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Parent's Guide to Financial Aid

Did you know that over half of the millions of students attending college each year apply for and receive some type of financial aid? The money is out there if you know where to look.

Sources of Financial Aid

In most cases, the money for financial aid comes from federal and state governments, banks, schools, and private donors. The college or university a student wants to attend most likely provides all types of financial aid. In order to receive financial aid from the institution, you must apply for it. This is a completely separate process from applying for admission to the school. The amount and kind of aid you receive will be based on need, academic record, and on the type of financial aid available at the school. There are three main types of financial aid:

  • Grants and Scholarships. The words grant and scholarship are sometimes used the same way. Grant usually means an award that is based on financial need. Scholarship usually means an award based on academic merit. You do not need to pay back grant or scholarship money. Some of the most popular grants and scholarships include:
    • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
    • Institutional Grants
    • Pell Grants
  • Loans. Financial aid in the form of loans is available to both students and parents. Like any other type of loan, an educational loan must be paid back. One benefit is that payments normally do not begin until after the student graduates. Also, interest rates on educational loans are generally lower than other types of loans.

    Aid may be either need-based or merit-based. Merit-based need is awarded on the basis of academic performance or potential. Need-based aid is exactly what it sounds like - the amount of money a student receives is based on the cost of college and the student’s and/or parent’s ability to meet these costs is based on income. There are many types of loans but some of the most common include:
    • Health Professions Loans
    • Institutional and Emergency Loans
    • Perkins Loans
    • PLUS Loans
    • Stafford Loans
  • Work-Study Programs. Work-study programs provide jobs to students to help them pay for college. The programs usually offer part-time jobs on campus.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is FAFSA?
    FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You must complete this form in order to apply for federal or state financial aid. The form must be completed for every year that you want to receive financial aid. Although there is a paper version of this form, you may also apply electronically at
  • When should I apply for financial aid?
    Ask for information about financial aid at the beginning of your college application process. The application/admission process begins one year before the student plans to enter school. Check with the financial aid office at each college to see if additional applications beside the FAFSA are needed. Send the FAFSA for processing as soon after January 1 as possible.
  • What is HI529?
    HI529 is the State of Hawaii’s College Savings Program. The purpose of HI529 is to assist and encourage Hawaii families to save ahead for higher education expenses. HI529 is a savings plan that complies with Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code and offers many tax advantages as allowed by Federal and Hawaii State laws. For more information, call 1-866-529-3343 or go to
  • What are tax credits?
    Tax credits may be available to reduce your family's federal taxes. The tax credit amount that you can claim will depend on financial need, the cost of attending school, whether the student is full-time or part-time, and whether the student attends school for a full academic year.
  • What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans?
    Subsidized Stafford Loans are based on financial need. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are not based on financial need. For subsidized loans, the federal government pays the interest while you are in school (you must be enrolled at least half time), during the grace period (the first six months after you leave school), and during periods of deferment. For unsubsidized loans, you must pay the interest during all periods of the loan.
  • Can I find financial aid on the Internet?
    You can search the Internet by using keywords like "student aid" or "financial aid." But beware! - many scams operate on the Internet. If an Internet service charges a fee, be sure to research it carefully.
  • Are there other sources of financial aid that don't come from a school?
    Students can also get financial aid from sources that are not from a school. Look into the following programs to see if you may be eligible:
    • Private Aid Programs: aid from private organizations or individuals
    • Special Aid Programs: aid for special groups of students
    • Aid for Military Personnel: financial aid opportunities for those who join the military
    • Workforce Investment Act (WIA): help for youth and adults who want to become employed
    • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation: aid for people with disabilities to receive training that will lead to employment
    • Job Corps: free vocational education for at-risk youth (
    • AmeriCorps: earn an education voucher after completing 10-12 months of community service (

Where to Find More Information

There are many sources that offer financial aid information including:

  • College or school financial aid offices
  • Your local library
  • Your high school counselor's office or career/guidance resource center
  • Bulletin 15 Scholarships and Financial Aid Available to High School Graduates in the State of Hawaii at is a service from the DOE to inform counselors, teachers, students and parents of the various resources for financial assistance for higher education in Hawaii and elsewhere.
  • College Connections Hawaii at is a nonprofit educational charity whose mission is to improve educational opportunities for the people of Hawaii.
  • Career Kokua, the Hawaii Career Information Delivery System at Go to the Financial Aid channel.

Contact your counselor at school to get more information and to discuss your options.


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