Pennsylvania Financial Aid and Student Loans

College money jar
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is home to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. From smaller private institutions like Franklin and Marshall, Bryn Mawr, and Seton Hill to large public universities like Pennsylvania State, the University of Pittsburgh, and Temple University, students seeking baccalaureate, graduate, or professional degrees have a wide range of options to choose from. Technical schools like the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology, the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and the Hussian School of Art offer specialized degrees and career programs.

Federal Student Loans in PA

Financing an undergraduate or graduate degree isn’t easy these days — and it’s almost impossible without the help of loans, grants, and scholarships. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, college students in this state graduate with an average of nearly $32,000 in debt: the third highest student debt load in the nation.

Up to 70% of graduates from PA college and universities carry student debt — a high percentage compared with the rest of the country. Graduates of private institutions, in general, have a higher student debt load than those who complete their education at a state school. With the cost of tuition and college-related expenses on the rise, students are looking for creative ways to fund their goals. Pennsylvania offers a variety of federal and state opportunities to place an affordable education within your reach.

Federal student loans are the foundation of many students’ financing strategies in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Department of Education sponsors several programs to assist students seeking a degree, including loans, grants, and work-study awards. Federal loans are offered at low fixed interest rates, and recipients do not have to start repaying the loan until after graduation. The following federal loan programs can be used to cover tuition, books, supplies, computers, or college-related living expenses:

Unlike federal loans, federal grants and work-study awards do not have to be repaid. Pell Grants are based on need and available to undergrads earning their first professional or baccalaureate degree. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are awarded to undergraduate students and issued by the school. Not all schools participate in the FSEOG program.

Work-study programs, which are administered by the college or university, provide payment to students who work at a job that reflects their academic goals. Work-study jobs are usually sponsored by the school or by agencies affiliated with the school. The money you earn from a work-study position does not have to be repaid. The Pennsylvania State Work-Study Program (SWSP) allows students to work part-time or full-time (up to 40 hours a week) in a career-related position.

Does Pennsylvania Issue Student Loans?

The state of Pennsylvania sponsors student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. The PHEAA services federal loans for Pennsylvania students through an organization called FedLoan Servicing, which helps students through the process of applying for funding, managing their loans, and repaying their student loan debt. According to the PHEAA, Pennsylvania residents have received over $8 billion in financial aid awards through the state’s grant program since 1966.

Pennsylvania college grads who pursue careers in public service or teaching can apply for a federal loan forgiveness programs. Loan forgiveness programs will repay a percentage of your student debt if you agree to serve in a service-based career, usually in a high-need area, for a certain amount of time. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is available for students who agree to enter the service professions, such as law enforcement or public safety. The Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program assists graduates who commit to teaching full-time in a high-need area.

Qualifying for Pennsylvania Financial Aid

What does it take to qualify for a grant, scholarship, or work-study award through the state of Pennsylvania? To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your starting point when you’re applying for both federal aid and Pennsylvania state grant programs. Applicants for Pennsylvania financial aid must also complete the Pennsylvania State Grant Form. Additional documents may be required, depending on the program.

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