How can I afford college?

Financial aid is money that is given, paid, or loaned to students to help pay for college. There are several different types of financial aid available to you and each one has different eligibility rules.

Federal Pell Grants

These grants are based on income and you don’t need to repay them if you complete the semesters for which the grant was awarded. To apply, submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Cal Grants

These grants are for California residents who are attending certain California colleges and universities at least half-time. There are four types (Cal Grant A, B, C, and T), which each help pay tuition, fees, living expenses, books, and transportation. Cal Grants do not need to be repaid if you complete the semesters for which the grant was awarded. To apply, submit a FAFSA and GPA verification form, available here.

Chafee Grant

The Chafee Grant is a grant of up to $5,000 and it’s for current or former foster youth under age 22 who are attending college at least half-time. To apply, submit a FAFSA and a Chaffee Grant Program Application.

Board of Governors Fee Waiver

If you are in foster care and you are attending a community college in California, you can have your fees waived. To apply, submit a BOG Fee Waiver Application.

Federal Work Study Program

Work study programs are a way to pay for school by working part-time in a job that the school provides. To quality, you must be eligible for financial aid and stay in good academic standing, which means getting grades above a certain level. To apply, get in touch with your school’s financial aid office.


There are different ways to borrow money at low interest to pay for school, including Perkins, Stafford, and private loans. Remember: you DO have to pay back these loans after leaving or graduating from college or university. To apply for a loan you must submit a FAFSA application.

What happens to my financial aid if I drop classes or withdraw completely mid-semester?

If you drop out of classes or withdraw completely from school before the end of the semester, you might face some consequences:

  • You may be responsible for paying back all or some of the grant money that you received at the beginning of the semester.
  • Some schools may prevent enrollment in additional classes.
  • Some schools may prevent you from receiving a transcript, which is needed to transfer schools.
  • You may not be able to receive financial aid again in the future.

So before you drop out of college and face these consequences, try to negotiate a repayment plan with your school that is manageable for you. Also, work with your school to re-enroll in classes so that you can complete your degree.


Scholarships are non-federal student loans that do no need to be paid back and are awarded for a variety of factors. Visit our scholarships page to learn more.


The Alliance for Children’s Rights can help you. Email or call 213.368.6010 to get started.