Check out NAICU for a complete list of Federal Student Aid Awards in 2012-13 (by state and congressional district).

Federal Pell Grant Program

This program is the cornerstone of federal student assistance. Pell Grants are awarded to the neediest students–nearly 75 percent of Pell Grant recipients have a family income of $30,000 or less. In the 2012-2013 award year, $36 billion in Pell Grants helped almost 10 million undergraduate students attend college. The average grant was approximately $3,711. The maximum Pell Grant scheduled award for the 2012-13 award year is $5,550; the minimum award is $555.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG)

This campus-based program provides additional assistance to the neediest of students. Pell Grant recipients receive priority, and FSEOG awards are made in order of lowest expected family contributions. The maximum annual award an institution may award is $4,000. Grants are matched by colleges and universities, providing an efficient, cost-effective way to aid students and encourage them to persist in their education.

In FY 2012, this program provided grants to 1.4 million students at more 3,800 postsecondary institutions–the average grant was $669. The federal share of a student’s award cannot exceed 75 percent of the total; the remaining 25 percent is contributed by the institution. For FY 2012, the program provided $734 million in grants.

Federal Work Study Program

This campus-based program provides part-time jobs to students who need help to finance their education, and encourages community service. Federal funds generally cover up to 75 percent of student wages, with the rest paid by the institution, employer, or another donor. The federal share may be higher in limited circumstances if employment is for a public or nonprofit agency, or at certain institutions serving disadvantaged students. The matching share must be 50 percent if employment is for a private for-profit organization.

In the 2012-13 award year, the FWS program supported more than $1.1 billion in earnings for nearly 683,000 students at more than 3,200 postsecondary institutions. Average earnings were $1,524. For the 2009-10 award year, more than $976 million was allocated to over 3,400 schools. About half of the students who receive work-study come from families with annual incomes of less than $30,000.

Federal Perkins Loan Program

This campus-based program provides low-interest loans to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with exceptional need, as defined by the institution. Loan funds are provided through new Federal Capital Contributions, institutional matching funds and collections from prior borrowers. Part or all of the loan may be forgiven for borrowers who work in certain occupations. This cancellation feature has helped provide law enforcement officers, teachers, and nurses to many rural and inner-city areas.

Undergraduates may borrow up to $5,500 per year, up to a maximum of $27,500 (which includes a stepped maximum of $11,000 for the first two years of undergraduate study towards a baccalaureate). Graduate students may borrow up to $8,000 per year, up to a maximum of $60,000 (including any undergraduate Perkins Loans). In 2012-13, the Federal Perkins Loan Program provided new federal loan funds to more than 524,000 students at over 1,650 postsecondary institutions. The average loan was $1852. Nearly half of undergraduate dependent borrowers were from families with incomes of $30,000 or less. In FY 2012, $970 million was available to students.

Since the inception of the Federal Perkins Loan Program in 1958, over $36 billion in loans have been made to more than 29.8 million students. A key factor of the program’s success is the central role of the college that originates, services, and collects the loans, while providing loan counseling for the borrower. This program has evolved though a number of incarnations, starting as the National Defense Education Act program and including the National Direct Loan Program.

No new Federal Capital Contributions have been appropriated since FY 2006. Schools have continued to make loans from their revolving funds.

Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP)

LEAP gives incentive grants to help states provide grants to students at postsecondary institutions. Students must demonstrate financial need to receive these grants. States are required to match each federal dollar with one state dollar. Funds appropriated over $30 million are available for additional activities, such as early intervention programs, to states willing to match each federal dollar two to one.

In FY 2011, Congress eliminated funding for the LEAP program, taking $65 million out of need-based state grant aid.

TRIO Programs

TRIO was designed to help low-income Americans enter college, graduate, and launch a career; the programs provide a pipeline of educational outreach and student support services to nearly 840,000 students from middle school through postgraduate study. TRIO programs are designed to motivate and prepare individuals who come from families with incomes below 150 percent of the poverty level, and in which neither parent graduated from college. The programs provide tutoring; personal, financial and career counseling; and special instruction in reading, writing, mathematics and study skills. Students with disabilities, veterans and working adults all participate and TRIO programs operate in every jurisdiction of the United States. In FY 2012, 2,814 programs across the country were supported by $840 million.


Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is designed to encourage more young people from low-income families to consider and prepare early for college. GEAR UP programs serve an entire cohort of students, beginning in seventh grade and following them through high school. The program uses a coordinated K-16 approach and is designed to create system(s) change and leverage private matching resources beyond the federal investment. In FY 2012 the program provided $302 million to nearly 725,000 students. Since its enactment in 1998, GEAR UP has served over 11 million students through more than 534 grants in 48 states, the District of Columbia and various U.S. territories.

Graduate Programs

The primary federal assistance for graduate students in the Department of Education is provided through the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) and the Jacob K. Javits Fellowships (Javits) programs. These programs support a long-term strategy for increasing the quality of students who prepare for research and teaching. GAANN funds graduate students of superior academic ability and high financial need through their individual institutions, in academic fields deemed to be of areas of national competitiveness.  Javits awards are highly competitive, portable fellowships designed for students pursuing graduate degrees in the social sciences, arts and humanities.  In FY 2011, funding for Javits was consolidated into the GAANN program to fund continuation grants.  In FY 2012, $31 million was provided for both programs.

Federal Stafford Loan Program

The U.S. Department of Education operates one major student loan program—the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program (DL). Through 2009-10, a parallel loan program, the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, also existed. The FFEL program provided loans to students at postsecondary institutions through the use of private lenders and guaranty agencies and was eliminated in the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) of 2010. HCERA mandated that all federal student loans operate under the Direct Loan program.

The Direct Loan program uses Treasury funds to provide loan capital directly to institutions, which then make loans to students. Three types of loans exist under the umbrella Direct Loan program: Stafford loans, PLUS loans, and Consolidation loans.

Consolidation loans are made to former students for the purpose of combining educational loans from various federal programs into a single loan.

 Stafford loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. For subsidized loans, which are based on need, the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school and during authorized periods of repayment deferment. Currently, subsidized Stafford loans are available at a fixed interest rate of 3.4%. That rate is due to expire on June 30, 2013 unless Congress acts to extend it. In 2012, the subsidized rate was extended for one year only, at a cost of roughly $6 billion. Unsubsidized loans are available at a higher interest rate of 6.8%. A student with unsubsidized loans—no need component—must pay all of the interest, though payments can be deferred while the student is in school.

Annual loan limits for Stafford loans are $5,500 for first-year undergraduates ($3,500 of which may be subsidized); $6,500 for second-year undergraduates (up to $4,500 of which may be subsidized); and $7,500 for undergraduates beyond the second year (up to $5,500 of which may be subsidized).

Independent undergraduates and dependent undergraduates whose parents are precluded from utilizing PLUS loans may borrow an additional $4,000 in unsubsidized loans for each of the first and second years of study, and $5,000 for each year of study beyond the second. Annual loan limits are prorated for programs that are less than a full academic year in length, and for final periods of study in longer programs, provided the final period is shorter than a full academic year in length.

Aggregate borrowing from Stafford loans (including subsidized and unsubsidized loans) is capped at $31,000 for most dependent undergraduates, and $57,500 for independent undergraduates and dependent undergraduates whose parents cannot utilize PLUS loans. No more than $23,000 of those totals may be subsidized.

Graduate students may borrow up to $20,500 per academic year, of which no more than $8,500 may be subsidized. Total aggregate borrowing for both undergraduate and graduate study may not exceed $138,500, up to $65,500 of which may be subsidized. Additional borrowing is possible for students in certain health professions programs.

Unlike other student aid programs, limited amounts of Stafford loans may be borrowed by individuals undertaking preparatory work to qualify for admission into a Title-IV eligible program of study.

PLUS loans are unsubsidized and may be made up to the cost of education not covered by other aid to graduate/professional students and to parents of dependent undergraduate students.


U.S. Department of Education
The College Board, Trends in Student Aid 2010