Types of Financial Aid

Going to college is an exciting step, but it can also be an expensive one. That’s where financial aid steps in. It can make college more accessible and affordable.

There are four major types of financial aid for college:

1. Scholarships and grants that are considered "gift aid" that is given to you and is not repaid.

2. Loans that are paid to you now and repaid over time, usually with interest.

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Parent PLUS Loan
  • Private loans

3. Work-Study where you are paid for a job you have on campus.

4. Veterans Benefits that are given to U.S. military members and veterans for their service.

The importance of filing your FAFSA

Filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online is the first thing you should do. File it even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any need-based aid. It's that important.

For high school students, the FAFSA opens on October 1 of your senior year and you’ll file it again every year you’re in college.

Scholarships and grants

Scholarships are free money you use toward your college education. They’re most often award based upon how you've done in your classes, your participation in community service, demonstrated leadership or a special talent.

  • Eligibility: We have merit-based scholarships available to a variety of students, including incoming freshmen, transfer, military and international students.


Grants are free money provided by government, colleges and private organizations. The most common type of federal grant is the Pell Grant. It’s awarded to undergraduate students with the highest financial need.

  • Eligibility: Grants are awarded depending on your financial situation or need as it is often called. Need is usually determined by your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).



Federal Direct Subsidized Loans

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are need-based financial aid provided to eligible undergraduate students. The government pays the interest on these loans when you are in school, which can significantly reduce the amount of money you have to pay back.

  • Eligibility: Subsidized loans are need based. You submit your FAFSA to qualify. You must be enrolled at least half time, that’s six credit hours per semester for undergraduate students.
  • Interest information: As stated above, the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on these loans while you’re in school and during deferment periods.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Unlike subsidized loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not need-based. They’re available to both undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Eligibility: Undergraduate and graduate students qualify for an unsubsidized loan regardless of financial need. You submit your FAFSA to qualify.
  • Interest information: Interest accrues during all periods, including while you’re in school and during grace and deferment periods and must be paid back. Despite this, the flexible repayment terms and relatively low interest rates make them a good option.

Parent PLUS Loans

Parent Plus Loans allow parents with good credit scores to borrow money to cover costs not already covered by their dependent student's financial aid package.

  • Eligibility: You must submit your FAFSA. Students must be a dependent undergraduate student based on FAFSA data, enrolled in a degree-seeking program at least half-time (6 credit hours per semester), and meet CMU’s requirements for satisfactory academic progress. Parents must be the biological, adoptive or step-parent listed on the FAFSA of the dependent student. They must also be a U.S. citizen or eligible permanent resident, not be in default on repayment of federal aid and consent to and pass a credit history check.
  • Interest information: While the interest rates may be higher than other federal loans, it provides an alternative for families needing to find different types of financial aid.

Private loans

Private, non-federal loans are personal loans offered by banks, credit unions or online lenders rather than the federal government.

  • Eligibility: Requirements are determined by the specific lender. The loan amount is often based on your credit score.
  • Interest information: The monthly payments tend to have higher interest rates and less favorable repayment terms than federal loans. Nevertheless, they can fill the financial gap when other forms of aid are not enough.

Work-study programs

Instead of a student loans, work-study programs offer you a part-time job, so you can earn money to help pay for school. These jobs are on-campus and designed to accommodate your class schedule.

  • Eligibility: Like grants, work-study programs are based on financial need and require completing the FAFSA.


Veterans benefits

Veterans’ benefits are specifically for U.S. military students and their families. These benefits can cover a significant portion of college costs and don't need to be repaid. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a popular program that provides education benefits to veterans and their dependents.

  • Eligibility: There are several different types of veterans’ benefits each with its own eligibility requirements. It’s well worth your time to find which one fits you best. For example, the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s maximum benefit can cover the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees, plus additional money for housing, books and supplies.