Paying for College

Paying for college can be intimidating and is a common reason people do not think they can return to college. But it doesn’t have to be!

There are many types of financial aid that can help make your college journey possible. Below is basic information about the types of financial aid that you may qualify for – including grants, scholarships, loans, and more.

Every college and university has a financial aid office with people who are there to help. You do not need to figure this all out on your own. Talk to the financial aid office at the college or university you are attending or hope to attend and ask them to help you put together a package of financial aid that meets your needs.

Financial Aid

No matter what type or amount of financial aid you are interested in, the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at This application will determine your eligibility for a variety of federal financial aid programs are available to both full-time and part-time students. The three main types of federal financial aid are grants, loans, and work-study awards. Learn more.

If you are not eligible to apply for aid through the FAFSA, consider completing the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). Learn more and download the application (available in English and Spanish).


Grants are a type of financial aid you do not have to pay back.

Below are some common types of grants. Grants are usually awarded based on financial need. Talk to the financial aid office at your institution about other grants you may qualify for.


Scholarships are another type of financial aid you do not have to pay back.

Scholarships are granted based on different criteria, which may include things like grades, your field of study, or your experience or background. Some universities even offer scholarships specifically for returning adult students. To find out more information about scholarship opportunities, check with the financial aid office of your college or university.


Loans are a type of financial aid you borrow and must pay back with interest.*

Federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans* are loans from the federal government for eligible students that help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school. The U.S. Department of Education offers eligible students at participating schools Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. To apply for these loans, complete the FAFSA.

Since 1965, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has provided low-interest loans for students who are Texas residents and are eligible to pay in-state tuition. Learn more and apply for these loans at

Private student loans are also available. Learn more about the differences between loan types.

*Federal loans may qualify for different repayment and forgiveness programs. Speak to the financial aid department at your college about these options.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs provide eligible students with part-time jobs to enable them to attend college while earning a paycheck. The money you earn through work-study is yours -- you do not have to pay it back.

Learn more about Federal Work-Study programs or about the Texas College Work-Study Program.

Exemptions and Waivers

Exemptions are a type of financial assistance allowing some Texas residents to attend a public college or university in Texas without paying tuition or, in some cases, tuition and fees.

Waivers are a type of financial aid that may remove or reduce some or part of a student’s tuition and/or fees.

To find out if you qualify for exemptions or waivers, speak with the financial aid office at your institution.