Financing a college education is necessary for a large majority of students and their families.
Fortunately, there are several outlets that can help cover the expense of earning a college degree, including public or private student loans, scholarships, and grants. Many students start their search for financial aid through scholarship and grant awards, since these funds do not need to be repaid, but it is common to fill in the gap with student loans when the time comes.
In Tennessee, college students have more than 200 colleges and universities to select from in pursuing their higher education goals. While the options are many, the cost of attending a Tennessee school can be significant. Students who are attending as in-state residents can save some of the expense with lower tuition rates, while those who qualify as out-of-state students may need more assistance to help pay for their degree program.
Below are several options for Tennessee students in the form of student loans, scholarships, and grants that can help pay for college expenses throughout their time at school.
Getting Financial Aid for College
Securing the best available financial aid as a college student takes some work and due diligence from the start. The first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. Students enter details about their residency status, individual and family financial details, and the school they are planning to attend. This information is used to determine government and school-based aid that is available to students.
The amount of financial aid varies but can reach up to the total cost of attendance at specific colleges and universities. However, the mix of financial aid differs from student to student. Some students may be eligible for large amounts of scholarships and grants while others may only be offered the standard federal student loan.
Tennessee Student Loans
Most students attending college in Tennessee look to student loans to help fill the gap between scholarship, grants, and savings and the total cost of attendance. In fact, the average borrower from Tennessee colleges and universities from the Class of 2017 graduated with $25,054 in student debt.
Student loans can be either federal or private. Federal loans are offered by the Department of Education, while private loans are originated by private banks and lenders. Most federal student loans do not have credit requirements, but there are limits on how much can be borrowed each year per student. Private loans, on the other hand, have more restrictive credit qualification guidelines and most students need a cosigner to qualify.
As mentioned, private student loans can come from many sources, but for Tennessee college students, the following are great options:
Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union
The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union has a long history of serving community residents throughout the state with a variety of financial products and services. The credit union offers student loans thanks to a partnership with Sallie Mae’s Smart Option student loan program. Through this private loan, Tennessee students have the ability to receive funding up to the total cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid received. The Smart Option student loan offers in-school repayment options, fixed and variable interest rate options, and co-signer options to help boost an application. This student loan has no origination fees, no prepayment penalties, and flexible repayment terms after leaving school.
>> Read More: Check out our Sallie Mae Student Loans Review
UT Federal Credit Union
Since 1969, University of Tennessee Federal Credit Union has offered a community banking experience to its members throughout the state. For students, UT Federal Credit Union also offers private student loans through Sallie Mae. See the previous section to learn more about this loan.
The Tennessee Credit Union
Students also have an option for private student loans through The Tennessee Credit Union. The financial institution has been helping residents of the state meet their financial goals for more than 65 years. Like the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union and the UT Federal Credit Union, the Tennessee Credit Union has partnered with Sallie Mae to offer options for students.
Tennessee College Scholarships
In addition to student loans, college students in Tennessee should also look for scholarships. Unlike student loans, scholarships do not need to be repaid after graduation, and these funds are available based on the merit or financial neediness of students.
Scholarships for Tennessee students may come from several different sources, including private organizations, non-profits, corporations, and the school where the student earns his or her degree.
Searching for scholarship awards is most easily done through an online search for state-specific awards. Students can increase their chances of winning scholarships by applying early and to many different award options.
Tennessee HOPE Scholarship
Entering freshmen who are Tennessee residents may qualify for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship award if they have at least a 3.0 GPA. The scholarship offers up to $1,750 per semester as a first- and second-year student and up to $2,250 for third- and fourth-year students at qualifying Tennessee colleges and universities. Students must submit their FAFSA by the fall or spring deadline to qualify.
General Assembly Merit Scholarship
Students graduating from a Tennessee public or private high school may qualify for the General Assembly Merit Scholarship. Qualifying students must have an overall GPA of 3.75 and an ACT score of 29 or an SAT score of 1350. The award amount may be up to $1,500 per academic year and students may fill out an online form to apply.
Students in Tennessee may also qualify for the Aspire Award when they meet the requirements for the HOPE scholarship listed above. The Aspire Award offers up to $750 per semester for students attending a four-year or two-year institution. An income restriction of no more than $36,000 gross income applies. Students may fill out an online application to see if they qualify for the Aspire Award.
Tennessee Promise Scholarship
Residents of Tennessee may qualify for the Promise Scholarship so long as they graduate from an eligible high school and meet program requirements while in school. Students must perform at least eight hours of community service each term and attend mentoring program meetings throughout their college career to continue receiving the scholarship award. Funds may be awarded up to the remaining tuition and mandatory fees after all other gifts and financial aid are accounted for. Filling out the FAFSA and Promise Scholarship application is required by November 1.
Tennessee Grants for College
Residents in Tennessee planning to attend college may also finance their education through grant awards. Similar to scholarships, grant dollars do not need to be repaid over time. However, students who receive grant funding may need to meet ongoing program requirements in order to maintain the financing without a requirement to repay. Grants are available through the state as well as some private organizations, and they can be found mostly online.
Tennessee Hope Access Grant
Students who have been residents of the state for at least one year and graduate from an eligible high school may qualify for the Hope Access Grant. They must have a minimum GPA of 2.75 and have a household or independent income of no more than $36,000 to qualify. Grant awards may be up to $1,375 per semester at four-year institutions or $875 per semester at two-year institutions. Students need to submit their FAFSA by the fall or spring deadlines in order to qualify.
Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant
The Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant awards eligible students up to $2,000 as a one-time award. Students must enroll in a certificate or diploma program at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology and maintain academic progress throughout their enrollment. Students need to complete the FAFSA by November 1 for fall semester applications to qualify.
Tennessee Reconnect Grant
Students who reside in Tennessee may qualify for the Tennessee Reconnect Grant if they are enrolled in a federal Title IV-eligible curriculum leading to a certificate or associate’s degree. Only independent students are eligible to apply, and the total award amount may be up to the total cost of tuition and mandatory fees, less other aid received. Students need to complete the Reconnect Grant application along with the FAFSA to qualify.
Author: Melissa Horton
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