Types of Financial Aid & Funding Options - Paying for College

Types of Financial Aid

When we say types of financial aid, we are actually referring to types and sources of financial aid. You can look for different types of aid, such as student loans, grants, work-study opportunities, and scholarships from different sources, such as the federal government, state governments, banks, colleges, employers, or private scholarship providers.  So, what different types of financial aid are available?

Below you’ll find an overview of the types of financial aid students can pursue to help cover the costs of tuition and higher education. 

Federal Types of Financial Aid

There are three types of federal financial aid: grant programs, work-study programs, and student loan programs.

  • Federal Grant Programs
    Information about the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
  • Federal Work-Study Programs
    Information about how to find and apply for Federal Work-Study (FWS) programs to help offset college costs.
  • Federal Loan Programs
    Student loans offered through government funding through the Department of Education. Federal student loans typically offer low interest rates and generous repayment terms.

State Aid

Many states offer assistance to their residents or to non-residents studying at a college in their state. Assistance can come in the form of scholarships, grants, and/or loans. Certain states have a specific application you must complete in order to be considered for assistance from the state.

Check with the financial aid office at your school to see what state aid programs are available. Learn more about state aid programs and locate the agencies in your state that provide them.

Institutional Assistance

Institutional assistance is aid supplied by the school you attend. It can come in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and/or through work-study. Check with the financial aid office of the school you will be attending to see what you need to do to apply for this type of aid.

Private Financing

Private student loans are made directly to students by banks or other lenders. Students generally need a creditworthy co-signer. You can compare student loans by using our LoanFinder tool. Before borrowing a private student loan, you should use all other forms of financial aid first and borrow only what you need. Learn more about private student loans.


A huge number of scholarships based on need, achievement, affiliation, and/or a myriad of other criteria are awarded to students each year. One source to find scholarships is Unigo.com. This free scholarship search tool will match you to applicable awards based on your interests, academic background, and more. The site also sponsors a number of unique scholarships that most students are eligible to apply for.

You should also check with your high school’s guidance office or you college’s financial aid office to see if there are any awards available locally or though your school.

Corporate / Employer Funding

Are you working while enrolled in college courses? If the courses you’re taking are aligned with your career path, you may be eligible for tuition repayment through your company. Check with your employer’s HR department about tuition reimbursement or loan forgiveness programs.