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The Low-Income Student’s Guide to Financial Aid for College


What if paying for college felt simple and achievable? We explain where to find financial aid to go to college, even as a low-income student.


Over the last 20 years the price of college has skyrocketed. Between the years 2003 and 2013, tuition costs increased 79% above inflation, presenting a major financial hurdle for low-income students pursuing a college degree. While resources are available for tuition, textbooks, housing, and other expenses, lengthy loan applications and confusing jargon can leave many students feeling hopeless.

What if paying for college felt simple and achievable?

We explain where to find financial resources and student aid to go to college, even as a low-income student. In the article below, you’ll learn about scholarships, grants, student loans, and more. You’ll also find tips to help you enjoy college on a budget without sacrificing your wellbeing.

What is financial aid?

Financial aid is funding made available to students to help cover the costs associated with college education. Financial aid can come from federal and state governments, educational institutions, and private organizations.

The primary aim of financial aid is to ensure that financial barriers don’t hold back deserving students from achieving their goals.

You can find more details on financial aid on this webpage from the U.S. Department of Education.

What is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is your gateway to federal aid for education. Federal student aid can be found through grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, and loans. Many scholarships, grants, and state aid programs use the FAFSA as well, allowing students to fill out fewer applications.

Apply as soon as possible after its October 1st release each year for your best shot of getting financial aid. To learn more, the FAFSA Pro Tips page walks you through the application process.

Types of financial aid for low-income college students

Understanding the different types of financial aid available is crucial to making an educated decision about financing your education. Below are the main types of financial aid that low-income students can access.


Scholarships are another type of financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. The difference between grants and scholarships is that grants are usually given out based on financial need while scholarships are given out based on academic merit, like grade point average or test scores.

However, some scholarships are based on other qualifications, and might cater to students who meet specific criteria, such as studying in a particular field, exhibiting outstanding community service, or belonging to an underrepresented group.

Scholarships for low-income students can come from different sources, like non-profit organizations, businesses, and colleges themselves.

Work-study programs

Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial needs, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study.

Click here for more information on how Federal Work-Study works.

You can also explore your college’s database for recent work-study jobs.


Finally, loans are funds you borrow to cover the cost of your education, which must be repaid with interest. While loans can be an excellent resource to cover the cost of college, it's important to borrow wisely and understand the loan terms and repayment conditions. Federal student loans typically offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than private loans.

For more information on student loans, click this link to visit the Federal Student Aid website.


Grants are a form of financial aid that generally doesn’t need to be repaid. They are typically based on financial need and may come from the federal government, state government, college, or private or nonprofit organization. The Pell Grant is specifically designed for undergraduate students with exceptional financial needs and normally requires students to submit to the FAFSA.

More students than ever are expected to be awarded Pell Grants in the 2024-2025 award year, and many students receive over $7,000. Click here to learn more about grants.

Find and apply for grants here.

Pell Grant

Offered by the Department of Education, the Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program, with the maximum amount for the 2023-24 academic year set at $7,395. The amount you receive is based on your financial need and your schools tuition cost. Pell Grants are unique because you receive the full amount you qualify for, up to the lifetime limit, regardless of other aid you get.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

This grant provides eligible students between $100 and $4,000 per year, depending on individual financial need, available school funding, and the other financial aid they receive. However, not every college offers the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, so check with your school’s financial aid office if it’s available to apply for.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

The TEACH Grant offers up to $4,000 annually to help students pursue education degrees who are specifically planning to work in a high-need field or at a low-income school. Recipients of the TEACH Grant must work for at least four years in the designated areas upon graduation, so if this is something that suits your interests, this is an excellent grant worth applying for.

However, make sure you’re committed, because if recipients don’t fulfill their service obligation, the grant converts to an unsubsidized loan.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant provides financial assistance up to $7,395 for the school year to eligible students who have lost a parent or guardian in military service post-9/11, were under 24 when they passed away, and demonstrate financial need.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant offers significant support, reflecting a broader effort to aid students with specific challenges or commitments in pursuing their higher education goals.

