Major Student Aid Programs

Education is the single most important investment an individual can make. To finance this investment, the U.S. Department of Education offers student aid in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs. The mix of aid depends on an individual’s financial needs. APSCU supports policies to enable millions of Americans the chance to attend college. Maintaining vibrant loan and grant programs are essential to achieve this goal. 


Direct Loans

The Direct Loan program contains several types of federal loans. The department originates about $105 billion in student loans each year.  In 2011, about 10.4 million students took out Stafford Loans, the largest proportion of Direct Loans. Nearly all students who attend PSCUs--typically older, nontraditional students--access the Direct Loan program. APSCU believes maintaining access to the Direct loan program is essential to a first-rate workforce. We advocate tirelessly for public policies that protect student access to these loans.

Some of the different types of loans:

  • Subsidized: for students with demonstrated financial need, as determined by federal regulations. No interest is charged while a student is in school at least half-time, during the grace period, and during deferment periods.
  • Unsubsidized: not based on financial need; interest is charged during all periods, even while a student is in school and during grace and deferment periods.
  • PLUS: unsubsidized loans for the parents of dependent students and for graduate/professional students. PLUS loans help pay for education expenses up to the cost of attendance, minus all other financial assistance. Interest is charged during all periods.
  • Consolidation: Eligible federal student loans can be combined into one Direct Consolidation Loan.


Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is a need-based form of financial aid designed to help America's lowest income students obtain a college education. According to the most recent statistics from the National Center for Educational Statistics, 36 percent of students attending PSCUs are at or below the poverty level, 28 percent are at twice the poverty level, and 16 percent are at three times the poverty level. 

For many of these students, PSCUs are the only option to obtain postsecondary training, so continuous and unfettered access to Pell Grants is critical. APSCU supports efforts by Congress and the Department of Education to maintain and increase funding levels for Pell Grants.


Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is a campus-based aid program administered by the college or university itself. Each participating school receives a certain amount of SEOG funds each year from the Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid. Once the full amount of the school's SEOG funds has been awarded to students, no additional grants may be made for that year. In other words, these funds are first-come, first-served.


Work Study

The federal Work Study Program provides funds for part-time employment to help needy undergraduate, graduate, or professional students finance the cost of their education. Students may be employed by the institution itself, a public agency, a private nonprofit organization, or a private for-profit organization. Institutions that participate in the program are responsible for administering it. Check with your financial aid office to find out if your institution participates.



Understanding the costs of financing a college education is as important as making the decision to attend. A number of tools are available at the Department of Education’s website to help you  understand how the loan repayment process works. Therefore, before attending college and undertaking substantial debt, APSCU encourages you to think about several issues. 

First, how much do you really need to borrow? If you are able to work while in school, then perhaps taking out more than the cost to cover attendance is not necessary. Second, understanding the differences between federal and private loans is very important. Loans the federal government offers generally have more favorable repayment options than private loans. Similarly, federal and private loans have different interest rates associated with them. APSCU encourages prospective students to explore federal loans before considering private loans. 

Sometimes federal loans will not cover the full cost of attendance, and private loans are necessary. Be sure to shop around for the best interest rate and repayment terms and fully understand the terms before signing a loan document. Find more information on FinAid's website.

APSCU is committed to helping prospective students become aware of the costs and repayment of college before they enroll. We also advocate policies that will limit student debt, empower students to understand student loans and the repayment process, and limit fraud, waste, and abuse of student aid.


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PSCUs open doors to many of the 9 million unemployed and 90 million undereducated Americans by providing a skills-based education. To remain competitive over the next decade, we must identify between 8 and 23 million new workers with postsecondary skills. PSCUs are a necessary part of that solution, having produced over 800,000 degrees last year alone.