How to Get College Funding From Your State

If you’re looking for help paying for college, make sure to do these two things: complete your FAFSA and take advantage of state aid.

There are different types of aid that may be available including grants, scholarships and loans. These will vary depending on your state. But most state aid programs cover full- and part-time students and have three eligibility requirements in common:

  • Complete and submit your FAFSA
  • Be a resident of that state
  • Attend a college, university or other approved educational program in that state


Use Our Interactive Map to Find College State Aid

Want to get started, but don’t know where to begin? We have launched an easy-to-use interactive map connecting college financial aid seekers with programs in their state.

Select your state to find out what kind of need- and merit-based aid is available. Our map also offers information on specialized scholarships (i.e. for students studying engineering, medicine, or teaching) and low-cost loans. Click on the links provided to learn more about each aid program including eligibility criteria, application instructions, and deadlines.

Here are the different types of college financial aid to be aware of as you search for state aid:


State Aid: Need-Based

Need-based aid is exactly as it sounds: money awarded to students with financial need to cover college costs. Most state aid programs will rely on a student’s FAFSA to determine eligibility for need-based grants. (Keep in mind there may be additional eligibility criteria such as state residency.)

Can’t complete the FAFSA because you don’t have a Social Security number? While students with undocumented status don’t qualify for federal aid (students must have a Social Security number to complete the FAFSA), many can get help at the state level. (Parents or legal guardians who are undocumented can complete the FAFSA so long as their child has a Social Security number.)

Many states offer aid to students with undocumented status.  For example, New York State offers an easy application for undocumented students through the New York State Dream Act. Students who fill out this quick application get access to all New York State college grants, including the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Excelsior Scholarship. Similarly, Colorado has a separate aid application for undocumented students and only requires students to have attended school in the state for a certain amount of years – no citizenship required. Increasingly, there is a long list of states that offer college grants and in-state tuition discounts for undocumented students. We love the Higher Ed Immigration Portal interactive map to learn what is available for undocumented students in each state.


State Aid: Merit-Based

Merit-based aid typically considers a student’s academic record, such as GPA, test scores, but eligibility may also include other achievements such as community service, artistic talent or excelling in a sport.

For example, in New Jersey students who graduate in the top 15 percent of the high school class are eligible for the NJ STARS (New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship), which covers tuition costs for up to five semesters at an in-state community college.


State Aid: Specialized Scholarships

Many states offer scholarship and loan repayment programs aimed at supporting students pursuing high demand professions such as teaching, medicine, or engineering. For instance, Maryland’s Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant provides aid to students preparing for careers in fields such as nursing and teaching. Oregon offers a number of career-based grant programs including one for students studying cosmetology. Louisiana offers a scholarship for students studying forestry, wildlife, or marine sciences. States often have special career programs fields that they want to support or grow.


State Aid: Tuition Exchange Programs

While most states limit aid to students attending in-state schools, there is one option for students looking to leave their state for college. Many states participate in one of four regional exchange programs that allow its residents to attend college in another state within the same exchange without having to pay out-of-state tuition. If your dream school is in a neighboring state, there’s a chance you can get a steep discount on tuition.

Check our interactive map to determine which exchange, if any, your state is in. The four exchanges are the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, the Midwest Student Exchange Program, the Academic Common Market, and the New England Board of Higher Education. Schools don’t advertise their participation in these programs so you’ll need to do your research and ask each school you’re applying to about the availability of tuition exchange and reciprocity programs.