"Financial aid" is a term that covers a wide variety of programs that help students and families pay for college or graduate school. The two main criteria used to award financial assistance are financial need and academic merit. Some awards must be re-paid (loans) while others do not (grants, scholarships).
The three major sources of financial aid are the federal government, state government and educational institutions, although many businesses, labor organizations, foundations, religious organizations, and community organizations also offer financial assistance. The federal government has recognized the need for teachers, particularly in the fields of special education, mathematics, and science, and has created grants for individuals pursuing careers in those subject areas.
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A gift, often based on achievement rather than need. A scholarship is offered by community and professional groups, businesses, foundations, unions, churches and other organizations. Be wary about using for-profit scholarship search services, which charge you a fee for information that is available free.
Financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Grants are often based on need.
Money that must be repaid with interest (unless forgiven in return for a commitment to teach in high-need subjects or areas, such as in California's APLE program). For some loans, the government pays the interest while you attend school.
Additional financial support can come from student loan forgiveness, housing cost reduction, information and resources. The following Web sites are an example of those types of opportunities including major Federal and California government Web sites.