College tuition is not cheap, and for many the financial strain of a higher education could be what keeps a prospective student from pursuing such an education. However, there are educational grant programs that can alleviate this stress and help students achieve their goals of attending college. These grants are awarded based on need, merit, or other requirements and are provided by federal and state governments, colleges and private foundations. And of course, unlike financial aid loans, these grants never need to be repaid.

There are four main educational grant programs that students can apply to: the Pell Grant, the TEACH Grant, the FSEOG, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. Each program has different requirements for students to apply and guidelines upon which the money is awarded and in what quantity. For example, the Pell Grant is a simple need-based program that gives out grant awards to over a third of their applicants each year. To find out if one qualifies for any of these federal grants, prospective students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), after which they will be informed if they qualify for any of the aforementioned programs.

Tuition grants can also be awarded by state governments. Most of these programs are simply need-based but some incorporate merit or athletic record as well. A student must research these possibilities within their specific state to see what is available as each state government provides different types of grant programs to their students.

Colleges and universities themselves even provide grants to their students based on need and other criteria. Public and private institutions will often evaluate a student’s financial need along with another sort of award criteria and award grant money as a result. There are educational grants specifically for women in traditionally male-dominated fields; women in STEM, law, business and medicine should look for these education grants for women in order to fund their higher education ventures. The same goes for minority groups, and often these minority-specific grant programs are less competitive because there is inherently less people applying.

The process of finding and applying to these various grants may seem tedious and time-consuming, but the possibility of saving thousands of dollars in tuition should be motivation enough for a student to look into such programs. No matter what grants a student finds, the first step is filling out the FAFSA, and from there doors could be opened to higher education at a lower price.