How to get financial aid for community college

Ways to pay for community college

To answer your question right away—yes. You can definitely get financial aid for community college! Just because they tend to have a cheaper price tag than other schools doesn’t mean there isn’t help out there. Here are a few ways you can get financial aid for community college.


Fill out the FAFSA®

No matter what type of school you want to go to, you should always fill out the FAFSA®. The FAFSA® is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—and is your ticket to tons of options for financial aid for school. Federal aid should always be your first choice when you’re looking for help to pay for school. The types of aid you can get from the FAFSA® are as follows:

  • Grants: These are sums of money offered to you that you don’t have to pay back (the best kind of financial aid!). Grants are often given based on your and your family’s financial need.
  • Scholarships: Like grants, scholarships are also free money that you don't have to pay back. However, you can win scholarships regardless of your financial situation. You can get scholarships from the FAFSA®, organizations you're a part of, scholarship websites, giveaways, and more. You can also find scholarships with Scholarship Search by Sallie. Best part? You don’t have to register—and you can use filters to narrow down your search based on your background, major, the state you live in, and more.
  • Work-study: Work-study programs are federally funded part-time jobs for college students to help make school more affordable. Your earnings can go towards tuition or room and board, but they can also go towards your daily expenses.
  • Federal student loans: These are loans distributed by the government, and you’ll be required to pay these back with interest. There are a few different types, like direct subsidized and unsubsidized, as well as direct PLUS loans.

Private student loans

After giving federal financial aid a chance, private student loans are there to help fill in any gaps. They can be used for so many school expenses, from tuition to school supplies. Private student loans differ from federal because private loans are offered from a bank or other financial institution, not the government. They also take your credit history into account. If you don’t have a credit history established just yet, consider getting a cosigner. With a cosigner, you can up your chances of getting approved for a private student loan because their credit history can help you out.

Promise programs

Promise programs are tuition-free college programs for students pursuing technical careers, wanting to study general education, or planning to attend two- and four-year colleges. As of July 2023, there are 425 programs across all 50 states.footnote 1 The two main requirements for admission are that you a) reside in the community of the school full-time, and b) have a high school diploma or GED. However, there are a few other requirements that vary from school to school to keep in mind:

  • You must apply for full-time enrollment
  • You must meet minimum GPA or SAT®/ACT® requirements
  • You must study in a particular field

College Promise created a tool to help prospective students find programs in their area that can work for them and their financial needs.

Get what you need to pay for school

Four-year colleges aren’t the only schools that students can get financial aid for—community college students are just as eligible. The money is out there for you! Research and apply for these types of financial aid to pay your way through school.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks, and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote Sallie Mae, the Sallie Mae logo, and other Sallie Mae names and logos are service marks or registered service marks of Sallie Mae Bank. All other names and logos used are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners. 

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.

footnote 1.

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