Going to college can be a hard decision if you are not sure where the money is going to come from. With most students graduating from a four-year college with massive student debt, it can really make you think hard about committing to a higher education. However, the state of Tennessee has made it possible for students who want to go to college to obtain educational grants and scholarships that do not require repayment. It is possible to get enough of these grants and scholarships to cover, or at least offset, the amount of debt you will graduate with in addition to your degree. Some grants, loans and scholarships are offered to students who have achieved certain milestones in their lives. Other types of grants are issued to students who belong to a certain group, such as a religious group, ethnic group or intended field of study. Scholarships are often awarded to students who show exceeding talent in some area, such as academics, the arts or athletics. With a little research, and some organization, you can find enough money to go to college in Tennessee.
Educational Lottery Programs for College
Tennessee has a number of programs that are funded by the Tennessee lottery program. All of the grants and scholarships are overseen by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. The Hope Scholarship is offered to students who have graduated from a state high school, have lived in TN for at least a year, and have attained a high score on the ACT or SAT. The GAMS (General Assembly Merit Scholarship) is for students who have a high GPA and extremely high ACT or SAT scores. The Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant is for Tennessee students who wish to attend an approved technical college. All of these programs require that you begin the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program is for students who show need, based on family income. You must be willing to attend participating colleges that accept the grant. The Tennessee Hope Grant is offered to students who have a C average, and have achieved a moderately high score on the ACT/SAT. This grant is also based on your family’s combined adjusted gross income. All of these grants are funded by the state of Tennessee. The Reconnect Grant is for students who are working towards a certificate program or an associate’s degree. The federal Pell Grant is extended to college students throughout the country. It utilizes information in the FAFSA application to determine award amounts and to assess financial need. None of the grants mentioned above have to be repaid as long as you meet program requirements.
The federal student loan program still offers highly competitive interest rates on their loans to college students. Additionally, if you qualify for the subsidized version of the Perkins or Stafford loans, your interest payments are made by the government on your behalf as long as you are still in school. Many students combine a small student loan with grants and scholarships.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
If you want to pay off your student loan faster, and you are in a high demand field, then you may have your entire student loan paid off for you. There are several loan forgiveness programs in the state, including the Minority Teaching Fellows Program, Tennessee Teaching Scholars Program, Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, and the Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program. Each of these programs will pay off a portion of your debt for every year of service you commit to for the state. Gain experience, pay off your loan, and live debt-free sooner than you thought.
College Scholarship Programs
Tennessee offers many scholarship programs. Some scholarships are offered only through individual universities, so you should check directly with the university you have chosen to see which scholarships you may qualify for. The TCAT Reconnect Scholarship is offered throughout the state to independent students who are planning to attend a College of Applied Technology. The TN Promise Scholarship is offered to qualifying students who will agree to a mentorship program and community service hours. The Tennessee STEP UP Scholarship is for students who have cognitive disabilities, but who have completed high school. Another scholarship, the Dependent Children Scholarship Program, is offered to the children of disabled, or deceased, civil servants, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians. If you are a very good student, then the Ned McWherter Scholars Program is for you. This scholarship is given to students who have made a 3.5 or higher GPA in high school, and have scored in the high range on the ACT/SAT.
Applying for Education Grants, Loans or Scholarships
Your first step in the entire process is to fill out the FAFSA application. If you fill it out online, it will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Make sure to have your parents’ tax information nearby as it will require some of the information from that return. Some scholarships and grants also require that you fill out an additional application for them (in conjunction with the FAFSA). The best way to approach the entire process is to first fill out the FAFSA, then create a simple list (or spreadsheet) of the types of financial aid that you might qualify for. List what the award amount is, when the deadline for applying will be, and if there is a separate application that you will need to fill out. Working closely with the university’s financial aid officer, as well as an advisor is crucial to getting all of the money you qualify for to start your college career.