Title IV Financial Aid: What It Is and How It Works

By Josephine Nesbit · June 22, 2022 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Title IV Financial Aid: What It Is and How It Works

Federal financial aid funds are generally referred to as Title IV under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) and are administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Title IV funds may come from grants, work-study, or student loans. It’s important that students understand all of their options when it comes to paying for college.

Here are some more details about Title IV financial aid, how it works and how these funds can help pay for school-related expenses.

What Is Title IV?

Under the HEA, Title IV refers to federal financial aid funds. Title IV of the HEA authorizes student financial aid programs of the federal government, which are the primary source of direct federal support to students attending certain institutions of higher education (IHEs). These institutions include public, private nonprofit, and proprietary institutions, which must meet a variety of criteria to participate in Title IV programs.

Federal aid awarded to students can be used to pay for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Federal financial aid is mainly distributed to students through federal student loans, grants, and work-study.

In 2021, Federal Student Aid (FSA) processed more than 17.6 million FAFSA® forms — otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In 2021, $112 billion was delivered via Title IV financial aid to more than 10.1 million postsecondary students and their families. These students attended 5,600 active institutions of postsecondary education that participate in federal student aid programs.

Different Types of Title IV Funds

Title IV doesn’t include all forms of financial aid that can be used to help pay for college. Here is what Title IV does cover.

•   Direct Subsidized Loans are a type of federal student loan available to undergraduates where a borrower isn’t generally responsible for paying interest while in school. Direct Subsidized Loans are only available to students who demonstrate financial need.

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans available to undergraduates and graduates where a borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Interest accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.

•   Direct PLUS Loans are federal loans available to graduates or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for college or career school.

•   Direct Consolidation Loans are federal loans that allow the borrower to combine multiple federal student loans into a single new loan.

•   Federal Grant Programs offer eligible students financial assistance by the U.S. government out of the general federal revenue. Title IV covers several federal grant programs, including Federal Pell Grants, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant Program.

•   Federal Work-Study Program is a federally-funded program that offers part-time employment to students in financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay for school-related expenses.

Who Is Eligible for Title IV?

To be eligible for federal student aid, you must meet basic eligibility requirements . Students must:

•   Demonstrate financial need for most programs.

•   Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen.

•   Have a valid Social Security number.

•   Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certification program.

•   Enrolled at least half-time for Direct Loan Program funds.

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress.

•   Sign the certification statement on the FAFSA stating that you are not in default on a federal student loan, you do not owe money on a federal student grant, and you will only use federal student aid for educational purposes.

•   Show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school education by having a high school diploma or its equivalent or enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the “ability-to-benefit” alternatives.

Some Title IV programs have additional eligibility criteria specific to the program. Check with your school’s financial aid office for more information or questions on a particular program.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

What Can Title IV Loans Be Used For?

Title IV loans can be used for tuition and fees, room and board, books and classroom supplies, transportation and even some eligible living expenses. Tuition is typically the largest expense. According to the College
, the average college tuition including fees for a private four-year nonprofit institution in 2021-2022 is $38,070 while the average for a public, out-of-state four-year institution is $27,560 and $10,740 for a public four-year institution with in-state tuition.

Beyond tuition, Title IV loans can also be used to purchase books and school supplies, like a backpack, laptop, and notebooks. To help reduce costs, you can purchase used textbooks or rent them through your school or other services. Title IV loans can also help cover housing expenses and food costs, even if you live off-campus, and pay for the maintenance of your car, fuel, or bus and taxi fares.

If Title IV loans are used inappropriately, the school can report it to the Department of Education via a hotline and you may be held liable for those funds.

Recommended: Using Student Loans for Living Expenses and Housing

Title IV Payments

As mentioned, grants, scholarships, and work-study attained through Title IV generally don’t need to be repaid. However, as mentioned, student loans do need to be repaid.

Once you graduate, drop below half-time enrollment, or leave school, your federal student loan goes into repayment and you must make Title IV payments. However, if you have a Direct Subsidized Loan or a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, there is a six-month grace period before you are required to start making regular payments. Graduate and professional student PLUS borrowers will be placed on an automatic deferment while in school and for six months after graduating, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollment.

When your loan enters repayment, your loan servicer will automatically enroll you on the Standard Repayment Plan, which spreads monthly payments over a 10-year period. This can be changed at any time for free. You can also make prepayments on your loan while you are in school or during your grace period.

Your loan servicer will provide you with a repayment schedule with the due date of your first payment, the number and frequency of payments and the amount of each payment. Your monthly payment depends on your chosen repayment plan. Most Title IV loan services will send out an email when your billing statement is ready to be viewed online.

What to Do if Your Title IV Loans Aren’t Enough

If your Title IV loans aren’t enough to cover all costs, there are other options.

You can apply for scholarships or grants, which are a form of gift aid that typically do not need to be repaid. Scholarships are awarded based upon various criteria, such as academic or athletic achievement, community involvement, job experience, field of study, financial need and more. Most grants for college are need-based.

Another option is a part-time job. Your school may have job boards that list on-campus jobs for students or you could check external job sites for part-time opportunities.

Once you’ve exhausted every other option, private student loans are another possibility to consider. Private student loans can be used to cover college costs, but they are issued by banks, credit unions, and online lenders rather than the federal government. Private student loans are also credit-based and the lender will have their own eligibility criteria. The lender will typically review factors including your credit history, income, debt, and whether you’re enrolled in a qualified educational program. If you don’t have enough credit history or enough proof of income, you may choose to apply with a cosigner. Adding a cosigner with an established credit history can help improve your application and potentially allow you to qualify for a more competitive loan.

If you take out student loans, you can refinance them after you graduate to save money when it’s time to repay. Refinancing involves taking out a new loan and using it to repay all your existing loans, which can include federal loans and private loans. Refinancing student loans with a private lender also means forfeiting federal loan benefits like deferment, forbearance or income-driven repayment plans.

Recommended: I Didn’t Get Enough Financial Aid: Now What?

The Takeaway

Title IV financial aid has given millions of students the means to afford and attend college, university and trade school. And if you don’t receive enough Title IV aid, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to funding your college education. By applying for scholarships, taking on part-time jobs, applying for private student loans or refinancing, you can make your dreams a reality.

If refinancing seems like an option for you, consider SoFi. It only takes minutes to apply, even with a cosigner, and there are no fees, period.

Check out student loan refinancing with SoFi and find what works for you.


What is the purpose of Title IV?

Federal Student Aid is responsible for managing the student financial assistance programs under Title IV of the HEA. The FSA’s mission is to ensure that all eligible students benefit from federal financial assistance throughout postsecondary education.

What is included in Title IV?

Title IV provides grant, work-study, and loan funds to students attending college or career school.

Is Title IV a loan?

Title IV does include federal student loans such as Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized loans. However, Title IV funds are also distributed to students through federal grants and work-study programs.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Please note that once you refinance federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Photo credit: iStock/martin-dm

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender