Many Virginia educational grants and loans are available if you want to continue your education, regardless of your age or previous educational background. However, the VA grants and loans for which you qualify depends upon your income, age, physical status and preferred area of study. For example, special grants and loans are available if you plan to attend one of Virginia's many community colleges, while other forms of aid are available if you plan to study a particular field, such as nursing. As a Virginia student, you may also qualify for federal grant and loan assistance instead of, or in addition to, VA student loans and grants. In order to find educational grants and loans for which you qualify, you must first understand how loans and grants are distributed in Virginia. Below is information about how Virginia loans and grants are administered, popular types of loans and grants and how you can apply for the loan or grant of your choice.
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
The distribution of many Virginia student loans and grants is indirectly overseen by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Although SCHEV is the agency in charge of such grants, it allows Virginia's individual colleges to determine how student loans and grants available through the state are approved and distributed. SCHEV works closely with each Virginia college to ensure that scholarships, grants and other forms of aid are distributed fairly and efficiently.
The Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program
The Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP) can provide you with financial assistance if you qualify. In order to receive VGAP assistance, you must have a high school diploma or prove that you completed a homeschool equivalent, and you must have done so with a 2.5 grade point average or greater. The VA college you attend will determine the amount of assistance given under VGAP for your first year. You will qualify for additional years of VGAP assistance only if you maintain a high academic standing with a grade point average equivalent of 2.0 or greater and continue to qualify based on your financial status in each consecutive year.
The Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program
If you plan to attend a private college in VA then you may qualify for Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program (VTAG) assistance. You can obtain a VTAG grant as long as you are planning to go into one of the accepted health-related fields for VTAG recipients, which excludes theological studies. In order to qualify you must also be enrolled in the private college as a full-time student and be able to prove both citizenship and Virginia residency upon enrollment.
The Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP)
VMSDEP is a Virginia education grant program for students enrolling in VA public colleges. You may qualify for VMSDEP assistance if you are the spouse or child of a member of the military who was either disabled, taken prisoner, killed or declared missing in action during military service. In order to qualify for VMSDEP assistance as a child of such a military member you must be at least 16 years of age and no older than 29 years of age.
As a VMSDEP recipient you will receive free tuition and the VMSDEP grant will cover all of your mandatory schooling fees. Fees covered under VMSDEP do not include your enrollment and initial application fees. You may also be eligible for additional VMSDEP assistance to cover added living expenses during your college stay, but not all colleges provide such VMSDEP stipends depending on their budget allotments.
The Virginia Commonwealth Award
The Virginia Commonwealth Award is a grant you may be able to collect if you are a graduate student or undergraduate student attending a Virginia public college. The VCA grant amount you will receive will depend on the policies put in place by your college and your level of need as determined by your college. If you are an undergraduate than the most assistance you can receive through a VCA will be the cost of your tuition and some of the associated required fees. If you are a graduate student, then you may be eligible to receive additional VCA assistance from your chosen college.
Applying for Financial Aid in Virginia
When you apply for any form of Virginia educational grant or loan you should begin at the financial aid department of your chosen college. The Virginia community colleges have a joint website and pooled resources which can guide you in your financial aid search if you plan to attend a community college. If, on the other hand, you intend to attend one of Virginia's larger private colleges, you will have to talk to a representative from your chosen college's financial aid department for information on monetary assistance.
Since most forms of Virginia financial aid are distributed through each college, a financial aid representative should be able to explain all of your state-based financial aid options to you. However, you will also have to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form before you can qualify for most VA student loans or grants. Completion of the FAFSA form may also qualify you for additional federal financial assistance.
If you still require more student loan information, the Virginia Department of Education can assist you, particularly if you are looking for field-based scholarship information. For example, information on obtaining special Virginia financial aid when pursuing the teaching profession is available through the DOE. Other fields, such as medicine, also offer special grant and loan programs for Virginia students.