Montana Student Grants for College
Fund Your Education with Free Grant Money
Montana, the Big Sky state, immediately reveals the nature of its name to all that visit. It is home to two major National Parks – Glacier and Yellowstone – and 54 state parks that connect visitors to history, culture, and nature. Montana is a state of vast spaces and a wide variety of communities, offering a diverse selection of ecological and cultural environments, and a rich resource for advanced education.
The desire for personal advancement motivates a rising student to press for the best. The sixteen universities and colleges of the Montana University System (MUS) collectively enroll over 47,000 students, and are ready to help with this endeavor. But for some college hopefuls, the chances of attending a university in Montana, or anywhere else for that matter, depend upon some form of financial assistance.
Overcoming the Income Gap
The typical income of a Montana state college graduate exceeds that of the average high school dropout by more than thirty thousand dollars per year. Meanwhile, technology refuses to standstill. The imagination of mankind continues to push the envelope of skill, training, and knowledge.
Throughout the United States, Montana included, the income gap between a college graduate, a high school dropout, and even a high school graduate will continue to expand. Gaining access to an accredited college or university can be one of the greatest turning points in the life of a Montana student.
Means Of Paying
For many students, a decision for college is not based upon location, desire, or even ability. Time after time, finances end up being the sole determining factor. Within the MUS, a Montana resident can expect to pay a typical cost of $6,000 to $14,000 for a two-semester session ($14,000 TO $16,000 for a graduate student.) An out-of-state student will encounter prices that run upward from $15,000 to $40,000($35,000 to $50,000 for graduate students.) These figures do not include other miscellaneous costs a student may encounter.
At first glance, the cost of attending a state university in Montana may seem too much for an average student to shoulder. Yet when compared to the alternative of losing as much as $30,000 plus in annual income for the remainder of your life, the cost of a Montana education takes on a reasonable perspective.
So how does the student come up with the funds? A number of options are available for the Montana student, including family funds, scholarships, loans and grants. Scholarships and grants are of particular appeal, because they are funds for your education which do not have to be repaid.
The demand for financial aid for outstretches the supply of grants. Early and accurate FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) filing is critical to a successful campaign. Do not be taken back by the indication that FAFSA is a federal program. It is used in the determination of all types of aid.
There are two main Federal Grants, The Pell and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.
The maximum Pell Grant for the 2011-12 award year (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012) was $5,550. The amount depends on your financial need, costs to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. To apply, complete the FAFSA.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students finance the costs of postsecondary education. Students can receive these grants at any one of approximately 3,800 participating postsecondary institutions. When making FSEOG awards, the institution must give priority to those students with “exceptional need” (those with the lowest Expected Family Contributions, or EFCs, at the institution) and those who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients.
Other federal grants are also available, such as the TEACH Grant to help you pay for college if you plan to become a teacher in a high-need field in a low-income area. The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching.
As a condition for receiving a TEACH Grant, you must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve in which you agree to (among other requirements) teach in a high-need field, at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families, and for at least four complete academic years within eight years after completing (or ceasing enrollment in) the course of study for which you received the grant.
If your parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan, you may be eligible for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Two Orders of Focus
In general, the state of Montana provides two types of student financial aid packages: 1) Merit-focused, and 2) Low-income, or Need-based. Merit-focused aid is geared to address prospective and current students who display unique abilities, characteristics, skills, and talent. Need-based, is, as it sounds, for those showing a greater financial need.
The student is not required to pay back the funds received through these “free” programs. Grant and work/study programs are need based, while scholarships tend to be merit based.
Montana State Grants Come In Two Formats
The state of Montana offers two resources for state funded college grants. Each type of grant is awarded via the associated financial aid division of the participating university. These resources are:
- The Montana Higher Education Grant (MHEG) is the original state appropriated need based grant program in Montana. Funds are awarded to Montana resident students who demonstrate exceptional financial need as determined by the FAFSA. During the 2010-2011 award year, over $600,000 was awarded to more than 1,000 students. Early FAFSA filing is encouraged, as funding for the MHEG program is limited.
- The Montana Tuition Assistances Program (MTAP) is the largest state appropriated need based grant program in Montana. MTAP awards are known as Baker Grants in honor of Dr. Jeffrey D. Baker, Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education from 1993-1996.This grant is awarded, based on need, to Montana resident students who have earned at least 500 times the Federal hourly minimum wage. For the 2011-2012 award year a student must have earned at least $3,625 during the previous calendar year. Recipients must also have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), calculated by the FAFSA, of less than 8,050. The purpose of this grant is to offset any Federal Pell Grant dollars the student may have lost due to earned wages. The 2010-2011 award year saw over $2 million awarded to over 2,400 students. Early FAFSA filing is encouraged, as funding for the MTAP Baker Grant program is limited.
Under the conditions for filing a MHEG or MTAP grant application, a student must have prior acceptances from the admissions office of their chosen college.
The higher education facilities participating in the Montana MHEG and MTAP grant plans are part of the MUS
Additional Free Aid Resources
In addition to grants, “free” tuition relief can be found in the form of student tuition waivers, work study and scholarships.
Student Tuition Waivers
Tuition waivers eliminate tuition costs charged to a qualifying student. They do not, however, waive any other charges. Tuition waivers cannot be combined.
Tuition waivers can be used by the following groups of students:
- Montana High School Honor Scholarship
- National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalists
- American Indian Student Tuition Waiver
- Montana Honorable Discharged Veterans
- Senior Citizens
- Dependents of Faculty/Staff
- Surviving Spouse or Child of a MT Firefighter or Peace Officer
- War Orphans
- Dependents of Prisoners of War
Work study is a type of financial aid based on need where the student works a part time job on campus, or for certain approved off-campus employers. You must file a FAFSA to be considered for work study.
In general, work study is an earn-as-you-go type of aid. That is, students earn money as they work the hours, rather than a single lump sum. Students work 19 hours per week or less. Employers often allow flexibility to accommodate class schedules. Your income is not credited towards your bill, instead students receive a paycheck on a semi-monthly basis.
Applying for Work Study
Funding is limited and awarded on need as well as a first-come, first-served basis. Your FAFSA must be submitted early in the New Year and be processed by February 15th to be considered for a work study award.
Scholarships are another form of “free” aid - aid given on the basis of academic merit. Though scholarships vary quite a bit on criteria, award, and duration, they all share one common factor: they are free money for your education.
The University of Montana alone offers the following scholarship opportunities:
- Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarships
- The Presidential Leadership Scholarship (PLS)
- Outside Donor
- Montana Resident Entering Student
- Non-Resident Entering Student
- The National Merit Scholarship
- National and International Scholarships for all UM Students
- The Horatio Alger Montana Scholarship Program
- Departmental Scholarships
- UM General Scholarship for Currently Enrolled Students
- The University of Montana Matched Education Savings Account (MESA) Program
- ROTC Incentives
- Athletic Scholarships
- Departmental Use Resources
So you can see there are several options available to help with your funding needs. So, stay diligent, apply to everything that you have any chance of qualifying for, and hopefully this will start to lead you down the path to higher education.