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Financial Aid (updated June 2003)

I have a disability and would like to attend college or a vocational school. Do you know of any special funding that might be available?

There is very little money designated exclusively for college students with disabilities, and scholarships specifically for students with disabilities are extremely limited. Students are urged to pursue the scholarships available for qualities other than disability.

Colleges and universities may offer specific scholarships for students with disabilities. Students should contact the Financial Aid office at each school to which they are applying to find out about such disability-related aid. However, students with disabilities can benefit from the regular financial aid system.

Financial Aid For Students with Disabilities, a publication from the HEATH Resource Center, offers comprehensive information on this topic. HEATH, which is the National Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities, provides information on educational support services, policies, procedures, adaptations, and opportunities on American campuses, vocational-technical schools, adult education programs, independent living centers, transition, and other training entities after high school for individuals with disabilities.

HEATH, The National Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities
2134 G St., NW
Washington, DC 20052-0001
800-544-3284 (V/TTY); 202-994-8740 (V/TTY); 202-994-7604 (FAX)
E-mail: help@heath.gwu.edu
Internet: http://www.heath.gwu.edu

The major source of student financial aid is still the U.S. Department of Education. Nearly 70 percent of the student aid that is awarded each year comes from the U.S. Department of Education programs (approximately $33 billion in 1994-95). Student aid is also available from other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The major sources of aid from the U.S. Department of Education are:

  • Federal Stafford Loans
  • Federal PLUS Loans
  • Federal Direct Loans
  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Federal Work-Study

You may apply for federal student aid from these programs at no cost by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Instructions for Completing the 1996-97 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and FAFSA Express make the paperless financial aid application a reality. FAFSA Express is software you can download and transmit electronic forms to the Department of Education. Questions on FAFSA can be addressed to FAFSA_ADMIN@ed.gov or FAFSA Express Customer Service Line at 1-(800)-801-0576.

Most federal student aid is awarded based on financial need rather than scholastic achievement. For instance, most grants are targeted to low-income students. However, you do not have to show financial need to receive federally guaranteed loans such as PLUS or unsubsidized Stafford or Direct loans.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) offers booklets that tell who to call to learn more student financial aid. They also offer suggestions on how to choose a college or university; receive federal grants, loans, and work-study funds; and apply to a college, and when (the deadline). The following publications are from the Department of Education.

  • The 1997-1998 Student Guide: Financial Aid from the U.S. Department of Education . The Student Guide provides information about federal Student Financial Assistance (SFA) programs for the 1997-98 award year and how to apply for them. After reviewing the Guide, if you still have questions about these programs, call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) (TDD 1-800-730-8913) Monday - Friday, 8:00am-8:00pm Eastern time. The following information is from "Finding Out About Student Aid," the first chapter of the Student Guide:

    Education or training after high school costs more than ever. But postsecondary education is more important than ever, so you need to learn about as many sources of aid as you can. Sources you can use to find out about federal and other student aid are described below:

    • The financial aid administrator at each school in which you're interested can tell you what aid programs are available there and how much the total cost of attendance will be.

    • The state higher education agency in your home state can give you information about state aid— including aid from the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG) Program, which is jointly funded by individual states and the U.S. Department of Education.

    • The agency responsible in your state for public elementary and secondary schools can give you information on the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program (Byrd Program). To qualify for aid under the Byrd Program, you must demonstrate Outstanding academic achievement and show promise of continued academic excellence.

      For the address and telephone number of the appropriate state agency, contact your school's financial aid office or call:1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) (TDD 1-800-730-8913) Monday - Friday, 8:00am-8:00pm Eastern time.

    • The AmeriCorps program provides full-time educational awards in return for work in community service. You can work before, during, or after your postsecondary education, and you can use the funds either to pay current educational expenses or to repay federal student loans. For more information on this program, call 1-800-942-2677 or write to: The Corporation for National and Community Service, 1201 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20525.

    • Your public library is an excellent source of information on state and private sources of aid.

