It’s too expensive! I can’t afford it!” This excuse, in one form or another, is among the top reasons that students give for not studying abroad. Admittedly, foreign study requires a substantial chunk of money, but paying for an international study program is much easier than students may realize. There is a supply of financial aid available to students through grants, scholarships, and other programs. These funds are offered by organizations that understand the value of an international experience and that are eager to support students who wish to expand their boundaries.
What Is It?
The biggest source for financial aid is FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Offered by the government, FAFSA is an annual application that collects information about a student’s income, his or her parents’ income, tax returns, college tuition, and so on. The government uses this information to determine the type and amount of financial aid each student will receive to help with college expenses.
Types of Funds
Federal financial aid comes in two forms: Federal Pell Grants and Direct Stafford Loans.
A grant is like a scholarship, meaning that students do not need to pay it back. In the 2012–13 academic school year, the government distributed almost nine million Pell Grants averaging $3,579 each and totaling approximately $32 billion (www2.ed.gov/finaid/prof/resources/data/pell-2012-13/pell-eoy-2012-13.html).
Direct Stafford Loans are issued from the government and are then given to a third party for handling. These loans have a fixed interest rate that is usually lower than that of other loans. They also generally have a grace period so that students do not have to start making payments until several months after graduation.
Horseback Riding in Iceland—so much fun!