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Understand Your Financial Aid Options

Most students who attend a two-year or four-year college will be eligible for at least one of the following three types of student financial aid offered by the federal government:

  • loans, which must be repaid with interest.
  • grants, which do not have to be repaid. Most federal and state grants are based on financial need.
  • work-study programs, which provide students with an opportunity to earn money through a job on or near campus while attending school.

In addition, scholarships or grants may also be available from colleges or training institutions, and some employers provide tuition assistance to employees.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in applying for virtually all forms of federal, state, and school-based student aid that is based on financial need.

The easiest and fastest way to complete the FAFSA is to do so online. You can also download and print out the form, or you can request a paper copy of the form by calling 800-4-FED-AID (800-433-3243).

You’ll need to complete the FAFSA each year you want to be considered for financial aid. When you complete the FAFSA, you can indicate the schools that you are considering attending, and within a week or two of submitting the form, these schools will receive a Student Aid Report that they’ll use to determine which types of financial aid you are eligible to receive.

In addition, if you include all the state-specific supplemental information when you complete the FAFSA form online, the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) will send you a Student Eligibility Notice that indicates your estimated state grant award. HESAA administers New Jersey's grant and scholarship programs.

Federal aid

Federal financial assistance includes:

  • Pell grants, the foundation of federal financial aid. Grants, unlike students loans, do not have to be repaid.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), which provide additional aid to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.
  • Federal Work Study (FWS) aid, which offers employment opportunities to on- or off-campus students with financial need.
  • Federal Direct student loans, which carry low interest rates and do not require students to pass a credit check. Repayment of these loans begins six months after a student leaves school. These loans may be either subsidized or unsubsidized, depending on need. Students whose financial need qualifies them for a subsidized loan may have their interest paid by the federal government while they are enrolled at least half time in college.
  • Perkins loans, which are administered by colleges.

For more information about federal student aid, including eligibility requirements, please visit the Federal Student Aid website.

State grants

New Jersey offers several types of grants, including:

  • Tuition Aid Grants (TAG), which are based on the student’s need, the cost of attendance, and available funding.
  • part-time Tuition Aid Grants for county college students who are carrying between 6 and 11 credits.
  • Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) grants, available to students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This grant can help cover college costs such as books, fees, room and board, and other costs that are not covered by the Tuition Aid Grant program. Applicants should contact the campus EOF director to apply for these grants. 
  • the Governor’s Industry Vocations Scholarship (NJ-GIVS) for women and minorities, which pays up to $2,000 per year or up to the cost of tuition in an eligible certificate or degree program, less any federal, state, or institutional financial aid.

Eligibility for state grants

In general, a student must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • demonstrate financial need.
  • be a US citizen or an eligible non-citizen.
  • be a legal resident of New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to enrollment.
  • be registered with Selective Service within 30 days of your 18th birthday if you are a man born on or after January 1, 1960.
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled in an approved degree or certificate program.
  • not have a Bachelor's degree, or an ssociate degree if enrolled at a two-year college
  • not be in default on a federal or state student loan, or owe a refund on a federal or state grant.

State loans and scholarships

New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) is a loan program that provides students with supplemental funds to pay for college costs that are not covered by other forms of student aid. NJCLASS provides fixed-rate and variable-rate loans for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

New Jersey residents who rank in the top 15 percent of their class at the end of either junior or senior year of high school can get up to five semesters of tuition assistance at their local county college through the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) program. If their home county college does not offer the program of study they are interested in, or the program is oversubscribed, they may be able to attend another county college.

The New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship II (NJ STARS II) provides funding to attend a four-year public or private college or university in New Jersey.

To learn more about New Jersey’s student grant and scholarship programs, the NJBEST 529 College Savings Plan, and the NJCLASS State supplemental loan program, visit the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority website or call HESAA's Customer Care Line at 609-584-4480.

Finally, be sure to visit the financial aid offices at the colleges you are considering or that you currently attend. 

If you are currently employed, ask your Human Resources office if your company offers a tuition assistance benefit.