Financial aid encompasses a wide spectrum of programs to help you pay for education expenses at accredited colleges and universities. Financial aid can come from federal programs, state programs, your chosen college, and even private and nonprofit organizations. There are so many options that the process of understanding federal financial aid and what is best for you may feel overwhelming.

During the 2011–2012 academic year, 71% of all undergraduate students received financial aid. This number represents a 66% increase since the 2007–2008 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).*

NCES also reported that 57% of undergraduates received federal financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and/or work-study programs in 2012, which represented the bulk of the 66% increase. During the same period, the number of students receiving state financial aid remained the same as in previous years.

Types of Federal Financial Aid

When you apply for federal financial aid, you are receiving assistance from the federal government to help pay for the educational expenses of going to a college, university, or technical/career school. The U.S. Department of Education awards approximately $150 billion in federal financial aid annually to students for on-campus and online university degree programs, including:

  • Federal Grants – This type of financial aid is awarded based on necessity level and never has to be repaid. There are several kinds of federal grants:
    • Federal Pell Grants are usually awarded to undergraduate students, `qualify.
    • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. The grant amount is based on the individual student’s financial needs, as well as the availability of funds at the college.
    • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants are awarded to students who are planning to teach in private or public elementary or secondary schools that service low-income families. If the student does not fulfill this obligation, the grant could turn into a loan and will have to be repaid in full by the student.
    • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are awarded to students whose parents or guardians died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. To qualify, the student must have been either enrolled in college (at least part time) or under 24 years of age at the time of their parent’s or guardian’s death.
  • Federal Loans – This type of federal financial aid for students must be repaid (with interest) within a specific time frame upon completion of the college degree program.
    • The Federal Perkins Loan Program is an on-campus program that provides low-interest loans to both undergraduate and graduate students. The loan amount is based on the student’s financial need, the amount of financial aid the student receives from other sources, and the availability of funds at the student’s college.
    • The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program allows students and parents to obtain low-interest loans directly from the federal government. The program includes:
      • Direct Stafford Loans can be unsubsidized or subsidized. Subsidized means the federal government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in college.
      • Direct PLUS Loans are always unsubsidized; therefore, the student is responsible for paying off the loan and the interest.
    • Federal Work-Study Program – This federal program partially funds jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who have financial need. This allows the student to earn money to help pay for education expenses while gaining career-related experience.

Accreditation and Federal Financial Aid Programs

An essential requirement of federal financial aid programs and some state programs is that the chosen college degree program must be accredited by a reputable and recognized accreditation organization. The U.S. Department of Education will only approve financial aid for accredited college degree programs. Accreditation ensures that universities and colleges meet a rigorous and consistent level of academic standards across their degree programs. When applying to on-campus or online university degree programs, please be sure that the university and your degree program of choice are both fully accredited.

Walden University, for example, is accredited by the The Higher Learning Commission and certified by the U.S. Department of Education as eligible to participate in offering a variety of federal financial aid programs to its students. By providing millions of dollars in financial assistance through scholarships, grants, tuition savings opportunities, and a generous transfer of credit policy, Walden helps students attain their goal of earning an online bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.

Financial Aid Specialists at Walden University

At Walden University, we understand that your education is a major financial investment. We know it’s important for you to gain a thorough understanding of federal financial aid options in order to benefit the most from the assistance.

Explore your financial aid options at Walden University. Visit Walden Grants, Scholarships, and Tuition Savings or speak to an enrollment advisor by calling 1-888-990-7172.

Walden University, an accredited institution, has been serving the higher education needs of adult learners for 45 years. Today, more than 47,800 students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees or certificates online at Walden.

Walden University's financial aid programs will help you achieve your career goals while you earn your degree at a pace that fits your life and schedule.


*National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “Fast Facts: Financial Aid,” on the Internet at https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=31 (view online May 27, 2015).

†U.S. Department of Education, “What Types of Aid Are Available,” on the Internet at https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1415/help/typesofAid.htm (viewed online May 27, 2015).

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