You’re 35, you’ve found yourself at the dawn of a personal awakening and ready to go back to college, but how will you pay for it? Your college fund was exhausted the first time you went, and your savings aren’t enough to begin to cover tuition. Fortunately, there are some options.
A great place to start is to go to the U.S. Department of Education’s website to fill out a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This one form helps determine what free grant money, low interest loans, or work study programs you might be eligible for. You can also use the website to search for scholarships you may be eligible for. Many states have their own statewide scholarships, like Kentucky has Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, which will give a student up to $1,300 towards tuition and books. Michigan has seven different scholarship programs for its residents. Your state can be found with a simple search here.
2. Current Employer
Being a nontraditional student may disqualify you from certain awards, but it can actually help you with others. Some facilities offer perks to adults who are returning to school to finish their degrees or to get a more advanced education. You can talk to your prospective college admissions office about this or see if your institution has a nontraditional student counselor.
Sometimes, you don’t have to look any further than the company you work for to help provide financial aid for college. UPS has a Tuition Assistance Program, which states that while working for them, you can receive over $5000 a calendar year for college, with a lifetime maximum of $25,000. McDonald’s has a tuition assistance program available to both part time and full time employees. They will pay up to $3,000 a year, depending on hours worked. Your eligibility seems to be determined by your store’s operator in this case. Walmart also has an Associate Scholarship program that has a maximum allowance of $16,000 over six years.
3. Dream Employer
Sometimes the career you dream about can be beneficial to landing you money for college. Some places will award women scholarships to attract them to male dominated fields. The Society of Women Engineers offers a scholarship to ladies who are studying engineering, computing, or technology at an institution that has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. If you want to mold young minds and become a teacher, the federal TEACH program provides up to $4,000 a year for college. If you don’t hold up your end of the agreement, the grant turns into a loan and has to be repaid.
4. Student Loans
Finally, if you don’t mind going into long term debt, you can always use student loans to pay for college. Federal student loans currently have a low interest rate of between 5.05% and 7.06%, depending on which type you get. You don’t have to start repaying these until six months after you leave school, and they can be appealing to many people. The downside is that they can take a very long time to pay off if you are making small payments, and the debt will never go away on its own until it is paid. The collectors are like hellhounds. If you get one of these, make sure you’ll be able to pay it back.
Don’t let money drag you down during your moment of rebirth. Take a deep breath, look for the free grants, and if all else fails, take out a loan.