How to Get Grants for Living Expenses During College

Varvara April 04 2022

College costs are rising every day and usually range from $20,000 to $50,000 or even more per year. This can be overwhelming for many people if they have to pay it by themselves or even by a student loan. During attending college, one's tuition, books, and supplies make only one part of the total costs. Half of the total cost of attendance (COA) consists of one's room and board expenses. 

Here comes in the grants, which are sort of gift money for students. And we all know gifts are not loans, so students don't have to worry about paying them back. The students can use this grant money to cover their living expenses and pay for their college tuition. 

Authorities that allocate grants consider all the college expenses that a student might be struggling with. So, to support the student, they had the money out directly to them. There are some other types of grants as well, in which the authorities pay some part of the grant to college for tuition and fees. The other part is given to the student for accommodation, books, and supplies.

There are a variety of government and non-government bodies that award the grant. These may include the federal & state governments, schools, institutions, NGOs, individuals, etc.

Depending on the granting authority, each grant has some awarding criteria for eligibility, mode of payment, and its use.

Grants for Living Expenses

The federal government is the largest body that awards different grants to different students to cover their college expenses. These are of various types which fall under the category of need-based grants.

A need-based grant is awarded after evaluating expected family contribution (EFC) that is filled in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information on FAFSA will be a determinant factor in the award of grant money that can be used to pay for COA at the chosen school by the student.

The grants that the Federal government offers include:

  • Federal Pell Grant. Undergrad students can use this grant to cover expenses worth $6,195 for the 2019-20 academic year.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). To top the Pell Grant, deserving students can get an additional $4000 per year.
  • Teacher Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. This grant is for students who are enrolled in a teaching program. The grant money is $3,752 per year, which is disbursed in minor divisions throughout the year from Oct 1, 2018, to Oct 1, 2019.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. Students who lost one or both parents in Iraq or Afghanistan post-9/11 are awarded this grant. The grant money is $5,717 per year, which is disbursed in minor divisions throughout the year from Oct 1, 2018, to Oct 1, 2019.

State governments also offer a lot of college grants. Students can use state grants to cover their college tuition and boarding expenses. The residents who attend in-state schools often get these grants from the state.

The school's financial aid office can be an excellent resource for grants, scholarships, and aids. The gifts offered by colleges or universities may be awarded based on need or merit. These grants are an encouraging gesture to continue study and research in specific fields and not let the talent go wasted.

Besides federal and state governments, the following bodies also offer grants:

  • community organizations
  • philanthropic groups
  • Fortune 500 companies
  • employers
  • private institutions
  • individuals 

All these bodies are always willing to sponsor the studies of various students through grants. One can contact one's high school counselor to find suitable bodies or organizations to grant funds.

Using Grant Money for Living Expenses

Sometimes, the grant money goes directly to the student, while other times, it is paid to the school.

For example, a federal grant goes to the school, which is then allocated to the student to cover their tuition, fees, and on-campus accommodation. Excess money gets disbursed to the student to ease the payment for books, supplies, rent, and other expenses.

The schools get grants in two installments per academic year, while the student receives them once per term. Students' access to grant money in the first week of each semester is a requirement in case of a federal grant. This ensures that students have enough money to pay for books and course materials.

If a grant covers only housing expenses, then the money has to be directed towards room & board. Usually, college expense grants are pretty flexible, and the student can use the funds for anything necessary to get through the term.

Accommodation while attending college can be of two types:

  • on-campus
  • off-campus

On-campus accommodation, like a hostel, gets its room & boarding fee directly from the grant.

Off-campus accommodation can be costly. In the case of off-campus housing, the student would need access to an excess of grant money. This money gets disbursed to the student, who can then be used to pay for room & boarding costs. 

Loans to Cover the Rest of Your Expenses

The entire COA is covered by various grants, scholarships, or financial aids. Usually, what happens is that either the contributions are capped, or they get disbursed among many students for dilution purposes. This leads to a shortage of money for all the students because none can pay the entire COA.

So, apart from grants, students can also apply for scholarships awarded on merit to deserving students. The merit usually consists of extraordinary achievement in academics, athletics, or co-curricular activities. Thus, college expenses can be covered with both grants and scholarships.

In case a student's expenses are not met with both grants and scholarships combined, then they can always go for student loans. The federal government, as well as private lenders, offer student loans. The FAFSA, again, is an essential determinant in this regard because it shows one's qualification for a particular kind of financial aid.

Apart from federal student loans, one can always opt for private loans as well to cover their college & living expenses. However, acquiring private loans involves a lot of hassle. If one wants the best rates for loans, then one may need one or all of the following:

  • excellent credit rating from FICO or VantageScore
  • stable income
  • low debt-to-income ratio

Of course, the students who just begin their higher studies don't have enough information on their person to get excellent credit. Thus, a person who takes the student's guarantee as a credit-worthy consigner can get them the best interest rates from the lenders.