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Paying for College

Paying for College

Think you can’t afford college? Think again! There are multiple ways to pay for college, including some free ones, making a higher education more affordable and leaving you with less student debt. Keep reading for information on ways to pay for college and steps to apply for financial aid.

The toolkit resources below will get you started.






1. Grants & Scholarships: This is free money, meaning it does not need to be repaid! The more you apply for, the better your chances of reducing the amount you pay out of pocket. Grants and scholarships -- of any size – are valuable because they may cover tuition, fees, room and board and/or books. Most grants and scholarships are awarded based upon financial need or merit; i.e., based on academic achievement or a combination of academics, talents, traits or interests. The best source of information for federal, state, and college grants and scholarships is the financial aid office at your preferred college. Visit your preferred college’s financial aid website to review available programs. In addition, private scholarships are available for all kinds of interests and circumstances. Do your research using credible online scholarship search tools, such as And, don’t forget to ask your family, friends and school counselors about scholarship opportunities available through schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, faith-based organizations or professional organizations. 

• Federal Pell Grant
• Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) 
• Virginia Commonwealth Award (state grant)
• Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (state grant)
• Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program (state grant)
• Two-Year College Transfer Grant (state grant)
• Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program
• Workforce Credential Grant (state grant)

2. Work-Study: The federal work-study program is a way for students with financial need to earn money to help pay for college expenses. Students work part time on or off campus while enrolled in college and generally earn hourly federal minimum wages, which cannot exceed a specific number of work hours per year. You must submit a FAFSA to qualify for the program.

3. Loans: Sometimes, grants and scholarships may not cover your entire tuition bill. In such cases, students can apply for loans. A loan is money you borrow and must pay back with interest. Be sure you understand your options and responsibilities before you sign the dotted line. In the majority of cases, it is better to borrow money from the federal government, which offers lower interest rates, more borrower protections and better repayment options than private loans. You must submit the FAFSA to qualify for a federal student loan.

• Federal Direct Subsidized Loans
• Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
• Federal Direct PLUS Loans

4. Tuition Waivers and Savings Programs: Certain students may receive a tuition waiver, which can significantly reduce or eliminate the amount of tuition paid. Waivers are available for adopted and foster children, senior citizens, employees, dislocated workers and others in special circumstances. To find what types of waivers are available, call your preferred college’s financial aid office.

The Academic Common Market (ACM) is a tuition-savings program administered by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and 15 member states. The arrangement allows students to pay in-state tuition rates at out-of-state public institutions while studying in select programs not available in their home state. Numerous undergraduate and graduate programs are currently available through the ACM for Virginia residents. Students, who meet the eligibility requirements may apply by submitting an application to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Virginia529 plans also help families save for college. With a 529 account, your money grows free from federal taxes and may be used to fund qualified higher education expenses at eligible educational institutions nationwide. Contact Virginia529 for more information.


A full list of Virginia’s available financial aid programs 

A list of Virginia colleges’ and universities’ deadlines to submit financial aid applications:

FAFSA information: For assistance, call, email and/or chat with the Federal Student Aid Information Center at

College cost calculator:

Additional resources about federal student financial aid:

Federal Student Aid At-a-glance 2019-2020:

ECMC's Senior Year Checklist: English Spanish


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Through these values, we create a welcoming work environment that represents the best of who we are as an agency and as individuals.

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