Paying for College - - Resources for Students and Families


With the cost of higher education soaring nationwide, it is important for students and their families to understand the range of financial aid options available to help them pay for college. Student borrowers should know about the financial advantages of lower cost federal loans before they borrow in the more expensive private market. The following provides information about the financial aid process and the available resources to make college as affordable as possible.


Getting Started

It is important for both students and parents to prepare for college during the 11th-grade year. This helpful college preparation checklist can help you stay on track.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to determine how much a family or student is expected to contribute to the cost of attending post-secondary schooling. It is also used to determine eligibility for federal Stafford loans and Pell Grants, as well as work study and other financial aid. Be sure to complete this application completely and on time.


For specific questions, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.


Federal Student Aid

The U.S. Department of Education publishes a great deal of information regarding access to financial aid. Visit Student Aid on the Web for information about different federal loan programs, including:

Loans, the most common federal aid, must be repaid when you graduate or leave college: 

Federal Stafford Loans
Federal PLUS Loans (parental loans), not need-based
Perkins Loans (campus-based aid) for low-income students; offered through participating schools

Scholarships/grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment:

Pell Grants
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

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.”

Work study programs allow you to earn money while in school:

Federal Work Study Program: college campus jobs
Student Educational Employment: jobs with the federal government

Tax Credits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides tax benefits for education. For example, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) allows you to claim up to $2,500 per student per year for the first four years of school as the student works toward a degree or similar credential.


*Information provided by Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz - representing Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District.