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Student Aid and Scholarships Policy

Penn State participates in all the major federal and state student aid programs. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit and/or financial need as defined by the specific scholarship program.

Federal and State Student Aid Programs

Penn State participates in all the major federal and state student aid programs. Federal and state funding sources comprise approximately 70 percent of all student aid at Penn State, the majority of which is available in the form of federal education loans for students and parents.

Eligibility for these programs is determined based on the information students report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, in accordance with federal and state regulations. Student aid funds are awarded based on financial need and these limited funds are distributed first to students with the greatest financial need. Program regulations limit the University's ability to make exceptions to the eligibility criteria. Because of limited University student aid funding, including grants, scholarships and loans, (including limited University Scholarships) Penn State is unable to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students.

Students and their families have the primary responsibility for meeting the essential costs of tuition, fees, room and meals, books, and supplies. However, many families are able to make use of student and parent loans to meet their education financing needs.

As is the case at many colleges and universities in the United States education loans are the primary source of student aid at Penn State. Each year, approximately 79 percent of Penn State undergraduate students with financial aid receive loans to pay for their education. For most students, federal education loans will be the only form of assistance available.

In addition to the loans available to students, parents who request additional assistance from Penn State for their students will be directed to consider the federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan. Parents who qualify for this program based on United State citizenship and credit-worthiness can borrow up to the full cost of attendance minus any aid awarded to their student.

Payment Plans

Penn State also offers two payment plans which may be helpful to students and families in managing costs at Penn State.

  1. Deferred Payment Plan - This payment plan is available through The Office of the Bursar. It allows for payment in three installments each semester.
  2. Tuition Management System (TMS) Lion-Pay Monthly Payment Plan - This payment plan allows for monthly payments over the course of the academic year.


Each year, Penn State enrolls many outstanding and academically talented students and, therefore, cannot assist all deserving students. Scholarship funds are insufficient to recognize students who may rank at or near the top of their class, or have received other significant academic honors. Penn State cannot negotiate student aid packages to match grant and scholarship offers from other colleges and universities.

Awards are made by the academic colleges, Penn State campuses, the Office of Student Aid, and other administrative units. Approximately one in five Penn State undergraduate students receives University scholarships. While scholarship award amounts vary and are limited by donor guidelines the average annual award amount is $2,500. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit or financial need as defined by the specific scholarship program. Most scholarships use both financial need and academic merit to select recipients.

Students should pursue available scholarships through their campus or their academic college. Please visit the website of the campus or college for more specific information on scholarship awarding for that area.

Many students receive private scholarships through external organizations that provide funding. The Office of Student Aid website provides helpful tools for students to conduct scholarship searches.

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