College tuition has grown exponentially in price over the past several decades and that cost—not to mention the added expenses of room and board, supplies, books, and food—can be impossible for a family to pay. Higher education should be an opportunity available to all students despite difficult financial situations however, and educational grant programs can help with this. There are various types of educational grants that are awarded to students based on need, merit, or other requirements and, unlike typical student loans, do not have to be repaid.

The federal government provides four educational grant programs to assist students in gaining the higher education that they desire. The Pell Grant is the biggest source of need-based aid given out by the federal government with over a third of all students who apply receiving some sort of award money. Then there is the TEACH Grant, a program that provides students with financial assistance if they promise to teach for four years at an elementary, secondary, or low-income school.

The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) can supplement the Pell Grant for students who need that extra financial support and is run through participating colleges. Finally, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is available to students who do not qualify for the Pell Grant but who has lost a parent as a result of military service after September 11, 2001 in Iraq or Afghanistan. All of these grants require students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they qualify.

Federal government grant awards are a great place to start, but students can also look to their state governments. Each state has their own educational grant programs to help students find success and one simply has to do some research to find out what is offered and which, if any, they qualify for. Colleges and universities even have their own grant programs that can assist students, and there are often specialized programs for minorities and women. If a student takes the time and effort to research the possibilities available to them at the federal, state, and university level, there’s no doubt that they can find programs that can help them follow their collegiate dreams.