Paying for college can prove challenging for any college student; however, Christian college students often face a variety of hardships even beyond the financial burden of earning a degree. Secular colleges may not offer Christian students the resources they need to uphold their own moral values and may also lack academic programs concentrated in ministry, theology, and religious studies that a Christian student may want to further their careers. Additionally, many students inaccurately assume that a Christian college offering specialized programs costs too much. For students looking to earn a degree that leads to a career in ministry or Church service, pursuing Christian college scholarships serves as a key part of the application process.
Christian students not only qualify for the same need-based federal aid as other students, but they may also benefit from specialized scholarships at Christian colleges
Schools, individuals, and the government make financial aid available to students in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study jobs, and loans. Christian students not only qualify for the same need-based federal aid as other students, but they may also benefit from specialized scholarships at Christian colleges -- including qualifying for awards that require applicants to testify to their faith, submit recommendations from their local pastor, and demonstrate community service experience in their local congregation. Many Christian college scholarships encourage students to maintain a wholesome lifestyle and integrate spirituality into the college experience.
This guide walks you through the different types of financial aid available to students attending Christian colleges, including a list of available scholarships.
Filling Out the FAFSA
When considering financial aid -- including Christian college scholarships -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, should serve as the starting point. The majority of schools require the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for institutional scholarships and other awards. The FAFSA also serves as part of the application process for work-study opportunities, grants, and loans offered by banks, non-profit organizations, private companies, and corporations.
Every student should fill out the FAFSA, even those who assume they will not qualify because of income, age, or GPA status. Students may complete the FAFSA any time between October 1 and June 30, though the Department of Education recommends that students complete the form as early as possible to qualify for any first-come, first-serve opportunities. Individual states and schools supporting their own Christian college scholarships may list seperate deadlines within this window. Students must complete a new FAFSA form each year to determine eligibility for all programs.
Information Needed for the FAFSA
Driver’s License Number
Students should provide a current driver's license number as an additional form of identification, supplementing the applicant's social security number and confirming their identity in the U.S.
Federal Tax Information
An applicant must submit their federal tax information in the form of an IRS form 1040, 1040EZ, or 1040A; a foreign tax return for students living outside of the U.S.; or a tax return for income earned in a non-mainland U.S. territory -- such as Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Records of Untaxed Income
A student must include records of any untaxed income for themselves -- or for their parents if the applicant is a legal dependent. Examples include child support, military veterans noneducation benefits, and interest income.
Social Security Number
Students needs to supply their Social Security number to complete the FAFSA. Though undocumented students do not hold a social security number, DACA students do, meaning they can complete and submit the FASFA. Applicants should submit either their parents' social security numbers if they live as dependents or their alien registration number if they do not possess U.S. citizenship.
Information on Assets
An applicant must report all assets related to their financial status, for themselves or their parents, if they live as a dependent, including non-income sources such as cash deposits, bank account balances, investment stocks and bonds, real estate investments, and farm/business assets.
Determining Your Financial Need
A major part of funding your education includes calculating your financial need for college. Your estimated of cost of attendance, or COA, includes tuition and fees; books, supplies, and transportation; room and board; child care and disability services (if applicable); and study-abroad program costs (if necessary). Many schools provide a COA estimate for the number of years or semesters a student attends.
Your expected family contribution, or EFC, also plays a role in determining college costs. Your college's financial aid staff needs your completed FAFSA form to determine your exact EFC. Your EFC is calculated by adding your (or your family's) taxed and untaxed income and assets, as well as any federal or state benefits, including social security or unemployment. The formula also takes into account the size of your family and the number of family members enrolled or planning to enroll in college that year.
To determine your financial need, subtract your EFC from your COA. Based on this figure, you may qualify for need-based aid, including:
- Work-Study Programs
- Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Perkins Loan
- Direct Subsidized Loan
Schools use a different formula to determine your maximum allowance of non-need-based aid, calculated by subtracting the financial aid you have received to-date from your COA. Non-need-based federal aid options include:
- Teacher Education Access for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- Federal PLUS Loan
In addition to federal aid programs, students may seek out merit-based Christian college scholarships and other non-need-based awards from private funding sources.
