Massachusetts Student Loans, Scholarships, and Grants
Massachusetts ranks seventh in the country in average debt for graduates of four-year institutions. It's important to understand all the options you have for paying for school in Massachusetts, including government and private student loans, scholarships, and grants.
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Massachusetts may be the college capital of the United States. Home to Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Wellesley, and numerous other respected institutions, Massachusetts colleges top the list for the best and the brightest.
Unfortunately, Massachusetts is also near the top of the list in terms of highest student debt balances at graduation, ranking ninth in the United States according to our student loan debt statistics. The average borrower graduating from a four-year institution in Massachusetts comes out owing $31,319, and close to six in 10 graduating students leave school with debt.
Borrowing to go to school can be a good investment, but you need to be smart about it. You should borrow the minimum possible by pursuing opportunities for scholarships and grants. You should also get your loans from lenders offering the best interest rates and borrower protections, which usually means exhausting government loans first.
On this page:
- Getting Financial Aid for College
- State-Based Student Loans in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts College Scholarships
- Massachusetts Grants for College
Getting Financial Aid for College
If you want access to many important types of financial aid, one of the first things you’ll need to do is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. The FAFSA opens up the door to government loans, as well as many scholarships and grants. It requires you to provide information about your assets and your family’s financial situation so an “expected family contribution” can be calculated.
Each school you apply to will then put together a financial aid package. You may be offered scholarships, loans, and grants to supplement your expected family contribution, which is the amount you and your family are expected to pay towards your education. If the funding the school offers you isn’t enough to pay for everything, you’ll have to apply for private student loans to supplement the financial aid package.
The amount of financial aid you’ll be eligible for will vary depending on how much your family is expected to contribute, as well as the cost of the school. Just remember—the more you decide to borrow, the more you’ll have to pay back after graduation.
State-Based Student Loans in Massachusetts
Exhausting government student loans before applying for private loans is always smart because loans from the government usually have good terms for borrowers, including lower interest rates and flexibility in repayment.
Massachusetts students can obtain not just Direct Loans from the federal government, but also loans from the state. And once government funding has been exhausted, there are also local banks and credit unions that cater to Massachusetts college attendees.
Some of your options for government and private loans in Massachusetts include:
- Massachusetts No Interest Loans: The Massachusetts Department of Education offers the Massachusetts No Interest Loan program to provide 0% interest loans for needy students. Students must be permanent Massachusetts residents, enrolled in school full-time, and demonstrate financial need. To become eligible, students must complete the FAFSA. Loan amounts vary from $1,000 to $4,000, and there is a lifetime borrowing limit of $20,000.
- MEFA loans: The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority is a state-chartered non-profit offering loans to undergrads and grad students. Undergraduate loan rates start at 4.50% while in school and 5.40% after graduation. Graduate students can obtain loans starting at 6.40% while in school and 7.30% post-graduation. Students must attend a Massachusetts college or must be Massachusetts residents going to school anywhere. Either the borrower or a cosigner must also meet MEFA’s credit approval standards, and student borrowers need to maintain satisfactory academic progress. The minimum loan amount is $1,500 for public schools or $2,000 for private schools, and the maximum loan amount is the cost of attendance.
- City of Boston Credit Union Student Loans: This credit union provides private student loans of up to $120,000 for undergraduates and $160,000 for graduate students. Variable rate loans start at 4.96%, and fixed rate loans start at 5.36% APR with autopay. Students can complete an application online within as little as 15 minutes but must meet credit score and income requirements to qualify, so many borrowers need a cosigner.
- Southbridge Credit Union Student Loans: Students can borrow between $2,000 and the cost of attendance in each academic year, with a maximum loan limit of $120,000 for undergraduates and $160,000 for graduate students. Borrowers can apply online but will need to qualify based on credit and income, so a cosigner may also be necessary to obtain these private student loans.
- Mass Bay Credit Union Student Loans: These loans are made available through a partnership with Sallie Mae. They are private student loans called Smart Option Student Loans, and they offer variable rate loans with rates between 4.37% to 11.23% for undergrads or fixed rate loans with rates from 5.74% to 11.85%. Again, a cosigner may be needed if a student can’t qualify based on his or her own credit and income.
