Understanding Federal Student Aid for Graduate Programs


The central mission of Federal Student Aid is to guarantee that all qualifying Americans benefit from federal financial assistance—grants, loans, and work-study programs—for college after high school. Federal Student Aid services are the nation’s primary provider of student financial assistance: during the 2010-11 academic year alone, Federal Student Aid delivered about $144 billion in new aid to almost 15 million post-secondary students and their families. In addition to Washington, D.C. headquarters, a workforce of 1,200 is located in 10 cities.

When administering $864 billion in deferred student debt, Federal Student Assistance guarantees that all stakeholders in the student care community—schools, program providers, and security agencies—work equally, honestly, and effectively. Another main position the association plays is to ensure that students and their families are aware that financial support is available and that it is a significant first step into higher education. Federal Student Aid distributes a variety of magazines, both in print and online, and maintains a number of customer contact centers. Much of these services are also offered in Spanish.

The Federal Student Aid Team is committed to making schooling outside high school more available to all Americans, regardless of their socio-economic status.

What is Federal Student Aid (FSA)?

The primary source of student financial aid in the United States is Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the United States Department of Education. In the form of grants, loans, and work-study accounts, Federal Student Aid offers student financial assistance. The FSA is a performance-based organization and was the first PBO in the US government to be created.

The creation, delivery, and processing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the standard qualifying form used for all federal student aid distribution services, as well as for many state, municipal, and private student aid programs, is also the responsibility of Federal Student Aid. About 22 million FAFSAs are collected per year by Federal Student Assistance workers. In addition, Federal Student Assistance is responsible for administering the laws and regulations on financial aid required by the 1965 Higher Education Act and the U.S. Education Department and handling the remaining portfolio of federal student loans.

Types of Federal Student Aid available for the Master’s Program

Graduate or professional students may be eligible to receive aid from the following federal student aid programs:

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan(Direct Loan) Program

That is the biggest program for federal student loans. ED is the lender in this scheme, rather than a bank or other financial entity. There are two types of Direct Loans that can be obtained from the college or technical students enrolled in a degree or credential program:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans—Up to $20,500 each school year can be lent by qualifying students. In an academic year, graduate or skilled students participating in some health care professional programs may earn extra Direct Unsubsidized Loan amounts. For more information, you call your school’s financial assistance office.
  • Direct PLUS Loans—A PLUS loan may be applied for by qualifying college or technical students who need to repay more than the maximum amount of unsubsidized loans to cover their tuition costs. During the application process, a credit check will be done.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

The TEACH Grant Program offers students who are undertaking or preparing to complete the coursework necessary to begin a teaching career with grants of up to $4,000 a year. This policy is different from most federal student loans because it allows you to take some kinds of courses to receive a grant, and then do some sort of service to prevent the grant from being made into a loan. You should visit StudentAid.gov/teach to learn more about this service.

Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program

For undergraduate and graduate students with financial requirements, the FWS Initiative offers part-time jobs. This program allows you to raise funds to help pay for college costs and supports internship and work related to your course of study through community service.

Federal Pell Grant

A Pell Grant would not have to be repaid, unlike a loan. You could be entitled to earn one if you are enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program. Amounts can change annually.

Who is eligible for Federal Student Aid for the Master’s Program?

  • Display financial necessity (for the majority of programs);
  • Be a resident of the United States or an eligible non-citizen;
  • Get a valid Social Security number (with the exception of students from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, or the Republic of the Marshall Islands);
  • If you’re a male, register with Selective Service (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25);
  • Be enrolled as a regular student in a qualified degree or diploma program or approved for enrollment;
  • Enroll to be considered for Direct Loan Program funds at least half-time;
  • Maintaining adequate academic progress in college or technical school;
  • sign the certification statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®) form stating that
    • you are not in default on a federal student loan,
    • you do not owe money on a federal student grant, and
    • you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes; and
  • Display that you are eligible to study in college or career school by
    • A high school diploma or a recognized equivalent, such as a certificate of General Educational Development (GED);
    • Completion of high school education in a home-school setting permitted under state law (or – if state law does not mandate a home-school student to receive a certificate – completion of high school education in a home-school setting that counts as an exception from state law compulsory attendance requirements);

How do I apply for Federal Student Aid for the Master’s Program?

Gather Your Information

You’ll be asked to include some details as you fill out the FAFSA. By getting all the relevant paperwork and documentation on hand, you can speed up the process. You should have:

  1. Your Social Security number
  2. Your family size and income
  3. Your personal income (if any)
  4. The list of colleges you’re applying to

Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

Your next move is to generate an FSA ID by registering for the FAFSA online or with a smartphone app. This is a unique identifier used each year you are in college to complete the FAFSA. Creation takes about 10 minutes, and it can be completed fully online. Students have their own special FSA ID. Your FSA ID would be different from that of your child if you’re a parent.

Fill in Student Information

You can start the FAFSA online or via the app once you have got your FSA ID. Choose the form that you most likely wish to complete in the next school year, and begin to fill out the demographic portion of the student. Your information, such as your name, age, and date of birth, is asked for in this segment.

You’ll also be asked to join the schools that you choose to attend. Be sure that you enter all schools that you consider so that you receive the full assistance that you are eligible to receive from each one.

For the dependence portion, for financial assistance purposes, you will be asked questions deciding whether or not you are dependent on your parents.

Enter Parent Information

You need to insert details about your parents after you’ve finished the student section. And if you are not actually staying with your parents, this portion also has to be finished. You will be asked by the form to enter their names, mailing addresses, and other records.

Provide Your Financial Information

First, you need to include financial information for your family, including your salary and that of your parents. You should use the IRS Data Extraction Service when filing for FAFSA online, which automatically collects the appropriate data from your tax return.

Review Your FAFSA

Make sure that you check the FAFSA for any mistakes or errors before sending it. Double-check the number of schools you have joined, as well as the financial records.

Sign and Submit Your FAFSA form

When you’re confident all of the details are right, you can sign and send the form online.

How much Federal Aid can a Student get for a Master’s Program? 

Loan Program How much can you borrow?
Direct Unsubsidized Loans$20,500 per school year.
Direct PLUS LoansThe maximum PLUS loan amount you can receive is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) GrantFor any 2020-21 the maximum award is $3,772 
Federal Work-Study (FWS) ProgramFor a work-study job, you’re expected to earn at least a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. If the federal minimum wage is higher, you can receive at least the state minimum wage. The average work-study reward for qualifying students earned $1,847 in 2020 according to the annual Sallie Mae report “How America Pays for College.”
Federal Pell GrantThe maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,345 for the 2020–21 award year
Note: Amounts can change yearly.

Check out the below blog posts for more information on FAFSA.

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About sally

Sally is a freelance writer and covers STEM education Maseter's program. She has been researching on universities offerings on graduate programs and has valuable insights to offer based on her experience.

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