Paying for College

Payment Options - Grants Scholarship and LoansWhat is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is money that helps you pay for college. It is added to the amount that you and your family can afford to pay to cover the cost of your college. Merit-based financial aid is aid given to students who have special talents, skills, or abilities. Need-based financial aid is given to students who show they have financial need. Most financial aid is need-based. See Financial Aid Resources.

What kinds of financial aid are available?

  • Grants and scholarships are gift aid that you don't have to pay back. Grants are usually given because the student has financial need, while scholarships are usually given to recognize the student's academic achievement, athletic ability or other talent.
  • Loans must be repaid, usually with interest, after you graduate or stop going to school.
  • Employment, usually called work-study, lets you work and earn money to help pay for school-related expenses. These jobs are usually on-campus.

Types of State Financial Assistance Scholarship and Grant Programs


Most students receive a combination of these types of aid in a financial aid package put together by their college financial aid office.  All financial aid combined may not exceed the student's cost of education.

Who gives financial aid?  The federal and state government.

The federal government provides most student financial aid. The Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Perkins and Federal Stafford Loans, and Federal Work Study are examples of their programs. The State of Maryland has scholarship and grant programs based on a student's financial need, talents and gifts, or on career choice. Colleges and universities also have scholarships available for students. Some of the scholarships are based on need and some on talents and abilities. A number of civic organizations, associations, clubs, foundations, churches and companies also provide financial aid.

Each year, the State of Maryland awards hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to more than 57,000 Maryland residents. Maryland students use this aid at community colleges, independent colleges and universities, private career schools, and the State's 13 public four-year campuses. The Office of Student Financial Assistance, a division of the Maryland Higher Education Commissions, handles the administration of the financial aid funds.​

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