Other grants for low-income students

Various state governments offer financial aid programs, such as the Cal Grant in California and the HOPE Scholarship in Georgia. These grants usually have specific eligibility criteria, so it's essential to research and apply early. These grants usually have specific eligibility criteria, so it's essential to research and apply early.

Many colleges and universities have their own grant programs as well, some of which are merit-based, while others focus on financial need. It's worth checking with your school's financial aid office to see if you qualify for any institutional grants.

The Federal Student Grant Programs lists details and award limits for different federal student grant programs. We provide links below to multiple resources that help lower-income students search for all types of grants. Keep reading to learn more.

More financial resources

State-specific financial aid programs

In addition to federal financial aid, most states offer their own financial assistance programs for residents. These can include scholarships, grants, and loan opportunities designed to make college more accessible. It's worth looking at your state's education website or the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators for more information specific to your state.

Non-profit organizations

Several non-profit organizations work tirelessly to support students in financial need. For example, the UNCF and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund offer scholarships and resources for African American and Hispanic students. Exploring non-profit organizations related to your field of interest can also yield opportunities for financial support.

Community support and humanitarian groups

Funding from smaller organizations requires more Googling on the student’s part for local entities, and a great example is Humanity Rising. The group empowers students to make a difference in their communities through service and scholarship. It recognizes the potential in young people to push for positive change by providing scholarships as a form of encouragement and support for their service initiatives.

Humanity Rising provides comprehensive information on scholarships that reward service-oriented actions, encouraging a more compassionate, empathetic, and proactive generation of leaders.


More helpful websites for finding financial aid:

● Bold

● BrokeScholar

● Chegg

● College Board’s scholarship site

● Get Schooled


More financial resources for low-income students

Affordable wireless internet

The internet is not a luxury but a necessity for college students. It serves as a gateway to limitless resources, scholarly research, and essential communication tools. However, the cost of internet and phone services can weigh heavily on students, potentially hindering their academic progress and access to opportunities.

Lifeline is a federal program that provides a monthly discount on wireless phone and internet services for eligible low-income households. Lifeline helps make digital resources accessible, thus empowering students in their educational journeys. Participating wireless providers like TruConnect help equip eligible low-income students with affordable wireless and phone services. Click the link to see if you qualify today.

Groceries on a budget

For low-income college students, navigating the financial challenges of higher education extends beyond tuition fees and textbooks — it also includes basic necessities like food.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides a critical lifeline. Some states offer state-specific programs like California’s CalFresh program.

Eligible students can receive benefits to purchase groceries, easing the burden of food insecurity. Check if you’re eligible for SNAP here.

Reasonably priced textbooks

The website BookScouter helps students find textbooks at more affordable prices and helps you sell them when you're done with them. By pulling from over 25 vendors, BookScouter allows you to compare prices and find the best deals on textbooks. This platform offers a way to purchase and rent textbooks at a fraction of their original cost and it even lets you access some textbooks for free.

Final thoughts

Given the rising cost of a college degree, financial resources are crucial to help pave the way. Accessing these resources requires wireless connection and TruConnect can help eligible low-income students get connected without the high cost.

We know you need to focus more on your studies and less on your bills. Check today if you're eligible for low-cost internet at TruConnect, and get a wireless connection you can count on to get the education you deserve.


About TruConnect
TruConnect is the fastest-growing premium low-cost wireless service provider in the U.S., expanding the availability of wireless and internet service plans and low-cost devices through Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to all eligible Americans. TruConnect is mission-driven, transforming how people connect to the world and helping more Americans access critical resources while staying connected to family and friends. With no-contract plans for voice, text, and data and easy-to-use devices like handsets, tablets, and hotspots, TruConnect is bridging the digital device and connecting millions of Americans who have been overlooked and underserved by traditional providers.