Paying Tuition and Other Costs

Most students need assistance affording a postsecondary education. To assist them in their academic pursuits, the Department of Education offers a variety of financial aid programs that can help students pay for college.

So, how can the U.S. Department of Education help me pay for school?

Federal student aid includes grants, work-study, and loans. You don’t have to pay back grants. Work-study allows you to earn money for your education, and loans allow you to borrow money for school. You’ll have to repay any money you borrow. See Federal Pell Grants, Campus Based Aid Programs, Stafford Loans, and PLUS Loans for more detailed information on these federal student aid programs.

You can learn about state programs by contacting your state department of education, and you can learn about other programs by checking with your high school counselor or the college or career school you plan to attend. You may also want to try using an online search engine to find information based on the key phrases such as scholarships, grants, loans and financial aid. Or, check the reference section of your local library under the same phrases.

What about scholarship search services?

Many private scholarship search services provide lists of scholarship and grant opportunities. If you decide to use a service, you can check its reputation by contacting the Better Business Bureau or a state attorney general’s office. We recommend using's free college scholarship search, the most accurate and up-to-date on the web. It's been around for ten years and is quite reputable, a member of NACAC, NSPA, BBBOnline and TRUSTe.

How can I tell these search services aren't scams? Are there any signs I should look for?

Many so-called "services" out there are scams, which is why we recommend using only vetted sites with a long history and strong connection with sites that are known to be trusted, reputable organizations. Estimates show that families lose millions of dollars to scholarship fraud every year. The College Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act provides protection against fraud in student financial assistance. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions students to look for these telltale lines:

  • "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
  • "You can't get this information anywhere else."
  • "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
  • "We’ll do all the work."
  • "The scholarship will cost some money."
  • "You’ve been selected by a 'national foundation' to receive a scholarship" or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.

Be careful when searching for information on student financial assistance. Make sure information and offers are legitimate. Don’t fall prey to fraud. To file a complaint, or for free information, call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit