While congressional offices are not allocated funding to provide educational scholarships to constituents, there are many state-funded opportunities including legislative scholarships through your local representatives in the Maryland General Assembly. Click here to identify your local representatives and here for a list of state-funded financial aid programs and applications. These include merit-based, need-based and career-based awards, legislative scholarships and programs for specific populations.
Additionally, collegescholarships.org offers a searchable compilation of dozens of scholarship opportunities as well as information on loans, grants and financial aid.
The U.S. Department of Education offers a user-friendly financial aid website and a Federal Student Aid Information Center hotline at 1-800-433-3243.
Below is a comprehensive financial aid guide prepared by the Congressional Research Service.
The basics: getting started
- Start gathering information early.
- Free information is readily available from:
- High school counselors
- College and career school financial aid offices where you plan to attend
- Local and college libraries
- Student Aid on the Web
- Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
- Ask questions. Counselors may know if you have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.
- Keep copies of all forms and correspondence. You must reapply for aid each year.
- Parents of students: Save money long before your child attends college.
- Good overviews:
- Beware of scholarships scams. Don't pay for free information!
Student Aid: where it come from
There are two basic types of financial aid categories:
- Need-based. Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can. Financial aid is a supplement -- not a substitute -- for family resources.
- Non need-based. Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and their children.
There are four primary sources for financial aid:
Federal student aid
- The federal government provides nearly 70 percent of student aid through loans, grants and work-study programs.
- Assistance is available to all need-based applicants as well as some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
- Free information is available from the U.S. Department of Education.
- Loans are the most common federal aid and must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.
- Stafford Loans (FFELs and Direct Loans) include Federal Family Education Loans from private lenders such as banks and credit unions, guaranteed by the federal government.
- Federal PLUS Loans are parental loans and not need-based.
- Perkins Loans are for the neediest undergraduates and are available through participating schools.
- Scholarships and grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment.
State-funded financial aid
- Click here for a list of Maryland-funded financial aid programs and applications
- Click here to learn about scholarships, loans and tuition exemption programs through the Maryland Higher Education Commission. You can also explore options through Maryland's state guarantee agency, USAFunds.
- Consider prepaid tuition and college saves plans called state "Section 529."
- Search your Internet browser under terms such as student financial aid or assistance AND Maryland.
Colleges and Universities
- Colleges and universities provide about 20 percent of financial aid, mostly need-based. Check the websites and the financial aid offices of institutions where you plan to apply for admission.
Private foundations, corporations and organizations
Targeted aid for special groups
There are many scholarship opportunities for members of certain population groups, such as cultural backgrounds, military service members and career paths. Here is a small sampling:
- Grant opportunities for minorities
- Opportunities for African Americans
- Opportunities for Native Americans
- Opportunities for disabled students
- Opportunities for international students
- Opportunities for Hispanic students
- Opportunities for law school students
- Opportunities for medical students
- Study Abroad opportunities (for both U.S. and international students)
- Opportunities for U.S. veterans
There are federal assistance programs to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professionals where there is a particular need, such as doctors in underserved areas, or to encourage underrepresented population groups to pursue a particular profession and to provide aid in exchange for public service. Here are a few examples:
- Volunteers with AmeriCorps who complete one year of service receive an education award for current higher education expenses or to repay student loans.
- The National Health Service Corps offers scholarships and loan repayment help to students pursing health careers and agree to work in underserved areas.
- Students who are American Indian or Alaskan Native and are pursing health careers can receive scholarships and loan repayment help for working in Indian Health Service facilities.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers scholarships to nursing students in exchange for two years of service in areas with critical nursing shortages.
- Students can receive a free education at a U.S. military academy in exchange for service to our country.
- The U.S. Army offers additional tuition assistance to service members.
- The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) offers financial aid to students who want to be commissioned as officers in the U.S. military after graduating from college.
- The federal government offers scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships and cooperative educational opportunities for students who work in federal agencies.
Repaying your loans
- Eligibility for assistance depends on the type of loan, when it was made and whether it's in default. Check with your loan officer to find out if you qualify.
- You may be able to consolidate your federal loans into a single loan with one monthly payment.
- Sometimes, loans can be canceled or deferred in exchange for public service.
- If you are having problems with your loan and all other approaches fail, try contacting the U.S. Department of Education's Ombudsman.