Government grants are issued for a variety of purposes. They may be more or less difficult to get depending on what these purposes are. A large industry has grown up around assuring people that there are hundreds of grants out there waiting for them that are relatively easy to qualify for. This is not, for the most part, true. College grants are the most common and the easiest to get, and there are a few other types available, but getting offered them is by no means certain or easy. By far the most common type of government grants for individuals to receive are educational or college grants. So let’s take a closer look at them.
Educational Government Grants
The federal government issues grants to help students afford college. These grants are relatively easy to secure as long as the student can prove that their personal income level, or more commonly that of their family, is such that paying for college will involve some financial hardship. A number of federally funded college grant programs exist. We’ll go over a few of the major ones in brief.
Pell grants are perhaps the best known type of college grant. The U.S. department of education is responsible for their issuance. This department assesses eligibility for the grant on the basis of Expected Family Contribution, which is an assessment of the ability of students and their families to contribute to education costs. If this estimate finds that a student or family’s expected contribution is below a certain threshold level, they are considered eligible for the grant. While Pell is not too strict about grades, they do require that a student keep at least a C average or they may risk losing the grant money.
There are some desirable attributes to Pell grants, mainly owing to the fact that they have been around for a long time and comprise a well established program. For one thing, it is a large enough fund that a student is eligible for assistance with 4 full semesters of full time school each year. Students can always apply for it and have a good chance of receiving it. The Pell program also reimburses students for tuition money they may have already paid. Thirdly, the amount of the Pell award can be adjusted according to changes in a student’s financial status.
The maximum Pell grant award per academic year is currently $5,500.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity (FSEOG) Grants
FSEOG grants are another type of federal educational grant. This program works in partnership with the school a student is considering attending. FSEOG offers 75% of the total grant amount. The educational institution funds the other 25%. This is not quite as dependable as the Pell program because the school can decide how much of its percentage it would like to allocate to the student – it does not have to pay the full 25%. But this is a widely used undergraduate grant of which many students take advantage. The upper limit of the FSEOG grant is $4000 per academic year and the average amount is around $750.
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
As the name implies, this grant is for top students. Like the Pell and FSEOG it is for undergraduates. It requires students to maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average. It usually awards $750 for first year students and $1300 for second year. This grant can be combined with grants from other programs such as Pell as long as the total grant amount doesn’t exceed the total cost of tuition.
How to Apply for Federal Educational Grants
One form, the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is used in applying for college grants from the federal government. This form asks questions about the income status of a student and his or her family so that assessments of their grant eligibility can be arrived at. It is easy to fill out this form at www.fafsa.ed.gov, or a student can pick it up in paper form at their college or university, the local library, etc.
State college grants also exist. These programs are often instituted by the education department of state governments and vary from state to state. They do not generally use the FAFSA as an application, but instead have their own applications. The awards offered can be substantial, and they can be combined with federal grants, so they are definitely worth checking out. The financial aid office of a school a student is considering is a good place to ask about these grants – these offices can supply all the necessary information. More generally, anyone seeking information about the grants can inquire at their state’s education department.
Grants for Graduate Students
All the college grants mentioned so far are for undergraduate study. So what types of grant money is available for graduate students? The entire process becomes much more specialized when students move to the graduate and post graduate levels. Often what graduate students receive are research grants and fellowships. These grants are very often given by private grant foundations, but they may also be given by branches of the federal or state governments.
For instance, if a graduate student was studying science and technology, they might be able to apply for research grants from the U.S. army. If they were studying medicine, they could potentially get research or educational grants from the state or federal health department. And if they were studying business they could apply for a fellowship or scholarship from the local chamber of commerce.
Fellowships and scholarships are essentially the same thing and are sometimes given out by various branches of government to graduate students engaged in promising or at least qualifying work in a given field. The important thing is for a graduate student to have a decent academic record, show academic need, and be focused as to what educational areas they would like to explore.
Other Government Grants
Apart from educational grants, there are indeed many other grant programs implemented by the federal government. However, these programs are generally different from what people think they are, and different from what is promised by fast talking salesmen pushing websites and books. They are almost never given to individuals. Rather, they are given to organizations – either non-profit organizations or ordinary businesses – for various purposes. The grant money may also flow from the federal government to government offices at lower levels, such as state or city.
These grants can be issued to organizations for a wide variety of purposes. Some examples are regional development, agriculture, science and technology research, the arts, and housing. There are many other areas as well.
How to apply for non-educationally based government grants
The first thing an individual should do if they are seeking grant money from the government for whatever purpose is to forget all about the websites and books that make claims about getting them easily and for anything an individual might dream up. You may be able to use these books and sites for informational purposes to see what types of grants are offered, but mostly that information can be gotten for free, so there is no reason anybody should charge you for it.
The next thing to do is consider what kind of affiliation with which organizations might be helpful. Alternatively, an individual could consider forming their own business or non-profit organization and attempt to get grant money that way. However, just like they sound, both options are something of a long shot.
However, it never hurts to try. For instance, somebody could see what types of grants were being given in the private sector to encourage various sorts of businesses, and then start such a business, say as a sole proprietorship or partnership. The application for grant money may well be approved in such a case. However, as previously noted there are no guarantees.
A great site to find out about all the different grants offered at the federal level is http://www.grants.gov. At this site you can search for grants for specific types of activities or browse various grant programs.
Dispelling the myths about government grants
Government grant money is definitely there for various purposes. But the way it has been portrayed by various salesmen and scam artists is totally misleading. These rip off artists have merely identified an area where there is a lot of gullibility on the part of the general public and decided to try to cash in on it by deceptive wording and shady dealing. Everybody loves the idea that they, as an individual, can simply get a free hand out from the federal government, but it doesn’t work like that.
If one considers federal or state programs like welfare, Medicaid, and Social Security grants, then fine. But these types of programs are really the only ones in which an ordinary individual can quickly get free money from the US government for ordinary expenses. And as everyone knows these benefits are often not large amounts and only given to individuals in truly difficult conditions, not individuals who simply have some inventive idea or have run up too many bills. Grants imply a large sum of money given to an individual or organization for a specific purpose, not benefits doled out in small amounts for the needy.
So now you know the truth about government grants. They are mainly either educational in nature or given to organizations to foster research, the arts, or various forms of economic and cultural development. Knowing this, you can attempt to take advantage of what the government has to offer, but don’t fool yourself with unrealistic expectations, and certainly don’t listen any longer to the hucksters and scammers. The more you know about the real nature of government grants, the higher the likelihood that you may be able to qualify for and employ them in some sort of useful or interesting way.