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Understanding federal financial loans, grants and aid for college

Federal financial aid, or Title IV aid, includes need-based grants that do not typically have to be repaid and low-interest loans that do have to be repaid, as well as Work-Study. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) and meet general eligibility requirements in order to be eligible for these programs. Title IV funds may be used for educational experiences abroad.

See the various types of federal grants. View all financial aid videos.

Federal Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants are typically awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s degree. Recipients are selected based on financial need determined by the FAFSA Expected Family Contribution(EFC).  Determination of amounts depend on factors including:

  • Financial need, based on the EFC
  • Cost of attendance
  • Full-time or part-time enrollment

Students may receive the federal Pell Grant for no more than the equivalent of 12 semesters (about six years).

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG)

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) are awarded to students with exceptional financial need as determined by the FAFSA EFC number and who have not earned a bachelor's or graduate degree. Priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients. SEOG award amounts are limited to $4,000 per year, and the availability of funding is limited.

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers low-interest loans to low-income students to help cover the cost of college. We suggest limiting the amount of loans to the lowest amount you need because loans must be repaid with interest. First-time borrowers may receive Direct Subsidized Loans for no more than 150 percent of the published length of an academic program. There are annual and lifetime aggregate limits to loan amounts. Students interested in Direct Loans must complete the Entrance Loan Counseling, as well as a Master Promissory Note, a legal loan agreement in which you agree to pay back borrowed money with interest.

Direct Loans have aggregate, or lifetime, limits based on a student's status. The aggregate limit is the maximum total amount a student can receive in federal loans.

Federal Work-Study

Work-Study provides part-time jobs for students to earn money for college expenses.

Financial aid eligibility for Education Abroad Programs

You may be eligible for Title IV assistance to fund cultural and educational opportunities abroad, depending on your program. If you are enrolled in classes abroad that can be credited toward a degree program at Columbia College, financial aid eligibility will be considered when you submit the FAFSA. Learn about our Education Abroad options.


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