VSAC Resources Ease the Journey to Finding Educational Funding

Written by
Stephen Mease

Date
November 16, 2022

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Are you looking for ways to help pay for your education or training after high school? Financial aid is money that a student receives to help pay for college or career training expenses. 

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) is here to assist you in getting all the funding you’re eligible for to help you pay for your education. VSAC offers a wide range of online resources, counseling, step-by-step assistance, and plenty of encouragement to help you plan for college or training, whether you’re a high school senior or an adult learner ready to update your skills for a new career. 

Here are five ways to get started:

Fill out the FAFSA 

All types of financial aid — including Vermont grants and VSAC-assisted scholarships — require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You don’t have to know what you want to do after high school or where you want to get your training to complete a FAFSA. It keeps your options open. Not filing a FAFSA is the same as saying you can afford to pay the whole cost of college or training yourself.

Remember, the government FAFSA is free. Making sure you're on sites that end in dot-gov, will ensure that you're not paying for any service or application.

You need to file a FAFSA form every year if you wish to be considered for financial aid. The first time you fill it out, it may take a little longer — but still, likely less than an hour. When you complete it again in future years, a lot of the information is saved in the system, so it’s quicker and easier. 

Have a FAFSA question? Call VSAC’s toll-free FAFSA helpline at (833) 802-8722 (Monday–Friday, 8
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Call VSAC’s toll-free FAFSA helpline at 833-802-8722 (Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Watch our recorded webinars
 for the FAFSA, grants, and scholarships; view our FAFSA Completion Guide or contact us for one-on-one help. Fall FAFSA Filing Drop-In hours will be available through January 2023 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at VSAC, 10 East Allen St. in Winooski. Stop by to work independently on your FAFSA and ask questions to VSAC staff as they arise. Virtual FAFSA Friday appointments are also available. You can see all available openings for FAFSA Fridays and in-person FAFSA help at VSAC here. [Link to https://calendly.com/resourcecenter-1]

Get a Vermont Grant

VSAC is your resource for Vermont grants. Grant amounts vary by student and by year, depending on available funding and financial need. This free “gift aid” is awarded based on financial need, so you don’t need to pay them back. But you DO need to apply. Because applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis, the earlier you apply, the better[EHS1] 

There are three kinds of grants you can use for your education or training:

  • STATE GRANT: If you're a Vermont resident, you may be eligible to receive grant money from the state through VSAC. When you apply for your Vermont grant, you’ll also need to submit the FAFSA. Tip: From the FAFSA confirmation page, you can click on the Vermont grant. FAFSA info will be pulled into the grant application, saving you time, and typing.
  • FEDERAL GRANTS:  Pell grants, FSEOG grants, TEACH grants, and Iraq & Afghanistan service grants from the U.S. Department of Education. 
     
  • COLLEGE GRANTS: Available from your education institution. Contact your college’s financial aid office to ask what applications need to be filed. Be sure to look for financial aid deadlines and additional forms that may be required. 

  Find out more about Vermont grants, as well as federal and college grants, at vsac.org/grants.

Consider Workforce Development Opportunities 

VSAC, in partnership with other Vermont agencies, offers grants and interest-free forgivable loans to help eligible students afford the degree or training they need to pursue the career they want.

The Vermont Legislature passed a historic bill in June 2022 that invests millions of dollars of state and federal funding into initiatives designed to address Vermont’s workforce shortage. This new funding will reduce or eliminate tuition for eligible students pursuing careers in critical fields such as skilled trades, early childhood education, nursing, mental health care, and more.

  • The 802 Opportunity grant through VSAC provides two years of free tuition at the Community College of Vermont for any Vermonter with a family-adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less annually. Get the details.
  • Workforce Development grants and forgivable loan programs. Check out all the opportunities

Apply for Scholarships 

Scholarships are offered by many different groups, organizations, and even individuals. They're offered for all kinds of attributes — and to all kinds of students. If you live in Vermont, you can take advantage of scholarships that are just for Vermonters. VSAC can help guide you through the scholarship search process. 

Every year, VSAC compiles a scholarship booklet of opportunities available to Vermont residents. Here in our state’s “small pond,” many of those scholarships receive only 100 or so applicants — which means you may have a higher chance of winning a Vermont-specific scholarship than you might if you’re competing nationwide.

This year’s booklet includes information on 120+ scholarships administered by VSAC, plus scholarships run by outside organizations. Some scholarships offer one-time awards, while others are renewable, meaning the student can receive additional financial awards for each subsequent year of study. The annual award amounts generally range from $500 to $6,000.

The application deadline is Feb. 15, 2023, for all VSAC-assisted scholarships. All these opportunities require a completed FAFSA and Unified Scholarship Application (USA), plus a general essay.

Download the 2023–2024 scholarship booklet, order a printed copy through the mail, or check with your school’s counseling office to get a copy. If you have questions, start with your school’s VSAC outreach counselor, visit vsac.org, email scholarships@vsac.org or call (888) 253-4819.

Research Education Loans  

Many students need loans to pay for education expenses after grants, scholarships, work-study, and savings. If you’re new to the world of education loans, the details can often be confusing.

There are two main options for student loans: federal (government) loans or private loans from banks, credit unions, and other lenders. You should research all your options for federal loans, also known as Direct loans, before shopping around for private loans.

As Vermont’s nonprofit state agency, VSAC can help you understand the basics of federal and “private" loans (they're not created equal). We'll also show you ways to compare options so that you can minimize your monthly payments and the amount you’ll pay in the long term. 

More ways VSAC can help

For additional information on college and career planning and help with financial aid, go to vsac.org/FAFSAfirst and check out our online workshops and events. You can also call 800-642-3177, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and visit online at info@vsac.org.