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Financial Aid for Community College Students

Largest Loan and Financial Aid Programs for Community College Students


For many students and their parents, attending a few years of community college prior to enrolling at a four-year college is a wise idea. Not only can they save a significant amount of money on their tuition costs, but also on room, board, and transportation.

Sadly, many students and parents assume that because community college is so “cheap," that financial aid for community college students doesn’t exist. Just the opposite is true, however.

Here’s a breakdown of the major financial aid programs available for community college students:

Stafford Loans:

Stafford Loans can provide over $100,000 in financial aid for community college students, regardless of their family’s income or asset levels. Students that demonstrate need may receive more favorable rates and repayment terms. To qualify, you must be enrolled at least half-time and complete the FAFSA form.

Perkins Loans:

Perkins Loans are considered the most favorable Federal loan program for community college students. The rates and repayment terms offer a significant advantage over the Stafford, PLUS, and private loans. To qualify, you must be enrolled half-time and show substantial financial need on your FAFSA form.

PLUS Loans:

PLUS Loans are available to parents to help provide financial aid for community college students. Unlike Stafford and Perkins Loans, they are the parent’s responsibility to repay. While rates may not be as attractive as Stafford and Perkins loans, they’re still less costly than most private loan programs. To apply for a PLUS Loan, you will most likely need to complete the FAFSA form and pass a credit check.

Pell Grants:

Pell Grants are one of the most elusive forms of financial aid for community college students. This is due to the fact that these awards are “grants” that never need to be repaid. Part-time students are eligible, but will receive a reduced award amount. To be considered, students need to complete the FAFSA form and show significant financial need.

State Programs:

Many states offer programs that provide financial aid for community college students that are residents of that state. However, many of these programs are the first to get cut when a state experiences a budget crisis. To apply for state-based financial aid, contact your school’s financial aid office.


Numerous private organizations, non-profits, and businesses offer scholarships for community college students. For these organizations, community college scholarships provide an opportunity to impact a large number of students with a relatively small amount of money.

To find out about scholarships for community college students, you should talk to your community college financial aid office, search the free scholarship websites, and sign up for our free E-Newsletter.

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