You should also check with your college’s financial aid office to see if they make any loans available. For example, Harvard provides loans at a fixed 4% rate for students, regardless of their eligibility for federal loans.
Massachusetts College Scholarships
Before borrowing any money, even from lenders with favorable terms, you should exhaust your options for scholarships. Scholarships could be awarded based on financial need, merit, or because you meet certain requirements, such as being a member of a particular group or doing community service. You don’t have to pay scholarships back.
Your school’s financial aid office can help you find scholarships you may be eligible for. You can also check out these scholarships for Massachusetts students.
- The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship: This scholarship covers tuition for up to eight semesters of undergraduate education at state colleges or universities in Massachusetts. Students must be Massachusetts residents who graduated from a Massachusetts public high school. They must complete the FAFSA and score at the Advanced level on certain high school state assessments and the Proficient level on others. Their combined score on three of these tests must be in the top 25% of their class.
- The Paul Tsongas Scholarship: This is a merit-based scholarship available to students with a GPA of at least 3.75 and SAT scores of at least 1200. Eligible students receive a tuition waiver at any state university in Massachusetts. Students must complete a FAFSA, be permanent legal residents of Massachusetts for one year prior to going to school, and must maintain a 3.3 or higher GPA in college to remain eligible for the tuition waiver.
- The Agnes M. Lindsay Scholarship Program: This scholarship is open to students from rural areas in Massachusetts who are permanent Massachusetts residents. Rural areas are designated as areas with fewer than 15,000 inhabitants. Students must complete the FAFSA and can’t already have a bachelor’s degree. The award amounts vary.
- The Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship Program: This program provides scholarships valued at up to 50% of a student’s calculated need at a college of their choice in the U.S. Students must be Massachusetts residents with a GPA of at least 2.5 and must demonstrate high financial need, difficult personal circumstances, and strong promise to continue education beyond the secondary level. Students need to be nominated by a community agency or organization to be eligible and must complete an application if nominated.
- The GEAR UP Scholarship: Students under 22 who are legal Massachusetts residents can become eligible for this scholarship by completing the FAFSA. To be considered, students must have participated in the Early Intervention Component of GEAR UP Massachusetts. Scholarship amounts will be no less than the minimum Pell grant for the current academic year, and students may be eligible for funding for a maximum of two semesters.
Massachusetts Grants for College
Grants, like scholarships, don’t have to be repaid. However, grants are usually need-based, rather than merit-based. Options for grants in Massachusetts include:
- Paraprofessional Teacher Preparation Grant: Students must either be employed at least two years as a paraprofessional to become eligible or must undertake an undergraduate program to become qualified to teach in a high-needs discipline. Students must complete the FAFSA and sign a Terms and Conditions statement requiring them to work as a full-time teacher in Massachusetts for between two and four years. Grant amounts vary by school. For private colleges, for example, the maximum award amount is $625 per credit or $7,500 for the academic year, while the maximum award amount for a state university is $450 per credit with a maximum of $6,000 annually.
- Foster Child Grant: This grant provides up to $6,000 annually for foster children to pay for continuing education after high school. Students must complete the FAFSA, enroll full-time in an eligible institution, and be under 25 when starting the academic year.
- Massachusetts Part-Time Grant: Qualifying students will receive a minimum of $200, and the maximum varies by program. Students are eligible if they’re completing at least six but fewer than 12 credits in an eligible program and have no prior bachelor’s degree. Massachusetts residency is required, and students must maintain satisfactory academic progress. Students can become eligible by completing the FAFSA and demonstrating financial need.
- Massgrant: Students must complete the FAFSA to become eligible and must demonstrate financial need. The grant is open only to Massachusetts residents enrolled for the first time at an eligible institution. Students cannot already have a bachelor’s degree, and they must maintain satisfactory academic progress. Award amounts vary based on the cost of the program and the student’s financial need.
Your school’s financial aid office should also have information on grants you can apply for.
While going to school in Massachusetts can be expensive, you can keep costs down by exploring all your options for scholarships and grants before borrowing. Then, borrow from the federal and state government, while using private loans as a last resort to fill funding gaps. By being smart about how you borrow, you’ll make debt repayment easier after you graduate.
Author: Christy Rakoczy