Financial Aid 101

We understand that cost is frequently a major factor in choosing a college.  Virginia private colleges are committed to being affordable for most students through various forms of financial aid.

Attending a private college is financially possible for most students due to the availability of diverse financial aid packages. These packages are comprised of need-based and non-need-based assistance, sourced from a variety of programs and institutions.

What’s the difference?

Need-based financial assistance is available from a number of sources, and is not limited to families with low incomes.  We strongly encourage all families to apply for financial aid regardless of income.

Non-need-based financial assistance includes institutional grants, academic scholarships, on-campus employment, low-interest loans, and tuition payment plans.

What types of financial aid are available?

In order to understand financial aid, you must learn the many sources that are available. Financial aid for Virginia private college students and their families comes in these main forms:


Grants, based on need or sometimes merit, are financial assistance to make education more affordable and make up the difference between college costs and what a family can afford to pay.

  • Institutional grants are provided by individual colleges to make education affordable. The Financial Aid office at each institution can explain the application procedures and the type of aid available. Many times, this information can also be found on the website of each college. For need-based grants, amounts are determined based on a completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA) or the CSS Profile. Some institutional grants come with special privileges or obligations, so it’s important to find out more about the types of grants you are awarded.
  • Federal grants, like the Federal PELL Grant and the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG), are designed for students from low to middle-income families.
    State grants like the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program (VTAG) are designed to assist Virginia residents who attend accredited private, non-profit colleges and universities in Virginia.


Scholarships are financial aid that do not have to be repaid.

Typically, they are awarded according to some criteria such as academic or athletic achievement, cultural or religious background, service, etc. Many private organizations offer scholarships.

Students can find scholarships through resources like Fast Web and

Note: Avoid scholarship offers that charge fees, ask for credit card or checking account information, or guarantee scholarships.


Low-interest educational loans, which must be repaid, are available from government and private lenders.

Notable programs include the Federal Perkins Loan and the Federal Stafford Loan Program, which cater to different financial needs and situations.


This form of tuition assistance is aid that you earn.  The federal government and many colleges offer work-study programs that provide part-time jobs to help students cover the cost of their education.

What plans are available to save for college?

529 plans can be applied to any Virginia private college. These plans are operated by a state or educational institution and offer income tax breaks, benefits, and advantages.  The Virginia529 College Savings Plan sponsors several types of savings programs, and you can find more information at their website here.

There are also a variety of tax credits, deductions, and other plans available to assist with the expense of higher education. For more information, please visit the Internal Revenue Service Tax Benefits for Education publication.