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Types of Financial Aid

Financial aid is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of programs. Your financial aid offer may include one or more such programs depending on your eligibility and the availability of funds.


Federal Pell Grant

Federal Pell Grant funds are available throughout the year. Grant funds are gift aid. Aid is made available to eligible undergraduate students who are enrolled in 3 credits or more. During the 2023-2024 year, Pell Grants will range from $750 to $7,395. The average Pell Grant received by an eligible student at SMSU during 2022-2023 was $4,302.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

This grant is awarded to a limited number of eligible students. As mandated by Federal guidelines, FSEOG awards are offered to students who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. The maximum FSEOG award at SMSU is $600. Each institution has limited funding in FSEOG. Students are encouraged to apply to complete the FAFSA application by February 15 for top consideration of these funds.

Minnesota GI Bill Program

The Minnesota GI Bill Program provides postsecondary financial assistance to eligible Minnesota veterans and service members who have served after September 11, 2001 and to the children and spouses of deceased or severely disabled eligible Minnesota veterans and service members who have served after September 11, 2001.

An applicant must be a veteran who is serving or has served honorably in any branch of the United States armed forces at any time on or after September 11, 2001 ; or a non-veteran who has served honorably for a total of five years or more cumulatively as a member of the Minnesota National Guard or any other active or reserve component of the United States armed forces, and any part of that service occurred on or after September 11, 2001 ; or a surviving spouse or dependent of a person who has served in the military at any time on or after September 11, 2001, and who has died or has a total and permanent disability as a direct result of that military service.

The student must also be a Minnesota resident; Apply for the MN GI Bill benefits before the last day of the term for which benefits are requested; be less than 62 years old before the beginning of the term for which benefits are requested; be current on child support obligations, if applicable; be enrolled in an eligible MN postsecondary institution in a certificate, diploma, or degree program; be making satisfactory academic progress in his or her academic program. 

Minnesota State Grant Program

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education annually awards grants to eligible Minnesota residents. The average State Grant received by an eligible SMSU student during 2022-2023 was $3,018. Eligibility for the MN State Grant Program is exhausted after a student has reached the equivalency of 4 years of full-time enrollment.

MN Dream Act

The Minnesota Dream Act provides certain benefits to undocumented students who meet the following criteria:
     *Attended a Mn High School for at least 3 years; and
     *Graduated from a Mn High School or earned a GED in Minnesota; and
     *Complied with Selective Service registration requirements; and
     *Provide documentation to show they applied for lawful immigration status (once a process exists)
Students who meet this criteria will be eligible to apply for Minnesota state financial aid.   More information and the application is available online at


To be eligible for the TEACH Grant, students must be completing coursework to begin a career in teaching. Undergraduate students at SMSU must be accepted into the Education program. Graduate students can be current, former, or retired teachers and must be in a Master's degree program. Students must have a 3.25 cumulative GPA to become eligible and maintain that 3.25 GPA to remain eligible. The offer is up to $3,764 per year for full time enrollment. Recipients must sign an ATS (Agreement to Serve) and commit to teaching for 4 years within 8 years of finishing their program, in a high need field at a low income school district. If this service requirement is not met the grant reverts to an Unsubsidized Loan with interest accruing back to the date of grant receipt.

Postsecondary Child Care Grant Program

The Child Care Grant program provides financial assistance to students who have children 12 and under, are not receiving assistance under the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), and who demonstrate financial need for grants, to help pay for child care while pursuing a postsecondary education.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizen; meet state residency requirements; not be recipients of MFIP; have an eligible EFC; be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree or certificate; not receive this grant for 10 or more semesters/terms as an undergraduate or graduate student; not be in default of any educational loan; be making satisfactory progress; not be receiving tuition reciprocity benefits from another state; be pursuing a nonsectarian program or course of study that applies to an undergraduate degree, diploma or certificate.

The offered amount will range from $650 to $6,500 based on EFC, and will be pro-rated by enrollment level per eligible child per academic year. The amount of the grant cannot exceed 40 hours of child care per week per eligible child. The Postsecondary Child Care Grant application must be completed and submitted to the Financial Aid Office.



Scholarships for Southwest Minnesota State University students are made possible by financial contributions received from alumni, businesses, foundations and other friends of the institution. Qualifications and eligibility requirements for scholarships vary.

Students who receive scholarships are strongly encouraged to write a thank-you letter to the individual, business or organization funding the award. Donors want to know that their money is being used to further the educational endeavors of their scholarship recipients. 

New Undergraduate Student Scholarships

The Admissions Office (Admission Office Scholarship Application) and Academic Departments offer Scholarships for New Entering and Transfer Students on campus. Please contact the appropriate area.

