State financial aid doesn’t offer as much money annually as federal programs, but it is an easy way to fill any gaps between federal aid and your expected school expenses. The process begins the same way: with the submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal government forwards your information to the proper state-level organization, thus granting you access to state funding.
State programs usually have added eligibility requirements revolving around residency. For instance, you may need to live in a given state for 2-5 years before you can qualify for a state loan. Residency guidelines vary by state, and are in addition to standard loan requirements (financial need, expected family contribution, etc.).
Section 529 plans are also offered at the state level. In a nutshell, Section 529 plans are state administered programs that let you either “lock in” future college expenses at today’s rates or provides a tax-exempt savings vehicle specifically for college (depending on the state). You can find out about this type of financial aid via your state higher education board website.
What’s the next step?
Submit your FAFSA form here. This will qualify you for state financial aid loans and grants, both in-state and out-of-state. You’ll also want to research section 529 plans and specific state financial aid programs. You can find this information on the websites for your home state’s higher education department and that of your selected school.