Learn About Financial Aid for Community College Students

Sadly, many students and parents assume that because tuition for junior college is “cheap," financial aid for community college students doesn’t exist. Just the opposite is true, however.

Financial aid for junior college students can come in handy for those young people most likely to benefit from attending a few years of community college prior to enrolling at a four-year college. Not only can they save a significant amount of money on their tuition costs, but also on room, board, meals, books, and transportation. It's not uncommon to need additional funding for a complete college education.​

While college costs are increasing at a rapid pace, money to pay for it is harder to find, and college costs aren't just limited to tuition. Plan ahead with this breakdown of the major financial aid programs available for community college students.

Stafford Loans

Stafford Loans can provide over $100,000 in financial aid for community college students, regardless of their family’s income or asset levels. Students that demonstrate need may receive more favorable rates and repayment terms. To qualify, you must be enrolled at least half-time and complete the FAFSA form.

The No. 1 rule in borrowing is to understand exactly how much money you are borrowing. It doesn’t matter whether you are a college senior who is trying to plan your financial future or a soon-to-be college freshman who is considering federal or private student loans to supplement the amount of college financial aid you have been granted. Not understanding their full financial commitment is a big problem for college students. 

Perkins Loans

Perkins Loans are considered the most favorable federal loan program for community college students. The rates and repayment terms offer a significant advantage over the Stafford, PLUS and private loans. To qualify, you must be enrolled half-time and show substantial financial need on your FAFSA form. This loan is for students with exceptional financial need. 

Not all schools participate in the Perkins Loan program. Contact your school's financial aid office for more information.

PLUS Loans

PLUS Loans are available to parents to help provide financial aid for community college students. Unlike Stafford and Perkins Loans, they are the parents' responsibility to repay. While rates may not be as attractive as Stafford and Perkins loans, they’re still less costly than most private loan programs. To apply for a PLUS Loan, you will most likely need to complete the FAFSA form and pass a credit check.

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are one of the most elusive forms of financial aid for community college students. This is due to the fact that these awards are “grants” that never need to be repaid. Part-time students are eligible but will receive a reduced award amount. To be considered, students need to complete the FAFSA form and show significant financial need.

State Programs

Many states offer programs that provide financial aid for community college students that are residents of that state. However, many of these programs are the first to get cut when a state experiences a budget crisis. To apply for state-based financial aid, contact your school’s financial aid office.


Numerous private organizations, nonprofits, and businesses offer scholarships for community college students. For these organizations, community college scholarships provide an opportunity to affect a large number of students with a relatively small amount of money.

Your financial situation will change every year. You will need to submit a FAFSA annually and some scholarships may expire. 

To find out about scholarships for community college students, you should talk to your community college financial aid office and search the free scholarship websites.