Continuing Undergraduate Student Scholarship

Scholarships for upperclassman are applied for online via a system called Awardspring.  Students should log in using their STARid and password to view and apply for a the many opportunities.  (Awardspring)

North Star Promise Scholarship

This is a program through the State of Minnesota that begins fall of 2024.  This scholarship is intended to cover the balance of tuition and fees AFTER all other scholarship, grants, stipends and tuition waivers have been deducted.  It is possible to be eligible for this scholarship and not receive an award if your tuition and fees are covered by other types of aid. For more information please access the North Star Promise Fact sheet by clicking this link.

To be eligible students must:

  • Be a Minnesota Resident          
  • Have a family Adjusted Gross Income below $80,000
  • Attend a Mn Public higher education institution or Tribal College
  • Not be in default on a state or federal student loan
  • Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress standards
  • Not already have a baccalaureate degree
  • Be enrolled in a program or course of study that applies to a degree, diploma or certificate

American Indian Scholars Program

The American Indian Scholars Program was established in the 2023 Minnesota Legislative Session. This program provides a first-dollar tuition and fee-free pathway for Minnesotans eligible for resident tuition who are enrolled members or citizens of any federally recognized tribe or Canadian First Nation to attend a Minnesota State institution. Students not eligible for resident tuition who are enrolled members or citizens of a Minnesota Tribal Nation are also eligible for the program.

How much money can you get?

This programs provides a first-dollar tuition and fee-free pathway for eligible students. This means your tuition and fees will be paid with the American Indian Scholars Programs.

Who is eligible?

In general, students must:

  • Be enrolled in an undergraduate certificate, diploma, or degree program at a Minnesota State institution;
  • Not have already obtained a bachelor’s degree;
  • Have fewer than 180 credits attended at the college-level; and
  • Be either a:
    • Minnesota resident who qualifies for resident tuition and an enrolled member or citizen of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe or Canadian First Nation; or
    • Student who does not qualify for resident tuition but is an enrolled member or citizen of a Minnesota Tribal Nation.

I’m eligible, what now?

Complete the American Indian Scholars application (found under forms) and submit with your tribal enrollment documentation (card or paperwork is acceptable).  Allow 2-3 weeks for processing of your application. You can view your award information in your eServices account.

Minnesota Indian Scholarship Program

The Minnesota Indian Scholarship Program provides postsecondary financial assistance to eligible Minnesota resident students who are of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry and demonstrate financial need for an award.

Scholarships are available to eligible Minnesota resident students of ¼ or more Indian ancestry attending eligible accredited institutions in Minnesota. Students are eligible to receive a scholarship for up to five years of study at the undergraduate level and an additional five years of study at the graduate level. Students in certificate, diploma or associates degree programs are eligible to receive the scholarship for no more than three years in order to reserve the remaining two years of undergraduate eligibility for the completion of a bachelors degree. Students may receive the scholarship for only one degree per undergraduate educational level and one doctorate or professional degree. The award amount is based on need up to $4,000 per year for undergraduate students and up to $6,000 for graduate students.

The on-line Minnesota Indian Scholarship application must be completed to be considered for this award.


Scholarships From Outside Sources

Scholarships offered to students from outside sources are considered a part of a students financial aid package. These scholarships are awarded to students to help defray costs related to their attendance at a post-secondary institution. Students are required to inform the Student Financial Aid Office of any scholarship awards they may be receiving from their high school, community clubs, organizations, scholarship foundations or other resources.

Students are encouraged to contact their high school, local organizations and review information located at the library regarding scholarship dollars available. A few web sites that students may want to refer to are:

Student Employment

Southwest Minnesota State University employs hundreds of students. Job responsibilities vary from lab work, to mowing, to working as a life guard, to secretarial duties, to selling tickets, to working as a tour guide. Students earn wages through two different types of programs - either work study or regular student employment.

Work Study is need based. To be considered for Federal or State Work-Study students must complete the Financial Aid Application process by March 1. Applications will be reviewed for work-study eligibility. A work-study offer indicates that the student is eligible to work and receive state or federal funding for this work. The amount listed on your award letter is the maximum amount you are eligible to earn during the school year. Work study funds are not applied to charges at the beginning of the semester.

Students who do not receive work- study are still eligible to work on campus under regular student employment.  The jobs, pay rate and wages are the same as those in the work study program.

The following information provides details about the work programs on the SMSU campus.

  • It is your responsibility to find a job you are interested in. The link below provides telephone number, office location and email address. It is the philosophy of the Financial Aid Office not to place students. We feel it is a good experience for students to locate their own job. It gives you a chance to find something you are   interested in and also provides experience for the future.  

