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A college degree opens several doors for students, including a strong career path, higher earning power, and the potential to create a life of financial stability well into the future. The unfortunate reality is that while colleges and universities cast a wide net as far as how many students they accept each semester, the average cost of college rises steadily each year.
To help cover these education expenses, students in Florida can use several methods to fund their college endeavors.
Here’s a look at specific student loans, scholarships, and grants available to Florida students.
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Getting Financial Aid for College in Florida
Financial aid for a college degree does not magically appear before a student; it requires preparation long before starting a degree program. The first step in receiving financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, online. This application, managed by the Department of Education, provides financial aid to students throughout the country by way of more than $120 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds.
Once the FAFSA is submitted, students and their parents have an idea of what funding is available to them based on their expected family contribution, the student’s year in school and enrollment status, as well as the cost of attendance at the college or university in which the student plans to enroll. There are two types of financial aid, need-based and non need-based. Need-based financial aid is calculated by subtracting the expected family contribution from the cost of attendance; however, non-need-based aid is not directly related to the expected family contribution.
Once these numbers are determined, students and their parents can seek out grants, scholarships, and loans to help cover additional costs. It is essential to recognize what is needed for each application for additional college funding, including any financial documentation from the student or parents, transcripts from high school or previous college courses, and detailed information relating to community service work, extracurricular activities, or other work history that might improve an application.
Each of these details helps strengthen scholarship and grant applications, making receiving Florida student aid more realistic for students.
Florida Student Loans
Students living in Florida who also want to attend a Florida-based college or university may receive scholarships and grants that do not cover the full cost of attendance. In these cases, Florida student loans may be the only remaining option for paying for a degree program. Federal or private student loans can be beneficial in providing the extra funding needed, but they do require repayment once the student has graduated or dropped below at least half-time status with an institution.
The state does not have its own student loan program but instead helps students in need of Florida student aid navigate the federal student loan programs. In addition to these student loans, there are Florida student loans through state-based financial institutions. Here are a few options for state-based student loans for Florida residents.
Florida Central Credit Union
Students who are residents of Florida may qualify for a loan through Florida Central Credit Union. Loans offered by the credit union are in partnership with Sallie Mae, and they provide flexible financing with in-school and deferred repayment options.
Student loans from Florida Central Credit Union also offer variable and fixed interest rates, discounts, and rewards to eligible borrowers, and no origination or prepayment fees. Students who do not have a strong credit history or steady income might require a cosigner to help strengthen the application.
Power Financial Credit Union
Residents of Florida who are eligible for membership with Power Financial Credit Union also have student loan options available. Power Financial Credit Union provides up to $10,000 in student loan financing for qualified borrowers with competitive interest rates and repayment terms extending up to 15 years. Borrowers can submit an application at a branch location or by contacting the credit union directly.
Scholarships for College Students in Florida
Scholarships for Florida students are often the best method of funding a college education, as the money awarded to a student does not need to be repaid. Scholarships for Florida students abound, and a quick online search yields countless results. Utilizing reputable sites, including UNIGO, Scholarships.com, and the Florida Department of Education, is the best first step students can take in securing strong scholarships for their education.
It is also beneficial to know that scholarships for college students in Florida are available from a multitude of sources with widely varying qualification and eligibility requirements, giving most students an opportunity to receive an award in some shape or form. Here are a few notable scholarships for Florida students.
Bright Futures Scholarship Program
Students who have just recently graduated high school and live in Florida as a resident may qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarship program. This award is geared toward high-achieving high school seniors who meet specific GPA, standardized testing, and service hour thresholds before applying.
The scholarship amount ranges depending on the program for which the Florida student qualifies, but there is an opportunity to receive up to 100 percent of tuition and application fees, along with $300 for additional expenses. The deadline for applying is mid-August each year.
Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship
Florida-based students may also qualify for the Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship, which offers up to $3,000 for college expenses. Eligible students must show a financial need along with meeting academic requirements, and they must not be in default with any grant, loan, or scholarship program at the time of application. Students may renew the grant each year so long as qualification requirements continue to be met. The deadline for applying is May 15.
Benacquisto Scholarship Program
The Benacquisto Scholarship Program is a merit-based scholarship offered to Florida students who receive recognition as a National Merit Scholar. The full cost of attendance, less other financial aid received, is available to students who attend a Florida college or university. There is no application required, but instead qualified students are notified after submitting their financial aid application with the Florida Department of Education.
Jose Marti Scholarship
Florida students of Hispanic origin may be eligible for the Jose Marti Scholarship, which is a need-based merit scholarship available for students attending public or certain private Florida colleges or universities. Students must meet academic requirements as well as submit the Florida Financial Aid Application by April 1 in order to qualify. A renewable award of $1,000 or $2,000 is available to qualified students.
Florida Grants for College
In addition to scholarships, students in Florida may qualify for grants to help fund their college endeavors. Florida scholarships and grants are alike in the fact that they do not need to be repaid. However, grants differ from scholarships in that certain requirements for the grant must be met to keep the funding without the need to repay in the future.
Florida grants for college often require a student to show financial need in order to qualify, so it is helpful for students—and their parents—to have documentation relating to financial circumstances on hand before applying. Here are several Florida grants for college students.
Access to Better Learning and Education Grant Program
Florida-based students may qualify for the Access to Better Learning and Education Grant Program if they are enrolled in an eligible private college or university in the state. The award amount varies based on the institution’s participation, and students must be pursuing an undergraduate degree in any subject other than theology or divinity. Requests are submitted through the Florida Financial Aid Application, due in April.
Florida Student Assistance Grant Program
As a need-based grant program, the Florida Student Assistance award is available to Florida residents pursuing an undergraduate degree at a state university or college. Eligible students must enroll in at least six credit hours per term.
The award amount is based on the cost of attendance as well as financial need. Students apply by submitting the Florida Financial Aid Application by the end of April each year.
Florida Resident Access Grant
Tuition assistance is available through the Florida Resident Access Grant for certain Florida-based students pursuing an undergraduate degree at a private, nonprofit college or university in the state.
The participating institution determines the grant award amount, along with specific eligibility requirements. Students apply through the college or university they wish to attend, and therefore, application deadlines vary from institution to institution.
First Generation Matching Grant Program
Students who are Florida residents may qualify for the First Generation Matching Grant Program administered by Florida state universities and community colleges. The program is available to students as a need-based grant if they are first-generation college students. Each institution offering the grant program determines full eligibility requirements as well as deadlines to apply.
Author: Melissa Horton