Types of Financial Aid

Financial aid programs are available to cover the education costs you or your family cannot pay for. Two major types open to dental students are: 1) scholarships and grants, both of which are gift aid and can be based on merit, special interests, or financial need; and 2) loans, which are funds that must be repaid. Later in this chapter we will talk more about different types of scholarships and grants. This section focuses on how you apply for federal aid which is open to U.S. citizens and eligible permanent residents, and constitutes the majority of all available financial aid.

Need-based financial aid programs can include subsidized, low-interest loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs (which allow you to work, usually on campus around your class schedule). The amount of total need-based aid you can receive is determined by the following formula: Cost of Attendance (COA) ˆ' Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need. The total amount of need-based aid can't exceed your financial need as determined by this formula.

The cost of attendance is determined by the dental school where you enroll. The calculated family contribution is based on the financial information that you (and perhaps your family) provide on the school's financial aid application forms.

Most need-based aid is sponsored by the federal government and is administered by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) in the case of Title IV aid and by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the case of Title VII aid. Many dental schools offer institutional need-based assistance, as do a number of states. Some loans are either low-interest or interest-free while you are enrolled in school. To receive need-based funds from federally sponsored programs, you must meet other eligibility criteria including being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and maintaining satisfactory academic progress.

Cost-based aid (also referred to as non-need-based aid) is different from need-based aid because it does not require you or your family to demonstrate financial need. Instead, cost-based aid is determined as follows: Cost of Attendance (COA) ˆ' Estimated Financial Aid = Cost-Based Eligibility.

As a result, cost-based financial aid can serve as a useful financing mechanism for students who may not qualify for adequate need-based assistance and have minimal financial resources of their own to pay for the full cost of their dental education. The federal government, private organizations, and some dental schools offer cost-based loan assistance programs. Note that cost-based aid consists primarily of loans, and creditworthiness is usually a criterion for eligibility. Your total education loan debt may also be a factor in determining eligibility for cost-based aid.

Merit-based and other non-need-based grants and scholarships are open to students who meet specific criteria. These funds may be awarded by the dental school itself.

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