College financial aid helps make higher education possible for most Minnesota students. It comes from many sources and supplements what students and their families can afford to pay. You need to re-apply each year.

Private colleges generally have a higher list price than public institutions, but they give a larger amount of financial aid. At Minnesota private colleges, families usually end up paying about one-third the listed tuition price. The other share is covered by financial aid that a student doesn’t have to pay back.

An essential first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is used to determine eligibility for institutional need-based grants, Federal Pell Grant awards and Minnesota State Grant awards. Completing the FAFSA is also required for students and families interested in federal loans or work study. 

  • Fill out the FAFSA as a high school senior after Oct. 1 if you are attending college the following fall.
  • The FAFSA requires up-to-date financial information from a parent or family’s tax forms from the previous year. You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your previous year's tax information.
  • Each college has a financial aid application deadline, but you have plenty of time after the FAFSA opens up to fill it out. Learn more about the process.

Each college you are accepted to sends a financial aid offer. The offer will take FAFSA information into account and include scholarships or grants from the institution that you are eligible for to the total award.

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Never assume you won’t qualify for any aid. 

The FAFSA isn’t just used to award financial aid from the federal government. States (including Minnesota) use it to determine eligibility for state student aid programs, and many colleges use it to help figure out who should receive institutional aid. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you’re literally leaving money on the table.

Main types of financial aid

  • Grants and scholarships
    At Minnesota private colleges, 96 percent of first-year students will receive grants and scholarships. This is money student do not pay back
  • Loans
    Low-interest educational loans, which must be repaid, are available from government and private lenders.
  • Work Study
    This is aid that you earn. Work study can be paid by federal government, state government, or institutional funds. Work study provides part-time on- or off-campus jobs to help students cover the cost of their education. Learn more from individual colleges or the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

And remember, always fill out the FAFSA even if you think you won't be eligible for any aid. Many students miss out on financial aid for college simply because they never applied.