student aid.

It is always free to apply for financial aid. Never pay anyone money to help you apply for financial aid.

More information about FAFSA & TAFSA

For more information about FAFSA and to apply online, see the Federal Student Aid website.

For more information about TAFSA, see the College for All Texans website.

Financial need

Financial need is determined by the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) and the expected family contribution (EFC). If the expected family contribution (EFC) is less than the cost of attendance (COA) the student is considered to have a financial need.

How is Cost of Attendance (COA) determined?

Each college determines its own COA which includes estimates for:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Books and supplies
  • Housing
  • Meals
  • Transportation

What is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?

The EFC is the amount your family can afford to spend on college for the year and is calculated based on the information you provide on the FAFSA about your income, family size and the number of children in college.