Sources of Financial Aid
State Financial Aid
Scholarships from Private Organizations
Types of Financial Aid
The Department of Education (ED) offers a variety of loan repayment options for federal loans. When establishing the terms of a federal student loan, a student may choose how they want to repay it. Options include standard, extended, and graduated repayment plans, allowing students to repay over successively longer periods. Income-driven and income-sensitive repayment plans calculate a student's monthly payments according to their income. Lenders automatically enroll students who do not specify their preferred method of repayment in the standard plan. Visit the repayment estimator calculator to explore your options.
For students held hostage to a bimonthly paycheck schedule, their loan servicer may allow them to change their payment due date and/or repayment plan. For students with multiple federal loans, a direct consolidation loan may serve as a smart option; it allows them to make one monthly payment on their combined loan balances. As a last resort, a student unable to make any payments on their loans may qualify for postponement through a forbearance or deferment option.
Depending on the individual terms of a loan or the type of loan, a student may qualify for loan forgiveness. Some circumstances allow for a lawful discharge of federal student loans, meaning a student does not need to repay the balance. For example, if a school closes or falsifies the student's eligibility for the loan, or the student passes away, they do not need to repay the balance. However, loan forgiveness does not apply to students who voluntarily withdraw from their course of study or cannot find employment in their interest area after graduation.
Students in certain occupations or who fulfill select obligations of their repayment plans may qualify for forgiveness of direct, Perkins, and Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs). For example, teachers who complete five years of full-time experience in a low-income school after graduation may qualify for forgiveness on a portion of their subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans. Students who made at least 120 payments on their direct loans while employed full-time by a qualifying government or nonprofit organization may enjoy public loan forgiveness.
Some lenders may offer loan forgiveness or similar incentives for students who commit to performing a certain service or filling a particular position after graduation. For Christian college scholarships, for example, some lenders may discharge a student from payments after they serve a minimum number of years in the ministry.
Which Type of Loan is Best?
While the ED offers several federal loan options, students can also use private loans offered by independent lenders such as banks and financial firms. Though the terms of a private loan may seem comparable, they should serve as a last-resort option for students seeking financial aid, as borrowers do not enjoy any regulation from the ED.
Depending on your eligibility, you may qualify for one or more federal programs, including the Perkins, direct-subsidized, direct-unsubsidized, or federal-PLUS loan
As a rule, students should fill out the FAFSA and explore all options for federal college aid before considering a private loan. Depending on your eligibility, you may qualify for one or more federal programs, including the Perkins, direct-subsidized, direct-unsubsidized, or federal-PLUS loan. You may also maximize your financial aid by seeking out merit-based Christian college scholarships.
In rare cases, scholarships for Christian students require applicants to testify to their faith in order to qualify for an award. A private lender that prefers to do business with other like-minded Christian professionals may offer loans specifically to Christian college students. Each applicant should use their better judgement when considering a private student loan.
Financial Aid for Graduate Students
The ED offers a wealth of options for graduate and professional learners. While some graduate and post-graduate students may not qualify for the same grants and scholarships as undergraduate students, they do enjoy other benefits exclusive to professionals earning a degree. For example, many employers offer incentives to workers that go back to school to complete a graduate-level degree or training program. The TEACH grant program boasts success in providing teaching students with a direct path to a career by incentivizing a vocation in education.
Graduate students also qualify for federal work-study programs -- ideal for a student looking for a financial aid option that provides them with field experience. Graduate students may also seek funding in the form of a Pell Grant, through state agencies targeting their county of residence or a particular academic program, or through scholarships for Christian colleges. The Department of Education also offers graduate students the option of taking out a direct PLUS loan, designed to meet the needs of students whose education costs exceed their maximum allowance for a subsidized loan. Even still, many students prefer grants and scholarships for Christian colleges first, as "free" educational funding. The list below offers some of the nation's best Christian college scholarships.