When people think of southern states in America, places like Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee are some of the first states that come to mind due to their tourist attractions and scenic locations in each state.
Don’t sleep on Alabama, though. The state may not have major theme parks or super large cities–like Chicago and Los Angeles–but the state and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) take care of their Alabama residents who are looking to attend college.
The Office of Student Assistance within the ACHE is in charge of administering state-sponsored student financial aid programs to help Alabama high school seniors and current undergraduate college students afford a college education.
To be eligible for all the ACHE financial aid programs, all eligible students must be Alabama residents and complete and file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Five of the ACHE’s financial aid programs have their own unique eligibility requirements and award amounts. These programs also reach a variety of groups of students across the state.
Alabama Student Assistance Program
The Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP) is a need-based grant from the state of Alabama. To be eligible for the grant, a student must:
- Be an undergraduate student,
- Be enrolled in and attending an eligible Alabama postsecondary institution, and
- Be an Alabama resident.
To apply for the grant, a student must file their FAFSA; students can begin filing their FAFSA on October 1 each year. If a student is chosen for ASAP, the award amount will vary, but it can be between $300 to $5,000 per academic year.
Alabama Student Grant Program
The Alabama Student Grant Program was established in August 1978 by the Alabama government to give financial aid to Alabama high school graduates attending 13 eligible postsecondary institutions in Alabama.
The 13 eligible postsecondary institutions are:
- Amridge University in Montgomery,
- Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham,
- Faulkner University in Montgomery,
- Huntingdon College in Montgomery,
- Judson College in Marion,
- Miles College in Fairfield,
- Oakwood University in Huntsville,
- Samford University in Birmingham,
- Spring Hill College in Mobile,
- South University-Montgomery in Montgomery,
- Stillman University in Tuscaloosa,
- United States Sports Academy in Daphne, and
- University of Mobile in Mobile.
To be eligible for the Alabama Student Grant Program, a student must:
- Be a high school graduate,
- Be enrolled as a full-time or half-time undergraduate student in an eligible program at one of the 13 eligible institutions listed above,
- Be an Alabama resident,
- Be a U.S. citizen or be in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen,
- Meet Satisfactory Academic Program requirements, and
- Not be enrolled or intend to enroll in a course of study such as theology, divinity and other religious vocational fields.
There is also a special Alabama Student Grant Program application a student must submit when applying for the program.
The funds from the program are given out on a first-come, first-served basis; it is not a need-based grant. The deadline to apply for the program for the 2021-2022 academic school year is September 15, 2021. Each of the 13 eligible institutions have the application available at their financial aid offices.
If a student receives funding from the Alabama Student Grant Program, they can receive up to $1,200 per academic year; this is not a set amount though and varies annually based on available funds.
Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program
The Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program (AMSTEP) is a federal student loan repayment program to encourage Alabama residents who graduated in Spring 2018 and on to enroll in and complete programs in math or science (or both) and encourage these Alabama citizens to accept math or science teaching positions in Alabama public schools.
To be eligible for AMSTEP, a college graduate must:
- Be a Spring 2018 and on graduate of an approved math or science program and have earned a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree from an approved institution leading to an initial secondary professional educator certificate endorsed in math or science;
- Have a valid Alabama professional educator certificate endorsed in secondary math or science (or both);
- Be teaching math or science (or both) full-time in an Alabama public school district or an approved charter school;
- Be a U.S. citizen or a lawful, permanent U.S. resident;
- Have been an Alabama resident for at least 12 months before the application deadline;
- Provide documentation of being a permanent Alabama resident via a current and valid Alabama driver’s license, vehicle registration, or voter registration card; and
- Have outstanding federal student, subsidized and/or unsubsidized loans.
AMSTEP is broken down into two levels of awards. The base program award will provide the graduate with two payments of $2,500 per semester worked or one payment of $5,000 for the academic year.
The supplemental program will provide the graduate with an additional $2,500 per year or $1,250 per semester worked if the graduate is currently teaching math or science (or both) in an area in Alabama where an acute teacher shortage is happening in the math or science fields (or both).
Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program
The Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program is designed to provide Alabama National Guard members who are enrolled in a certificate or degree program at an accredited community college, technical school or an Alabama postsecondary institution with educational financial aid.
To be eligible to receive funding from the program, a student must:
- Be at least 17 years old;
- Be an active member in good standing with the Alabama National Guard;
- Be an active member of a federally recognized unit of the Alabama National Guard;
- Have completed basic training;
- Be pursuing their first undergraduate degree;
- Be enrolled in a certificate program or a degree program at an accredited Alabama community college, technical school, college or university;
- Maintain a cumulative 2.00 GPA as an undergraduate student or maintain a cumulative 3.00 GPA as a graduate student at the end of each semester;
- File their FAFSA; and
- Demonstrate a financial need of at least $100.
Funding for this program is extremely limited and only 10% of the funding goes towards graduate students, but the eligible students can receive federal veteran benefits as their award.
There is a specific Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program application that needs to be submitted to be eligible and it must be signed by the Alabama Military Department and the student’s school’s financial aid officer at the time of submission.
Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivors Education Assistance Program
The Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivors Education Assistance Program (POFSEAP) is a financial aid program for eligible dependents and spouses of Alabama police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
The program is only for undergraduate students enrolled in and attending Alabama public postsecondary institutions. There is a specific application to submit to be eligible for the program; a student must send in a yearly renewal application as well.
There is no limit on award amounts for this program and recipients can use funding on college costs such as tuition, fees, books and other supplies.
Funding for ACHE Programs
Currently, Alabama does not have an education lottery to fund its ACHE programs, though the state legislation is working on making it happen.
In November 2022, Alabama voters will vote on a bill to determine if the state will create an Alabama Lottery Corporation to run an Alabama Education Lottery.
If the bill is passed, ticket sales would cover the costs of lottery awards and expenses while 0.5% of sales would go to programs designed to help compulsive gamblers stop gambling. The rest of the revenue would then be put towards educational programs.
50% of the revenue would be put towards the ACHE’s Education Trust Fund. 70% of the 50% would go towards funding K-12 school programs and 30% of the 50% would go towards higher education programs.
The other 50% of the revenue would be put towards starting need-based and merit-based scholarship programs for community college students.
Major Colleges in Alabama
There are many 2-year and 4-year public and private colleges, universities, community colleges and technical schools in the state of Alabama. Some of the major colleges include:
- Alabama A&M University in Huntsville,
- Alabama State University in Montgomery,
- Auburn University in Auburn,
- Talladega College in Talladega,
- Tuskegee University in Tuskegee,
- University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa,
- University of North Alabama in Florence,
- University of South Alabama in Mobile, and
- University of West Alabama in Livingston.
Providing students with a way to afford a college education is one of the best things states can do to ensure the future betterment of the state. Alabama’s college financial aid programs are some of the few methods the state has committed to providing in order to help make its future brighter.