There are a number of student aid programs offered by federal and state governments.
Federal Pell Grant:
The Federal Pell Grant is administered by the United States Education Department. The grant provides financial assistance to students who want to pursue post-secondary education, but cannot afford to do it on their own. The grant has some basic eligibility criteria. The chief among these is the annual income of the family of a student. At present a student whose family earns less than $30,000 a year is eligible for an award under this scheme. This criterion is applicable to all including single mom students too but here the individual income is taken into consideration. The best part about a Federal Pell Grant is that it does not have to be repaid. A student will receive the aid after the authorities ascertain his/her eligibility, up to a maximum limit of $5,400.
More information about the Pell Grant is available at http://www.2012pellgrant.com/
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: The FSEO program provides grants for college students who have exceptional financial needs. The grants, which are administered by colleges, range from $100 to $4,000 a year. Not all schools participate, however.
Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education: The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching. Recipients must sign an agreement promising to teach in a high-need field; at a school that serves low-income students; and to teach for at least four academic years within eight years of completing the course of study for which they receive the grant. Failure to fulfill these promises will convert the grant into a loan, which must be repaid.
Federal Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: These grants are offered to students who have lost a parent in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Federal loans: Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate and graduate students, but in this case, the student does not have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the loan.
Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid.
Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.
The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a school-based loan program for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Under this program, the school is the lender.
STATE AID: The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, State Grants and Special Programs: (800) 692-7392 or access the website at http://www.pheaa.org/
School-based aid: Students should contact their school's financial aid office to find out about any grants or scholarships offered. They should also talk with the department for the their field of study, and research civic organizations that offer scholarships or grants.
Sallie Mae is a national financial company specializing in education. It offers a variety of student loans. Sallie Mae's website can be accessed at https://www.salliemae.com/