A glossary of financial aid terms:
• GRANTS are gifts that do not need to be paid back. Grant decisions are based on family income, household size, reported assets, and the number of children in college. The most common is the federal Pell Grant that pays for tuition, fees and books, and refunds to the student any unused money.
• Loans must be paid back to the lender, with interest. Loans mean debt, and students must understand that, and request just what they need, not the higher amounts that they may be offered.
According to Christine Passer, director of Financial Aid at Southwestern Michigan College, students should understand that they have power and control over the borrowing process and should get complete details about their responsibility, repayment and interest from their financial aid officer.
• SCHOLARSHIPS are gifts that do not require repayment. According to Passer, they are the most underused of the financial aid programs, because their criteria are so variable. They can be based on academics, hometowns, gender and ethnicity, or specific programs.
Most colleges will have one application for all internal scholarships, and some scholarships will take into account student need from the FAFSA.
• WORK STUDY is a federal program in which colleges receive a certain amount of money to pay out in student salaries. Students are limited to 20 to 25 hours of work a week, and have the opportunity to learn about their school from the inside. They also get valuable work experience to add to their resume and for budgeting their salary.