    Work Study Job Openings

  • Once you have located employment, the department personnel will assist you in completing the necessary payroll forms. You will need to complete a student payroll authorization, I-9 form and W-4 form. Federal rules and regulations require your employer to view specific documents - your social security card, and your driver's license or birth certification. Please remember to bring these documents with you.
  • You will be paid at a rate of $12.00 per hour. Payroll will be processed every two weeks for the hours that you worked in the previous two-week period.  Earnings will be directly deposited into your checking/savings account.  Please submit your Direct Deposit Information in e-services .
  • We would like to encourage students to review the attached lists and make contacts early. It is much easier to search for a job during the summer before you arrive on campus and become busy with classes. Your employer will assist you in scheduling work hours around class time.

Assistance in locating off-campus employment is provided by the Career Services Office.


Southwest Minnesota State University offers a variety of loans that are available for students.  Borrow Wisely - Loans must be repaid!!

Please keep the following points in mind:

  • All loans must be repaid. Make sure you understand when repayment of principal and/or interest is expected. Payments to some loans may begin earlier than others.
  • Make sure you understand all of your rights and responsibilities under the loan program(s) you choose and contact the lender with any questions you may have.
  • If you are using a co-signer to acquire a loan make sure they understand their obligations.
  • If you are given the option of either paying or accruing the interest while you are in school, it is recommended that you pay the interest now rather than adding it to your loan debt.
  • Borrow wisely!! Do not borrow more than what is needed to achieve your educational goals.

Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Loans

Freshmen may borrow up to $5,500 per year, sophomores $6,500, juniors and seniors $7,500, graduate students $20,500 depending on eligibility. These maximums apply to Federal Direct Loans - Subsidized and Unsubsidized combined. Independent undergraduate students may borrow additional funds under the Unsubsidized Loan program. If from fall semester to spring semester you progress to the next grade level (i.e. from freshman to sophomore or from sophomore to junior standing), please contact the Financial Aid Office to determine if you have additional loan eligibility. 

First-time borrowers must complete loan counseling before your loan will be processed by the Student Financial Aid Office.  Each student must also have a completed Master Promissory Note before the loan funds will be disbursed to the students account. Loan counseling and the MPN can be processed at

Federal Subsidized Direct Loans - These loans are need-based, long-term loans. Interest and principal on the Subsidized Loan is deferred as long as the student carries at least a half-time credit load (6 credits for undergraduate students and 5 credits for graduate students). When a student graduates or ceases to be enrolled at least half time, there is a six-month grace period before  repayment begins. The interest rate for Subsidized Loans is currently 5.5%.  An origination fee of 1.057% of principal will be withheld at disbursement.

Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loans- These loans are similar to Federal Subsidized Direct Loans except that only the principal is deferred while the borrower is enrolled in school. The interest rate for Unsubsidized Loans is currently 5.5% for undergraduate students and 7.05% for graduate students. Interest must either be paid during the in school period or the interest will accrue and be added to the principal balance.  An origination fee of 1.057% of principal will be withheld at disbursement.

If you feel you will need additional loan funds above your Stafford Loan eligibility, please see the Private Loan Options below.

Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)

The Federal Direct PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) Loan Program provides loans to parents of dependent undergraduate students attending post-secondary schools. The parent is the borrower of the PLUS Loan and is responsible for paying the interest and principal on the loan.


  • The interest rate on a Federal Direct PLUS loan is currently 8.05% and changes every year. Interest is charged on the loan from the date of the first disbursement until the loan is paid.
  • Fees are 4.228% of the principal. 
  • Parents may borrow up to the cost of attendance minus other aid the dependent student is receiving.
  • Parents have an option of beginning repayment on the PLUS Loan either 60 days after the loan is fully disbursed or wait until six months after the student ceases to be enrolled at least half-time.


  • Federal PLUS loans are available to creditworthy parents of dependent students
  • Students must be enrolled at least half time (6 credits or more)
  • An eligible parent borrower must be the natural, adoptive, or step-parent of the dependent student
  • The parent borrower must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • The student must be eligible for Federal Financial Aid

Begin processing a PLUS Loan application here.

Private Education Loan Options

Have you applied for Federal Student Financial Aid through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)? You may be eligible for Federal Financial Aid including grants, work study and loans that may have more favorable terms than the Private Education Loan options listed below. Learn more about the Federal Student Aid process at Applying for Financial Aid at SMSU.

Private Education Loans are borrowed in addition to Federal Direct and/or Perkins Loans. Most private education loan programs allow students or parents to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, less other financial aid resources. In most cases, private educational loans, other than the PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students), do require a co-signer. Credit checks will be done on both the applicant and the co-signer.

Several different Private Education Loan options are provided for you at this link. These Private Education Loan Options have been selected through an RFI (Request for Information) process. SMSU does not endorse any particular lender but does feel the options listed will provide fair terms and conditions to our student borrowers. This list is provided as a courtesy to our students and you are not required to use any of these lenders.

Please review the details carefully.

Code of Conduct

The SMSU Financial Aid Office staff are committed to helping students obtain educational funding. Each staff member has signed the Code of Conduct.

Last Modified: 5/29/24 10:41 AM | Website Feedback