Affording Your Education: An Overview of Financial Aid

Elementary School TeacherFinancial aid is a combination of many types of aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study, loans, and fellowships. Finding aid can be a very arduous and frustrating tasks, if you do not know where to look for funds. Luckily, as an aspiring teacher, there are quite a few scholarships and financial aid options available. You just need to know where to find them!

Government Aid

The federal government should be the first place you look to for grants, scholarships, and loans, for education majors. However, before you research grants and scholarships, start by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A FAFSA determines your eligibility for financial aid programs. To fill out a FAFSA, you will need yours, and possibly your parent’s tax information, along with some time to spare. Once you have submitted all the necessary information, you will receive a comprehensive overview, called an “award letter,” of what aid you qualify for and what you are still expected to pay. The following are the main types of aid that you may receive after having filed your FAFSA:

  • TEACH grants are offered to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. The grants are of up to $4,000 per year.
  • Pell Grants are offered to all undergraduate students, and the amount awarded is based on your financial need, cost of attendance, and your full or part-time student status.


Scholarship money can be awarded from nearly any type of institution including a private, government, or nonprofit organization. Your school will offer their own set of scholarships as well. Scholarship money does not need to be repaid, is awarded for different reasons, and can vary in both amount and duration. Below are some quick facts that contain the main things that you need to know about scholarships.

  • Need-Based Scholarship: This type of scholarship is awarded to students who are unable to afford higher education. The organization giving the award will look at your financial situation, and your parent’s as well if you are being claimed as a dependent. There are need-based scholarships that have some merit-based requirements and vice versa.
  • Merit-Based Scholarship: Minority, talent, academic, athletic, and intended career/major scholarships all fall under this category. You must meet the specific requirements of each scholarship, and this typically entails demonstrating some kind of excellence in that arena.The applicant pool for these type of scholarships can be smaller, since only certain demographics may apply for them.
  • Scholarship Duration: While there is no set amount of money that an organization must offer to award in a scholarship, they will offer either one-time or ongoing scholarships. One-time scholarships are only offered for a semester, and an ongoing one can last anywhere from a year to the entirety of your scholastic studies.
  • Scholarship Scams: It is essential that you always research the organization before you apply to their scholarships. Scholarships associated with educational or government institutions are usually safe. You can still apply to scholarships offered by private and nonprofit groups, however you should check to see if they have a list of previous winners. If the scholarship is real, they will want to announce who has benefited from their generosity. Be wary of any scholarship that asks for you to pay, or for any financial information. A scholarship is designed to give you money, not take it away.

Some organizations allow students to apply for their scholarships year-round, while most have deadlines. These deadlines are usually 3-6 months before the beginning of the next semester. This ensures that the funds will have enough time to process and allocated to the student’s financial aid account with their school.

Local Teaching Financial Aid

Your state or town may offer scholarships to students who want to pursue education, in hopes that the student aspires to teach children in that community. You can contact your state’s Board of Education to inquire about financial support. Pursuing a local scholarship will narrow the amount of applicants further, giving you a greater chance at that reward money.

If you have already applied to your school’s scholarships, you should still discuss financial aid options with your college or university’s advisers. A professor may know of a special waiver, scholarship, or an education-related work-study opportunity on campus that offers the money you need to pay for tuition and other student expenses.

National Teaching Financial Aid

There are national organizations that offer grants and scholarships to current education students and professional teachers pursuing higher education. Some of these financial aid options are geared toward a specific group of current/future teachers, while others are for any one generally associated with education. The institutions listed below are representative of the myriad of grants and scholarships that are available to education students and professionals.

When searching for the National Council of Teachers, you will find associations for specific subjects like math and English. They offer financial aid options for students and professionals who teach that respective subject.

Teaching Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs

Many students have to take out loans, even with help from scholarships and grants. Fortunately, teachers may qualify to have part or all of their loan paid off through either of these government assistance programs:

  • The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP) was created to encourage individuals continue in the teaching profession in elementary and secondary schools that serve low-income families. Teachers may apply to have the balance of their unpaid federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans completely cleared (private loans are not eligible). If you are not sure what type of loan you have it is recommended that you contact your lender.
  • The Federal Perkins Loan (FPL) Cancellation Program is in place for those who have the FPL, and have served full-time in an elementary or secondary school system. When you need to repay the loan, the FAFSA may cancel up to 100% of your FPL through their cancellation program.

Students and professionals in education have a vast array of options when looking for financial aid opportunities. If in the end, you are still short on funds, do not be discouraged. It is not uncommon for students to work part-time or even full-time to help pay for their education. Online education degree programs allow you to work and graduate at your pace, and are less expensive than traditional programs.

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