    • Many companies, as well as labor unions, have programs to help pay the cost of postsecondary education for employees, members, or their children.

    • Check foundations, religious organizations, fraternities or sororities, and town or city clubs. Include community organizations and civic groups such as the American Legion, YMCA, 4-H Club, Elks, Kiwanis, Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce, and the Girl or Boy Scouts.

    • Don't overlook aid from organizations connected with your field of interest (for example, the American Medical Association or the American Bar Association). These organizations are listed in the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook and are also listed in various directories of associations available at your public library.

    • If you (or your spouse) are a veteran or the dependent of a veteran, veterans educational benefits may be available. Check with your local Veterans' Affairs office.


  • Looking for Student Aid helps find sources of free information about student aid and scholarship search services. The following is from "Sources of Free Information About Student Aid" in Looking for Student Aid.

    • Where should I begin my search?
      The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is the best place to begin your search for free information. The financial aid administrator can tell you about student aid available from the federal government, your state government, the school itself, and other sources.

      You can also find free information about student aid in the reference section of your local library (usually listed under "student aid" or "financial aid"). These materials usually include information about federal, state, institutional, and private aid.


    • Where can I get free information about state student aid?
      Free information about state programs may be obtained from the state education agency (usually in the capital of your state). The Federal Student Aid Information Center also has information about many state student aid programs. Call the Center to get the phone numbers for your state.


    • What are some other sources of information about student aid?
      Information about student aid may also be available from foundations, religious organizations, community organizations, and civic groups, as well as organizations related to your field of interest, such as the American Medical Association or American Bar Association. Check with your parents' employers to see if they award scholarships or have a tuition payment plan.

  • Access (Achieving Competence in Computing, Engineering, and Space Science)
    Summer internship program for students with disabilities, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

  • CASHE (College Aid Sources for Higher Education)
    Provided free through Sallie Mae's Online Scholarship Service, this is a database of more than 180,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants, loans, internships, competitions, and work-study programs sponsored by more than 3,600 organizations.

  • College Board Home Page
    Includes an instant profile search of available grants and scholarships.

  • CollegeNET MACH25
    A free Web version of the Wintergreen/Orchard House Scholarship Finder database. This database contains listings of more than 500,000 private sector awards from 1,570 sponsors. The database is updated annually.

  • College Quest
    A comprehensive site devoted to the process of searching, choosing, applying, and paying for college that contains a database of more than 850,000 scholarships and grants for postsecondary study.

  • College Scholarships
    Links to ten free online scholarship searches, college admissions and financial aid office email addresses and toll free numbers, links to college websites and online applications (by state), a free college admissions and scholarships email newsletter, and a list of the web's best college and scholarships websites.

  • Embark
    A free, one-stop, higher educational portal that helps you find a US community college, technical program, four-year college or university, or graduate school that is right for you. Subsections include features such as Research, Prepare, Apply, Finance, and Get Ready.

  • fastWEB (Financial Aid Search Through the WEB)
    A searchable database of more than 180,000 private sector scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans. Used by colleges across the United States, fastWEB is now available to you at no charge through the World Wide Web, courtesy of the Financial Aid Information Page and Student Services, Inc.

  • FinAid, The Financial Aid Information Page
    Maintained by Mark Kantrowitz, author of The Prentice Hall Guide to Scholarships and Fellowships for Math and Science Students, this site includes links to the database of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

  • Guaranteed Scholarships
    List of scholarships guaranteed by individual colleges to ALL admitted students meeting the criteria listed.

  • Scholarships.com

  • SRN Express
    A free Web version of the Scholarship Resource Network (SRN) database that focuses on private-sector, non-need-based aid. The award listings in the SRN database contain more detailed information than can be found in most scholarship databases and scholarship directories.

  • UCLA Scholarship Resource Center's Free Scholarship Search Service
    Contains a large collection of links to scholarship search services all over the world.

  • UCLA Scholarships Scams
    Read pointers on how to protect yourself from scholarship con artists.
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