Just like the rest of the country, the majority of Texan students need outside funding to achieve their postsecondary education dreams. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, more than half of Texas graduates carry student loan debt, making it more crucial than ever for students to first seek out free or low-cost funding options.
Today, there are many organizations and community groups helping students achieve their educational goals by offering Texas grants and scholarships specifically for state residents.
But how do you find them? What are some good places to start? Here is what you need to know on your quest to find financial aid in Texas.
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Getting Financial Aid for College in Texas
Have you filled out your application for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? It is the first and most important step to securing funding for your education. Not only is it required to access any and all government-managed student aid, including grants, scholarships, and student loans, but it is often also the basis for state-issued funding. It should always be the very first step a student takes on their quest to finance their postsecondary education.
The FAFSA does require extensive information on the application that can take some time to gather. The Federal Student Aid office has put together a helpful worksheet to assist students in this information gathering process. In essence, the FAFSA will require information about yourself, about your school, and about your financial situation.
Are you classified as a dependent (on your family) or an independent? Some other vital information to have handy is tax returns for yourself and family, business information for your own business and your family, as well as all the information on your expected tuition and school fees.
Because the FAFSA is an all-encompassing application, the amount of possible funding varies widely between one grant or scholarship to the next. The Pell Grant in 2018/2019, for example, is $6,095. However, that will likely change on an annual basis. As another example, a federal student loan for a first-year undergraduate is $5,500 for dependent students and $9,500 for independent students. Clearly, there is a lot of variability between aid packages, which can depend on when you apply, your financial need, and merit.
Knowing how much your expected budget is for the academic year is also an important step. School is, after all, much more than merely tuition, fees, and books. Room and board eat up a significant portion of a student’s budget and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Many federal student aid packages (and even privately funded scholarships) and financial aid cover more than just tuition. Compile a comprehensive budget for your school year and seek out funding based on the complete picture.
Student Loans in Texas
Exhausting your options for Texas grants and scholarships should obviously be your priority, as these usually never require repayment. Once those options are exhausted, however, explore what federal student loan possibilities are on the table. Federal student loans typically come with lower interest rates and more protections than private student loans. When all else fails, your next best option is to shop around for a state-based private student loan. To help get you started, here are a few state-based private student loan options.
College Access Loan (CAL)
CAL is provided through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. These Texas student loans are open to residents enrolled at least part-time in an approved academic program. The loan is issued based on having a credit rating above 650, or with the assistance of a cosigner. It currently offers a relatively low annual interest rate of 6.60%, with terms of 10 years for anything under $30,000, and 20 years for those loans over $30,000. More information is available on its website.
Texas Extra Credit Loan
This loan is open to Texan students enrolled at least part-time for upwards of $65,000. They have both variable and fixed rate options. Terms vary between 10 to 15 years. Check out their website for more details.
Higher Education Loan
The Greater Texas Federal Credit Union offers this option to its banking clients age 18 and up, and who have at least five years of established credit history. It offers both variable- and fixed-rate options, currently ranging from 5.59% to 13.59%. The maximum loan amount is for $50,000. For full details on eligibility and loan statistics, contact one of the customer service representatives.
Scholarships for College Students in Texas
Scholarships for Texas students are often merit-based but are also usually quite specialized. Who you are matters, and it can pay off to consider all your characteristics and associations that make you stand out from your peers. Are you a member of a community organization like the Boy Scouts of America? Are your parents part of the Rotary Club or local business associations? These associations can pay off as they often have scholarship programs.
Many organizations provide scholarships to ethnic minorities or comparatively underserved communities. There are also often scholarships for specific industries or academic departments. Speak with your school’s financial aid office for more information on which scholarships could apply to you.
There are many scholarships for college students in Texas available outside of the FAFSA program. Here are five to get you started:
AQHA Jay Pumphrey Animal Sciences Scholarships
Available to students in Texas, this scholarship is based on academic achievement, financial need, Quarter Horse involvement, and an applicant’s outstanding leadership and communication skills. There are multiple scholarships available through the single application.
Association of Texas Leaders for Education Scholarship
This merit-based scholarship is based on community involvement and academic performance for Texas secondary school graduates. Deadline is April 15 annually, and the award is for $1,000.
Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program (TASSP)
This is available to students who are enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and agree to a four-year term after graduation with a National Guard organization. The student must also be appointed to be eligible to apply. The award is for $4,000, and the deadline is in October for the following year’s program.
Texas Urban Scholarship
This is open to United States citizens or permanent residents who are also residents of Texas. Applicants must demonstrate a financial need and live in 29 approved cities listed on the Texas Association of Developing Colleges website. There are different levels of awards with a maximum of $1,000.
The Bounce Energy “BE More” Scholarship
This is available to Texas students under the age of 24 who have a minimum GPA of 3.0. There is a required 500-word essay about Bounce Energy. The award is for $2,500.
Grants for College in Texas
Texas grants and scholarships work very similar in the way they offer funding. Check with your state, local municipality, and your school’s financial aid office for the grants available in your area. Again, consider your chosen academic focus and your heritage or religious affiliation in your search for a grant.
This grant is for state residents with demonstrated financial need, and who are enrolled in a non-profit college or university located in Texas. The grant is for $5,000, and the deadline for application is in March of each year. Importantly, the award is renewable on an annual basis.
NACME’s Scholars (Block Grant) Program
This is open to students in Texas attending colleges who are participating in the Block Grant program. Typically, these are universities that support access to education for underserved members of the population. The student must be accepted by the college’s engineering program and must maintain a specific GPA. The grant is awarded for $12,500 yearly. More information is available on their website.
Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program (TEOG)
This grant is available to students enrolled in a public two-year college program in Texas who are not already recipients of the TEXAS grant. The grant varies depending on the college, however the current maximum is for $5,666. For more information on eligibility requirements, check out their website.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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