Paying for College

Preparing for College
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  The stated price does not often represent the tuition and fees that students and families actually pay. The federal and state government, corporations, foundations, individuals, and colleges and universities provide students with financial assistance. In fact, over 90% of our undergraduates receive financial aid. Financial aid helps make higher education possible for most Alabama students. There are need-based and non-need-based forms of financial assistance available. In some instances, a student may find that with the financial assistance provided, the cost of attending an independent college may actually be less than the cost of attending a state university.

Financial aid for college students and their families comes in these main forms:

  1. Grants from federal and state governments (do not have to be repaid)

    Grants are usually need-based, with need determined when students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). Examples include the Federal Pell Grant and the Alabama Student Assistance Program. Other state of Alabama grants include:

    Alabama Education Grant Program AAICU and Paying for College
    Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program
    Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivor’s Educational Assistance Program
    Technology Scholarship Program for Alabama Teachers
    Alabama GI Dependents' Educational Benefit Program
    Alabama Nursing Scholarship Program
    Alabama Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program
    Alabama Scholarships for Dependents of Blind Parents
    American Legion Auxiliary Scholarship Program
    American Legion Scholarship Program
    Junior and Community College Athletic Scholarship Program
    Junior and Community College Performing Arts Scholarship Program
    Senior Adult Scholarship Program
    Two-Year College Academic Scholarship Program

    For description and value, who may apply, and how to apply, click 

  2. Scholarships and grants from colleges and private sources (do not have to be repaid)

    Each of our 14 colleges and universities provide scholarship and grant aid. Scholarships are financial aid monies that do not have to be paid back. They are awarded based on merit and/or need (may also be called a grant). Scholarships are awarded according to some criteria such as academic or athletic achievement, cultural or religious background, service to community, or special abilities or interests. For more information, please contact our colleges directly.

  3. Loans (must be repaid)

    Low-interest educational loans are available from government and private lenders. Examples include Federal Stafford Loans and T.H.E. Private College Loans.

  4. Work study (jobs — aid that you earn)

    Federal and state governments provide matching funds to colleges and universities that make work study available to qualifying students.

  5. Tax Benefits

  6. Federal and state governments also provide tax benefits for pursuing a college education and tax credits and deductions for qualifying college costs.

Remember, each of our 14 schools offers scholarships to students. Contact our colleges directly to learn about their scholarship opportunities. The Alabama Commission on Higher Education also has information on grants available to Alabama students. Please visit to find out more.

Financial Aid Terms You Should Know

  • Fellowship: a scholarship or grant awarded to a graduate student in a college or university.

  • Scholarship: financial aid that usually is awarded for merit or academic achievement. A scholarship considered gift aid and does not have to be paid back.

  • Grant: a gift aid that does not have to be paid back.

  • Loan: money which must be repaid. Loan programs have varying repayment provisions.

  • Work Study:  this program provides jobs that enable students to earn a portion of school costs through employment at the institution.

  • Need: the term “need,” as used in financial aid, usually refers to the difference between the resources available to the student (from parent’s, student savings and summer jobs, etc.) and the cost of attending the student’s selected postsecondary institution. The process of determining “need” is often referred to as a “need analysis.”

  • Self Help:  financial resources provided by the student.

  • Family Contribution:  the combined contribution reasonably expected during the enrollment period from the student (and his or her spouse if applicable), as well as from the student’s parents if the student is a dependent.

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):  a free form distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to collect
    information used to determine a student’s need for federal financial aid.

  • Conversion scholarship/loan:  A scholarship that requires you to provide certain services, such as teaching or nursing, for a certain length of time. If the services are not provided, the scholarship becomes a loan which must be paid back with interest.

  • Waiver:  An agreement that allows attendance at a school without having
    to pay tuition or other costs if certain eligibility requirements are met.