Is Financial Aid Available at Small Colleges?

financial aid at small colleges

When choosing a college or university, students often go big because they assume that they’ll get less financial aid at small colleges than at larger schools. Smaller schools may not receive as many alumni donations as the larger campuses do, which limits the amount of institutional aid  available. Students still qualify for the same government aid that they would get at a big school, including loans and a Pell grant. Small schools offer benefits such as smaller class sizes and still give students the financial aid that they need.


The most common type of institutional aid awarded to students today is a scholarship. This is basically free money that schools award to those who meet certain standards. A need-based scholarship is one that a student gets because he or she has more financial need than other students. Merit-based scholarships go to students based on their high school merit. Most schools require that students have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a specific score on either the ACT or SAT. Small schools often award more scholarships than larger schools do because they have fewer students applying for those funds.


Grants are a type of financial aid that come from both schools and the government. The federal government offers several grants. It awards grants to students who show need on the FAFSA. One example is the Pell grant, which provides students with thousands of dollars in free money. Colleges offer grants of their own, which usually come from foundations on those campuses. These foundations raise money through fundraising efforts and alumni donations. Grants are usually need-based rather than merit-based. They only go to students who show they need a high level of help on the FAFSA.

Work Study

Federal work study is a financial aid program available from the federal government. When a student completes the FAFSA and shows financial need, the government and the school can decide that the student qualifies for this program. According to Federal Student Aid, jobs are available both on college campuses and off. Colleges will often look for jobs relating to students’ majors and find positions that help them gain some experience in those fields. Though jobs go to both part-time and full-time students, full-time students typically work more hours. They generally do not work more than 10 to 20 hours a week.

Student Loans

Those looking for financial aid at small colleges will also have the option of taking out a federal loan each year. Students working on their first undergrad degree qualify for subsidized loans. The government will not charge any interest on those loans until the student either graduates or takes at least six months away from school. They can borrow a total of $57,500 during their undergrad years and more while in graduate school. Unsubsidized loans are given to graduate students and immediately incur interest. Many small and large schools will also accept private student loans from other types of lenders and the loans that the government offers for parents.

Though some think that small schools do not offer as much financial aid as they need, these schools can provide students with all the assistance they need. Between alumni donations and government programs, the financial aid at small colleges can equal the packages offered by large colleges.

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