What is a Title IV school? A Guide to Funds & Eligibility Requirements

What is a Title IV school? A Guide to Funds & Eligibility Requirements
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

The term Title IV (title four) originated in 1965, specifically from the year’s Higher Education Act (HEA). Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the act became part of the Great Society Initiative and was reauthorized and extended. Now, Title IV offers financial aid for post-secondary education. Institutions that have been granted Title IV status can accommodate students who need financial assistance to get through college and graduate school.

This article provides information for students and parents on what is a Title IV school and why it is important to choose a school with a Title IV status. Details of the types of financial aid available to post-secondary, graduate, and professional students are also provided. Read on so you would know and understand what a Title IV school is and why it matters in your decision-making as you pursue a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree.

What is a Title IV school? Table of Contents

  1. How an Institution Earns a Title IV Designation
  2. Why Title IV Status is Important in Choosing a School
  3. Types of Title IV Funds and Eligibility Requirements
  4. Where To Use Title IV School Funding

The primary aim of the HEA  is to strengthen the educational resources of colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance to students in post-secondary and higher education. This alleviates the financial burden of perpetually rising tuition costs. From its introduction in 1965, the HEA has evolved and expanded to encompass student grants, student loans, family loans, and college work-study programs. For the school year 2020-2021, the total Title IV school funding disbursed by the U.S. federal government has been pegged at $91.4 billion (FSA, 2021).

HEA is preceded by earlier legislation that sought to increase the economic and social well-being of the country, such as the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, and the National Defense Education Act. All these legislations had one aim—to expand the role of the federal government in designing an equitable post-secondary system in the country by stimulating educational opportunities. Since its enactment in 1965, the HEA has been reauthored and amended to keep up with the ever-changing landscape in which higher education institutions operate.

How an Institution Earns a Title IV Designation

Title IV requires schools to comply with specific teaching standards and provide educational resources that would facilitate high-quality learning. Once these requirements are met, the educational institution gets accreditation as a Title IV school and gets federal funding for its students.

To acquire Title IV designation and become eligible for federal aid programs, institutions of higher education (IHE)—public, private, for-profit, nonprofit, and vocational —must satisfy the program integrity triad. It also applies to online course platforms provided by these institutions. The IHE must be:

  • legally authorized to provide post-secondary education in the state in which it is located
  • accredited or pre-accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education for such purposes
  • certified by the Department of Education as eligible to participate in Title IV programs

Program integrity is important in the implementation of Title IV in schools because it underscores the role of the state, the role of the accrediting agencies, and the role of the federal government in ensuring compliance as well as administrative and fiscal integrity. To provide consumer protection is the role of the state, to provide quality assurance is the role of accrediting agencies, and to provide oversight of compliance is the role of the federal government. Both program design and resource investments are crucial to the effectiveness of Title IV programs.

Harris et al (2020) in their research “The promise of free college (and its potential pitfalls)” concluded that in addition to financial aid, design and implementation are of equal importance in realizing the objectives of Title IV programs. Published in the book Improving Research-Based Knowledge of College Promise Programs, the authors identified three findings:

“First, financial aid can reduce the costs of college attendance. When communicated effectively, it sends the message to students that college is for them. Second, when aid is committed in advance, as with free college and promise scholarships, students’ academic and college-going social capital could increase during high school, catalyzing a stronger college-going school culture and reinforcing the path to college and the long-term benefits that come with it. Finally, free college can also reduce uncertainty about the price of college and limit administrative barriers to college resources.”

Source: Federal Student Aid

Why Title IV Status is Important in Choosing a School

The schools that apply for Title IV status are carefully evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education. The accreditation process is rigorous as applicants must adhere to the provisions of the HEA to qualify for grants. Once the school gets the stamp of approval from the Department of Education and gets the Title IV status, the institution then becomes eligible as a federal funding channel, while at the same time gaining the trust of parents and students for its compliance with HEA standards.

Aside from having access to federal funding, a Title IV school also extends value and validity to your completed program or degree. Graduates of Title IV schools are more likely to find well-paying, stable jobs because of their school’s reputation of having been rigorously reviewed by the Department of Education on a regular basis.

To find out if you are qualified for Title IV school funding, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Among the information that an applicant would need to provide is the Title IV school code. The federal school code is composed of six characters each, with one code assigned to each college or university. Check with the Federal Student Aid Information Center for an updated list of Title IV schools with corresponding Title IV school codes. It is important to be mindful when placing the Title IV school code in your FAFSA application because some schools have more than one code to designate different campuses and programs.

If your school is not on the list of Title IV schools, then it might be wise to reconsider your options. Remember, no accreditation means no stamp of approval from the Department of Education. The degree that you would earn upon graduation might not be as valuable as one that is earned from a Title IV school.

Since Title IV status is considered a seal of approval from the U.S. Department of Education, it elevates the ranking of the school among enrollees. Through the years, some for-profit schools have taken advantage of Title IV reputation by engaging in the promotion of misleading information. Some unaccredited for-profit institutions would lure unsuspecting enrollees. Due to this, students are reminded all the time to check a particular institution against the list of Title IV schools.

Types of Title IV Funds and Eligibility Requirements

The main purpose of Title IV is to provide qualified high school graduate students with the resources to pursue post-secondary education.

