Paying for Career Education

Often times, the hardest part of getting an education is figuring out how to pay for it.

Although choosing a career education over a traditional four-year college education can help save money on tuition and fees, paying for career school works just like paying for college. There are many forms of financial assistance available for those who are looking for ways to pay for their education.

While some may be able to make their tuition payments outright, the growing cost of education is making that less and less possible for most students. Planning financially for your education before beginning school is the best way to make sure you can afford tuition for the entirety of your educational experience. Read the sections below to find out how ways you can pay for your career education.

Financial Aid

For many students, financial aid is a primary source of money for tuition payments. Financial aid is any money given to a student by the government or other organizations for expenses associated with attending a post-secondary educational institution, such as a career school, a college or a university. This includes grants, scholarships, student loans and federal work-study programs.

Financial aid comes in different forms and can be applied for and received through:

  • The federal government.
  • Your state of residence.
  • The school you attend or will attend.
  • A nonprofit or private organization.

To qualify for financial aid, students must fill out the appropriate application for the kind of aid sought. Students who wish to receive financial aid from the federal government must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. FAFSA forms are free to fill out and can be completed on paper or online.

It is recommended that all students fill out a FAFSA form, even if they think they are ineligible for financial aid. This includes high school graduates as well as workers considering changing careers. The federal government offers a few varieties of aid students may be eligible for. While some of those varieties are awarded based on need, not all are. A few other sources of financial aid, such as states and schools, also use information from FAFSA forms to determine the amount they will award students. Not completing a FAFSA form may prevent students from receiving financial aid they would have otherwise been eligible for.

Over 300 schools and organizations with financial aid programs do not use the FAFSA form to determine a student’s eligibility. Students looking for aid from these institutions should complete the College Board’s College Scholarship Service Profile, more commonly referred to as the CSS profile. Unlike the FAFSA form, the CSS Profile requires an application fee to be processed. Both the FAFSA and CSS profile open for applications on October 1 of each year.

Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships, often called gift aid, are forms of financial aid that do not need to be paid back. While both offer students free money for their education and function similarly, grants and scholarships are awarded on different criteria. Grants are based on need, whereas scholarships are based on merit.

Students from lower-income households may be eligible to receive grants, which are provided to those with financial need. The federal and state governments, as well as schools and private organizations, offer eligible students grants. While there are many different types of grants, the Federal Pell Grant is the grant most commonly provided to students. The amount of aid that a student is eligible for through a Pell grant may vary from one school year to the next, but awards may only reach a maximum of $6,095 per year. Pell grant awards depend on a student’s financial need, the cost of attendance and whether or not the student will be taking a full-time or part-time course load.

While grants are awarded based on financial need, scholarships are based on merit, as well as a few other factors. Like grants, scholarships do not have to be repaid. Scholarships may be awarded to students due to academic or athletic achievement, interest in a certain subject or field, volunteer work or membership in a particular people group. Some companies also offer scholarships to the children of their employees. Scholarships usually have certain requirements that must be met in order to continue eligibility.

Student Loans

Student loans are another option for those who would like to attend a career school or a college. Unlike grants and scholarships, loans must be repaid. Most student loans do not require payment prior to leaving school and typically offer a grace period after graduation. Federal student loans are often more attractive to students in comparison to a bank or creditor loan as federal loans offer lower interest rates and far more flexible repayment options.

The federal government offers three different kinds of loans to students, each with different interest rates and repayment terms. The three loans are as follows:

  • Direct subsidized loans – Federally subsidized loans are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. These loans have lower interest rates and offer the best repayment terms. These terms include a six-month grace period after graduation when students do not need to repay their loans, as well as loan deferments during certain periods and situations.
  • Direct unsubsidized loans – These loans are not awarded based on financial need. While they still feature low-interest rates, the repayment terms are not as flexible as those for subsidized loans. Interest payments that are not made during any period, including times when a student is enrolled in school and during grace and deferment periods, accrue and are added to the loan’s principal amount.
  • Direct PLUS loans – The federal government awards PLUS loans to undergraduate students whose parents have applied for the loan on their behalf. The interest rates on these loans tend to be higher than rates on the other federal loans.

Veteran Education

United States veterans have additional options when it comes to paying for a career school. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers several different education programs and most veterans will qualify for at least one. The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits veterans with an honorable discharge who served for at least 90 days after September 11, 2001. The amount awarded to a veteran depends on the amount of time he or she served in the military. Veterans who attend a private or out-of-state institution may also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program provides veterans that are eligible for education benefits with more funds when it is necessary.

Other Ways to Pay for School

Those who have recently lost employment due to a mass layoff may qualify for free career school courses through the Dislocated Worker Program and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) also offers financial assistance to those who have lost their job or have experienced a reduction in hours due to increased imports.

Low-income individuals who receive assistance from federal and state programs may be eligible to receive free career school courses. One program, in particular, is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) program, which offers training programs to provide recipients valuable career skills. While it does require that you qualify for SNAP food assistance benefits, individuals are likely eligible for both SNAP and the E&T program if they already receive TANF, Medicaid or rental assistance from the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

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