How Much Financial Aid Can I Get Per Semester?

Sara Lindberg Updated on May 14, 2018

If you're trying to figure out how to pay for college, you may be wondering how much aid you can get from federal, state, and institutional sources.

While state and school-specific funding can vary greatly, federal aid is pretty uniform. Let's talk about the types of federal aid and how much you may be able to expect. 

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How much federal grant aid can you get?

If you qualified for federal grant aid, you will be able to use that money towards your college costs and not have to pay it back. However, the amount of federal grant aid you can get per semester has a maximum limit. 

Federal Pell Grants

The amounts for Pell Grants can change yearly, but the maximum award for the 2017-2018 award year was $5,920. The amount you are actually eligible for will depend on factors such as your financial need, cost of attendance, and student status.

If you qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, your total award for the year will be split between semesters during each school year. For example, if you’re eligible for $3,000, you will receive $1,500 for fall semester an $1,500 for spring semester. 

Federal Supplemental Education Opporunity Grant 

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. If you qualify, you may be eligible to receive up to $4,000 annually (i.e., for the entire school year).

Funds depend on the availability of the school. Not all schools participate in this program. Check with the financial aid office at your school for more information. 

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant 

If you plan on taking coursework that leads to a degree in elementary or secondary education/teaching, you may be eligible for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH).

If you qualify, you have to be willing to teach in a high-need field or school for four years (within eight years of graduating). The maximum award amount for the 2017-2018 academic year was $3,736. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

You may be eligible for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant if you have a parent or guardian who was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of performing military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.

However, you must be ineligible for a federal Pell Grant in order to receive this grant. Plus, you must have been younger than 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time at a college or career school at the time of the parent’s or guardian’s death. The maximum award amount for the 2017-2018 academic year was $5, 529. 

See also: How to Read Your Financial Aid Award Letter

How much federal loan aid can you get?

Qualifying for federal student loans can be a big help when paying for college. These loans are generally offered at a lower interest rate than private student loans and come with helpful repayment options like income-driven repayment. 

Federal Perkins Loans

This is a school-based loan program. You may able to borrow up to $5,500 per year in Perkins Loans depending on financial need, amount of other aid you receive, and the availability of funds at your school. 

Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

If you're eligible, both of these federal loans can help you pay for college.

The government pays your interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan while you’re in school, for the first six months after you leave school, and during a period of deferment. 

If you don’t qualify for a subsidized loan, you may be able to receive funds through a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. But with this loan, the government does not pay your interest. You are responsible for paying the interest during all periods. 

This table from the U.S. Department of Education includes maximum yearly amounts for each type of loan. You'll see the total for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. 

Federal loan limits

Federal Direct PLUS Loans for Parents

Like the name says, this loan is intended for parents to take out on behalf of their child. That is, the loan will be in the parent’s name.

Unlike some of the other loans, there is no fixed dollar amount on a Parent PLUS loan. The maximum you can borrow is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial assistance received. 

Can federal financial aid amounts vary from school to school?

This seemingly simple question has a bit of a complicated answer.

Generally speaking, federal aid, such as that awarded through a Pell Grant, will be the same amount at every school. There are instances where a school may not verify the Pell Grant amount until you commit to a school. This verification process is essentially to double check your FAFSA for accuracy. So it's possible that the Pell Grant award may change after the verification.
 
Subsidized loan offer amounts may vary by school.
 
FSEOG awards are distributed to Pell Grant recipients at the school's discretion, allowing the school to assist and attract certain students. This award may also vary from school to school. 


If you'd like to get a general estimate of the federal financial aid you might be eligible for, check out the FAFSA4caster financial aid calculator on the U.S. Department of Education's website.

If you're getting ready to apply for financial aid, don't forget to use our free FAFSA Question Guide. We'll walk you through every question on the FAFSA to help you complete the application faster and claim your maximum amount of financial aid.  

Published in: How to Pay for College

About the Author
Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg, B.S., M.Ed., is a freelance writer specializing in business, finance, health, and wellness. She holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Exercise Science and a Master's Degree in Counseling. When she’s not writing, Sara can be found at the gym lifting weights, running the back roads to train for her next half-marathon, and spending time with her husband and two children. Read more by Sara Lindberg

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