The following are the basic eligibility criteria for a student to qualify for aid under the HEA:

  • should demonstrate financial need
  • be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
  • have a high school diploma or equivalent certificate
  • be accepted for enrollment or enrolled as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
  • if male, should be registered with Selective Service
  • for Direct Loan Program, funds must be enrolled at least half-time
  • should have demonstrated satisfactory academic progress
  • currently not in default on a federal student loan and do not have an existing debt with a federal student grant
  • will use federal student aid for educational purposes only

Title IV funds include federal grants, which include the Pell Grant, and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEO). Federal student loans include the Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan, and the Direct PLUS/ Direct Graduate PLUS Loan.

Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Also referred to as Stafford Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans are loans provided to undergraduate students with financial needs. Under this type of loan, the school determines the amount of aid that you can borrow, which is not to exceed your financial need. Interest payments for Direct Subsidized Loans are taken care of by the U.S. Department of Education while the student is in school, for the first six months after leaving school, and during the deferment period, or that instance when the student decides to postpone loan payments.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct Stafford Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, even without a demonstrated financial need. For this type of loan, the school also determines the amount the student can borrow based on the cost of attendance and other available financial aid. Since this type of loan is unsubsidized, the student is responsible for paying the interest without exemptions.

Direct PLUS/ Direct Graduate PLUS Loan

Direct PLUS and Direct Graduate PLUS Loans are grants specifically provided to graduate or professional (Grad PLUS) students. Parents of dependent undergraduate students are also eligible to avail of this loan if educational expenses are not covered by other grants.

Aside from tuition and other mandatory fees, room and board charges, Direct PLUS and Direct Graduate PLUS Loans allow the graduate or professional student, or the parent of a student, to authorize the school to use loan funds to satisfy other expenses related to education. Under this type of loan, the borrower may also request a change in the previously specified loan amount.

While Direct PLUS and Direct Graduate PLUS Loans cover more fees, a credit check is required prior to approval. If the borrower does not have a good credit rating, additional information will be required.

Pell Grant

Pell Grant is not a loan but a type of grant that is awarded to undergraduate students with an exceptional need for financial assistance. Upon application, the borrower should not have earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. One exemption, however, are students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs. It is important to note that previously incarcerated applicants or those who are subject to incarceration for criminal offenses are not eligible to apply for this grant. Except under certain circumstances, Pell Grant does not have to be repaid.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is a type of financial assistance that is designed to supplement the Federal Pell Grant. Funds for FSEOG depend on the availability at school and Pell Grant recipients take priority. The financial aid office will award FSEOGs to students that have the most financial need. Not all schools offer the FSEOG grant, you have to check with the financial aid office that directly administers this program.

Source: Federal Student Aid

Where To Use Title IV School Funding

Title IV school funding aims to provide students with a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for student learning, improve the use of technology to elevate the academic achievement and digital literacy of students. Title IV funds can be used to pay for tuition, room/board if housing is contracted through college, and mandatory fees. Mandatory fees may include library fees, counseling fees, or laboratory fees as required for specific courses. As for housing, off-campus rent is not included in the fees that are eligible for funding.

Source: College Board Research

Providing Equal Access to Post-Secondary Education

If ever you will be asked what is a Title IV school, you know that these are highly accredited post-secondary institutions that are authorized to provide financial assistance to students. The funds can be in the form of loans and grants. The type of loan or grant that will be extended is based on the student’s capacity to pay. Every student needs to apply to avail of student aid as stipulated in Title IV of the Higher Education Act. Financial aid adjustments may also be requested if the student’s or the family’s financial situation has changed due to recent crises brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Title IV schools are institutions working with the federal government with the objective of improving the educational achievement of students amidst rising costs. At the same time, the system also advances the capacity of local educational agencies by providing assistance to small and less developed colleges. For students, that desire to pursue post-secondary education, Title IV schools provide not just financial assistance but also a guarantee that students are getting high-quality instruction as Title IV schools regularly undergo rigorous evaluation.



  1. Congressional Research Service (2019), Institutional Eligibility for Participation in Title IV Student Financial Aid Programs, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43159.pdf
  2. Compiled Title IV Regulations, https://www.nasfaa.org/compiled_title_iv_regulations
  3. Complete the FAFSA Form, https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa
  4. Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents, https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus
  5. Federal Student Aid (2021), Award Year Summary by School Type,  https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/title-iv
  6. Harris, D., Farmer-Hinton, R., Kim, D. H., Diamond, J. B., Reavis, T. B., Rifelj, K. K., Lustick, H. A., Carl, B. (2020), The promise of free college and its potential pitfalls: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial of a performance-based aid program, In Perna, L. W., Smith, E. J. (Eds.), Improving research-based knowledge of college promise programs (pp. 119150). American Educational Research Associationhttps://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvxw3phv.9
  7. Ma, J., Pender, M. , Libassi, C.J. (2020), Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020, New York: College Board, https://research.collegeboard.org/trends/college-pricing
  8. National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/title-iv-part-a-statute
  9. Title IV Institution Codes, https://finaid.org/fafsa/tiv/
  10. See, C. (2021), Why Your School’s Title IV Status Affects Your Student Loan Eligibility, https://www.studentloanplanner.com/what-are-title-iv-schools/
  11. Types of Financial Aid, https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans

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