Students in Alabama have a wide variety of scholarships, grants, and student loans available for school. Before applying for them, however, you should understand how the financial aid process works and what options you have.
Alabama has more than 75 accredited institutions of higher education, with 25 public community colleges, 14 four-year schools, and several dozen private schools offering degree programs. If you’re an Alabama resident, you can attend college in your home state for a lot less than you would pay out of state.
The rising cost of a college education has made it harder every year for students to pay for school, but the state of Alabama invests to help ensure anyone who wants to attend school can with a number of funding opportunities. Many students take advantage of financing such as from third-party scholarships, grants, and student loans, both federal and private.
On this page:
- Getting Financial Aid for College
- State-Based Student Loans in Alabama
- Alabama Scholarships
- Alabama Grants for College
Getting Financial Aid for College
No matter what type of financial aid you hope to get, the first step to applying for it is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Also known as the FAFSA, the application has detailed questions about your income, finances, debts, and — if you’re a dependent student — your parents as well. The FAFSA offers both the federal government and your school an idea of how much your financial need is, through a Student Aid Report, or SAR.
The government starts with the premise that it’s ultimately you and your family’s responsibility to fund your education. So, based upon the information in your FAFSA, the government calculates what it calls your Expected Family Contribution. This amount is not a mandatory cost for you to pay, it’s merely what the government has determined you and your family should be able to contribute.
Your college should publish a Cost of Attendance each year that includes tuition, books, room and board, transportation, and other expected costs that you will incur while attending that school. To determine your financial need, your Expected Family Contribution is subtracted from that cost of attendance. If the school’s cost of attendance is $36,000 per academic year, for instance, and your Expected Family Contribution is $10,000 per year, your financial need is $26,000.
Most financial aid packages will be offered for that amount of need. The government will act as the lender for all Direct Student Loans. The school, however, will be the lender for all Perkins Loans. Many students can cover all of their costs with their financial aid package.
In some cases, however, students and their families cannot bridge the gap between the Expected Family Contribution and the cost of attending that particular school. In those cases, students may seek third-party scholarships, private student loans, or other funding sources.
State-Based Student Loans in Alabama
Since the federal government took over much of the student loan industry, many states including Alabama ended their state-based student loan programs. For students looking for additional student loans beyond their federal financial aid package, however, there are still options in the form of private student loans. Keep in mind that unlike federal loans, your financial need is not the criteria for approval — your creditworthiness is.
Private Student Loan Options for Alabama Students
Sallie Mae Smart Option Private Student Loan
5.74% – 11.85%
4.62% – 11.47%
5 – 15 years
Sallie Mae is a long-time private student loan originator that can help bridge the gap between your financial aid and your actual cost of attendance. To be eligible, you need to a be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident and be pursuing a degree program at an accredited school at least half-time. The APR range for a fixed-rate loan is 5.74% to 11.85% depending on your credit history and that of your cosigner.
You can borrow up to the total cost of attendance minus your financial aid package. In the example above, that means you’d be able to borrow up to the amount of your Expected Family Contribution, or $10,000. There are no origination or pre-payment fees, and there is a 0.25% discount on your interest rate if you set up automatic payments.
The biggest caveat about Sallie Mae student loans is the customer service. It has a long list of complaints against it by current and former borrowers, which you’ll want to consider before signing.
5.41% – 14.46%
4.25% – 13.25%
5, 10, or 15
Ascent student loans come in two types: cosigned and independent. The Cosigned Loan, obviously, requires a cosigner but is open to college students in any year of their education. The Independent Loan is only open to full-time juniors, seniors, and graduate students. You can check your eligibility in under a minute with no hard inquiry to your credit report.
Interest rates start at 4.25% and go to 14.46% depending on your creditworthiness. There are no application fees, and you can customize your loan to start repayment after graduation. You can also get 1% cash back upon graduation.
To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident attending a degree program half-time or more.
One excellent way to help fill any funding gaps is through third-party scholarships. There are thousands available for everything from ethnic background to academic achievement, community service, and more.
>> Read More: Alabama scholarships
American Legion Scholarship Program
The American Legion Scholarship is open to children of U.S. military members who died on active duty on or after September 11, 2001. It’s also available to children of post-9/11 veterans who have a combined disability rating of 50% or greater from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Up to $20,000 is available. Applications must be in by April 15, 2019.
Community College Performing Arts Scholarship Program
Students in Alabama who are attending a public junior or community college can compete for this scholarship by auditioning regardless of their financial need status. Up to $3,000 is available, and you can contact the eligible school of your choice to apply for an audition.
Alabama Grants for College
Like scholarships, grants are money that you don’t have to pay back. They differ from scholarships, however, in that they’re based on financial need instead of achievement or other criteria. Students in Alabama have several grants available to them.
The Alabama’s Promise grant program is funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and is awarded through the University of Alabama. It’s open to students who graduated high school in-state and earn an Associates degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher, then transfer to the university.
Alabama Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Survivors Educational Assistance Program
This grant covers tuition, fees, books, and supplies for the dependents and eligible spouses of police officers and firefighters from Alabama killed in the line of duty. You must be enrolled in an undergraduate program at a public institution of higher education. Deadlines are rolling.
Alabama Student Assistance Program
ASAP, as it’s known, is a need-based state grant ranging from $300 to $5,000 per academic year. To apply you need to be an Alabama student attending an in-state school and complete the FAFSA. The deadline is based on the FAFSA completion.
Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program
As of 2017, members of the Alabama National Guard can get help with school through the ANGEAP. You need to have a 2.0 GPA if you’re an undergraduate and a 3.0 GPA if you’re in graduate school. If you qualify, you could get up to $5,080 per semester. To apply, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA, which also dictates the deadlines for the program.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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