Colorado is committed to higher education and works with the federal government in providing financial assistance to students. There are many programs and avenues for loans and grants in the state and each has unique qualifications. After completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA), applicants will have access to these state grants. Before applying, prospective students should ensure the desired educational institution accepts state financial aid. Most of these programs are available only at participating Colorado educational institutions. The type and amount of financial aid available varies from institution to institution so applicants should research their college of choice thoroughly. State aid is not always transferable between institutions. Continue reading the sections below for more information on educational grants and loans in Colorado.
Colorado Need-Based Awards
Colorado need-based awards are granted to those students who cannot afford to go to college using family income alone. The types of aid for which an applicant might be awarded is calculated by FAFSA using the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If an EFC qualifies, the application will be considered for need-based aid.
Because grants are awards, they do not need to be paid back. However, these awards are generally insufficient to pay the entire tuition. Awards range from $500 to $1,500 or more, and are paid on a per semester basis. Awards are intended to offset, but not completely cover the cost of attending a college or university. The grants available and the amounts they offer vary depending on the school and personal eligibility.
Fortunately for students, there are many different Colorado need-based awards, and prospective students can apply for more than one. Some of the more common are:
- The College Opportunity Fund
- Colorado Student Grant (CSG) and Colorado Graduate Grant (CGG)
- Colorado Leveraging Educational Assistance Program (CLEAP) and Supplemental Leveraging Educational Assistance Program (SLEAP)
Colorado College Opportunity Fund
The College Opportunity Fund is perhaps the most prevalent and accessible of the Colorado need-based awards. This fund grants a stipend to eligible undergraduate students while enrolled at participating institutions. The stipend’s amount is determined by how many credit hours the student undertakes. There is an upper limit to how many credit hours can be claimed but this can be bypassed if a special waiver is granted.
To be qualified for the College Opportunity Fund, a student must be an undergraduate and be considered "in-state" as it pertains to tuition. However, there is no income requirement and applicants need not be full-time students. If an applicant is seeking to attend a private Colorado university, the student must have graduated high school in Colorado or achieved an equivalent degree from the state of Colorado.
Colorado Work Study
The Colorado Work Study (CWS) program offers job opportunities to graduate or undergraduate students in need to help offset the cost of college or university. It works similar to the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, and CWS may offer awards in addition to those granted through the FWS. Work study is typically part of a bigger loan, and the work done through work study acts as a payback for that loan in addition to providing an actual paycheck. In some cases, the CWS program will still grant work to students without demonstrable financial need so they still have help with financial obligations.
The CWS will endeavor to place students in work or community service programs that relate to the students’ fields of study. CWS students are paid at least the federal minimum wage by the hour or, in some graduate student cases, a salary. The number of hours a student works is determined by how much money is awarded from the CWS, which is in turn determined by a student’s FAFSA.
Generally, the work takes place through non-profit organizations or public agencies. The work a student does must benefit the public in some way. At some schools, it is possible to work for private companies if the work relates well to the student’s field of study.
Dependent Tuition Assistance Program
This program works similar to the federal Dependents Education Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to the dependents of veterans or servicemembers who died or were permanently disabled in the line of duty. The benefits are more comprehensive and are generally put toward offsetting the cost of tuition.
The Colorado Dependent Tuition Assistance Program extends these benefits to the dependents of law enforcement, fire and National Guard personnel who died or were permanently disabled in the line of duty. Dependents of National Guard personnel who are listed as missing in action or as a prisoner of war are also eligible.
Colorado National Guard Tuition Assistance Program
The Colorado National Guard Tuition Assistance Program offers a way to reward service in the Colorado National guard by paying tuition. Up to 100 percent of tuition costs can be paid depending on which institution is chosen. All members of the Colorado National Guard and Air National Guard are generally eligible for the program though other requirements must be met.
There is a cap on how much will be paid for an applicant’s tuition, but if the applicant is eligible for federal tuition reimbursement from the armed forces such as GI Bill funding the funds can be combined to cover the entirety of the tuition cost. Additionally, eligibility may vary depending on other grants and scholarships a student is awarded.