Getting Financial Aid for Your Public Service Degree
It’s no secret that college can be expensive. But that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream public service degree and career. From academic scholarships and need-based grants to tuition assistance through national public service programs, financial aid is available for just about everyone if you know where to look. Keep reading to learn how to get the help you deserve paying for college.
Shannon Lee has been a freelance writer, editor, and novelist for over 25 years. Her work has appeared on Fox Business, Forbes, MSN, Bob Vila, Modernize, Nashville Scene, MoneyGeek, MVP Parent, and many other outlets; her writing on home improvement led to an editorial position with The Spruce in 2021. She's written extensively on higher education, relationships, and the intersection of technology, health, and medicine. When she's not freelancing, Shannon also writes fiction novels.
Why Everyone Should Apply for Financial Aid
More students receive grants and scholarships than you think
About 63% of undergraduates receive a tuition waiver, grant, or scholarship aid – and the average amount they receive is $7,400.
You won’t have to start repaying most student loans until after graduation
Many types of federal loans have the added benefit of deferred repayments, sometimes with no accrual of interest while you’re in school.
It’s one less barrier to go after the degree and career you want
Financial aid makes college a reality for more people, giving them the opportunity to pursue their dream career in public service.
You can get financial aid by giving back
Joining public service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps can qualify you for substantial financial aid, while future teachers who commit to working in high-need areas are eligible for the TEACH grant.
It isn’t as difficult as it might seem
Sometimes, all you need to do is apply to a school. Other times, you just need to write a short essay and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Financial Aid by the Numbers
Financial aid might sound like something reserved for only the most disadvantaged students. But the truth is that students attending college without the help of financial aid are the significant minority. Almost three-quarters of all students receive at least some form of financial aid. And over half of undergraduates are awarded scholarships, grants or tuition waivers, with graduate students not far behind. Check out the complete statistics in the charts below.
Are you the parent of a young child? Learn how you can start planning for their college education now with a 529 savings plan.
Where to Start Your Financial Aid Journey
Types of Financial Aid You Can Receive
There are two main types of financial aid: gift-based aid and loan-based. The former does not need to be paid back and consists of several different types, such as grants, scholarships, and work study. The latter must be paid back, often with interest. Student loans usually come from the federal government, but can also come from state governments or private lenders such as banks. Learn more about each type of financial aid below.
Public Service Programs That Help Pay for College
What better way to work toward a career in public service than to obtain financial aid through acts of your own public service? That’s how several national public service programs work, such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and the TEACH Grant Program. Participation comes with some major perks, including helping to pay for college. The exact process, amount, and terms of the financial aid will depend on each specific program.
Once an AmeriCorps member has completed their service term, they will be eligible for an education award. This money can be used to pay back certain school loans or cover the costs of current education expenses for qualified training and higher education programs. The most common and popular education award obtained through AmeriCorps service is the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
Award amounts vary based on service time, with awards for full-time members matching the maximum Pell Grant award. Visit the AmeriCorps website for up-to-date award amounts.
How to Get Started
An AmeriCorps alumnus can sign in to the My AmeriCorps Portal to request a payment be sent to the student’s school, as well as check on the award’s amount.
Peace Corps volunteers may be eligible for several financial aid benefits once they complete their entire term of service. This includes funds to pay for graduate school (through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program) as well as student loan deferment, partial-cancellation, income-based repayment, and forgiveness.