It is important to begin planning early how you will cover the cost of higher education. Although higher education can be costly, there are several sources of funding and financial aid that can help students and their families cover the cost. In addition, there are some sources of funding available specifically to assist students with disabilities to pursue higher education.
What costs are associated with higher education? While costs will be different depending on your specific situation and what type of institution you attend, you should think about costs like:
There are many types of assistance programs that can help students afford the cost of higher education. First, become familiar with the different types of programs:
Grants and scholarships typically do not require repayment. In most cases, grants are need-based. This means that they are available for students who demonstrate a certain level of financial need, usually due to low income. Eligibility for scholarships may also be based on financial need or other criteria.
Be sure to research what grants and scholarships you may be eligible to apply for. They can come from the federal government, state government, the school you wish to attend, or from a non-profit organization, such as one connected to your religious affiliation, community associations, or even parents’ employers.
After you know which grants and scholarships you are eligible to apply for, make sure to meet the application deadlines.
The federal government has several grant programs, such as:
Each of these grant programs has different eligibility criteria. For more information, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships.
There are many sources of scholarships, including general scholarships and scholarships available to students with disabilities. Scholarships available to students with disabilities may be available for students with a specific disability, such as hearing loss, visual impairments, mobility impairments, learning disabilities, and mental health challenges.
It is worthwhile to take the time to research what scholarships you may be eligible for, because scholarships usually do not need to be repaid, unlike a loan.
To research scholarships that you may wish to apply for, the U.S. Department of Education website is a good place to start: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/finding-scholarships
For a partial list of scholarships and other sources of funding that students with disabilities should be aware of, here are some resources:
There are many sources of scholarships that can easily be overlooked (credit unions, Lions Clubs, etc.), so be creative when looking!
The government of the state where you live may also offer grants or scholarships. Usually these programs require you to be a resident of that state.
In Delaware, the Delaware Higher Education Office administers state-sponsored financial aid programs and private scholarship programs to help state residents continue their education after high school. There are several aid programs. A program may be based on financial need, academic performance, or for students in a particular technical or professional field.
To understand these programs and how to apply, the Delaware Higher Education Office’s website is a good place to start: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/students_family/dheo/how_to_apply/financial_aid/default.shtml.
You can attend Delaware Tech tuition-FREE (you still have to pay for books and course fees) through the SEED Scholarship program. You have to meet their eligibility criteria (be a Delaware resident, attended a Delaware high school, had grades that are at least a C+ or 2.5 average, not have felony convictions, etc. You can learn more online at:
By taking out a loan, you borrow money in order to cover the costs of higher education such as tuition, books, supplies, and other expenses. After you graduate or complete your studies, you will be responsible for repaying the amount of the loan, plus interest.
Many students get a loan from the federal government. Loans also are available from private sources, such as a bank. However, a loan from the federal government typically has some benefits, compared to private loans. For example, the interest rate is usually lower and there usually are flexible repayment plans for student loans. Each student’s situation will be different.
The federal government has two student loan programs: the Direct Loan Program and the Perkins Loan Program. These programs are similar but may have different criteria on who is eligible.
Before you apply for a loan, make sure you understand what your obligations will be, such as when you will need to begin payments. For more detailed information, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans.
To apply for a federal loan, you will need to complete and submit FAFSA (see “For More Information,” below).
The federal work-study program provides part-time jobs for students with financial need. By working in a part-time job while taking classes at school, a student can earn money to help pay for his or her expenses. This program is available to both part-time and full-time students. There are certain limits on how much you can work on the federal work-study program. The number of hours that you can work cannot be greater than the amount of your work-study award.
You should know that this program is available only to schools that participate in the federal work-study program. Not all schools participate in this program. Check with the school you want to attend to ask whether it participates.
For more information on the federal work-study program, see http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/work-study.
To apply for a work-study job, you will need to complete and submit FAFSA (see “For More Information,” below).
If you have an intellectual disability, you may receive funding from the Federal Work-Study program if you meet certain criteria. For more information, see http://studentaid.ed.gov/eligibility/intellectual-disabilities.
The Ticket to Work Program is a program for persons with disabilities, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) through the Social Security Administration, who want to work and participate in planning their employment. A Ticket increases your available choices when obtaining employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, and other support services you may need to get or keep a job. A Ticket can also help you with funding your education. It is a free and voluntary service.
Find out more at Social Security’s website: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/work/
To search for a program in your area: http://www.chooseworkttw.net/resource/jsp/searchByState.jsp
To download program materials: http://www.chooseworkttw.net/document-library/materials-for-beneficiaries/index.html
Depending on your specific situation, you may be eligible for other sources of funding or financial assistance. For example:
The U.S. Department of Education website is a good place to start: Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or 800-730-8913 (TTY) or http://studentaid.ed.gov/.
There is a single application for most types of student assistance from the federal government. This is known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This application gives you access to most types of student aid available from the federal government – including grants, loans, and work-study programs. (http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa)
Also check with the financial aid office of the school that you wish to attend, or the guidance counselor at your high school.
If you think that your federal financial aid is not being processed or distributed properly, in most situations you should contact the school’s financial aid office first to inquire. This is because federal financial aid is distributed by the school, not the federal government. For example, if your financial aid has not been paid to you on time or the amount is incorrect, your first step should be to contact the school’s financial aid office.
If you believe that your school has violated its own policy or federal regulations in administering financial aid, and you have been unable to resolve your issue with the school directly, you may contact the Federal Student Aid Program Compliance Office at ComplianceComplaints@ed.gov, or call 1-877-557-2575.
 People with intellectual disabilities may receive funding from the Federal Pell Grant or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant if they meet certain criteria. For more information, see http://studentaid.ed.gov/eligibility/intellectual-disabilities.