There are many students who want to continue their education after graduating from high school, but are unable to due to other obligations, such as starting a career or taking care of family members. In 2022, it is much harder to get a high paying job without some sort of college degree or certification, whether it means attending a traditional four-year program or completing a vocational school. It is never too late for adults to consider returning to school to improve their education.
While there are many adults who are eager to go to school, there are practical concerns. For many adults without a college education, the biggest hurdle is cost. Even attending a vocational school is expensive, and adults typically do not have access to the same scholarships as younger students. However, there are still plenty of other educational resources available for adults returning to school, including numerous educational grants.
Differences Between Financial Aid
Before applying for financial aid, it is important to understand the distinct categories. There are three primary types of financial aid, grants, loans, and scholarships. Scholarships are awarded based on your educational merits. They typically have stricter requirements, such as going to a specific school or taking specified classes. Some scholarships are provided by schools, while others are offered by private groups. Loans are more direct, on average providing the biggest financial benefit, but you are required to pay the loans back with interest. How much you receive is based on your financial status.
Educational grants are like scholarships. Grants are available through both federal and private organizations. The money does not have to be repaid, but instead of educational merit, it is based on other requirements. Many federal grants are only available to lower income applicants, while private groups may offer grants to specific groups, such as adults returning to school to become teachers. Some grants only offer a single payment, while others provide recurring payments if you meet the eligibility requirements, typically maintaining a set GPA.
Federal vs. Private Grants
Students are strongly encouraged to prioritize federal grants over private grants. While both resources provide financial support, federal grants have greater resources available. As a result, federal grants are more readily available, while private grants are more competitive. If you meet the eligibility requirements for a federal grant, you will get the benefits. With a private grant, the provider only has limited resources, so only a select number of grants are available. Because private grants are only available in a limited quantity, some providers may offer greater financial assistance compared to federal grants. In most cases, you can apply for both types of grants, but you must disclose if you are already receiving aid from another source, which may impact your eligibility status.
Signing up for FAFSA
Depending on your state, there may be hundreds, if not thousands of potential grants available. To simplify the application process, a standard application was created, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA contains detailed information about your educational and financial history. When you complete your FAFSA, you receive a list of what federal aid you are available for. Your FAFSA is still used when you apply for a private grant, but there may also be additional stipulations, such as having to complete an essay or similar project.
Federal Pell Grant
One of the most popular federal grants available is the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is available to all students, no matter age, if they demonstrate financial need. You must also either be an undergraduate or a graduate student working on a teaching certificate. Students are only able to receive the Pell Grant for twelve terms, or six years of college. While the Pell Grant is a federal loan, the school directly distributes the funds. Another reason the Pell Grant is so popular is the funding you receive does not count against your other financial aid applications.
The exact financial requirements for the Pell Grant vary depending on your expected family contribution and the cost of the school you are attending. This also determines how much you receive each semester from the grant. The maximum amount varies from year to year, but as of writing, the maximum for 2022 is $6,495. The funds must initially be used for tuition, class fees and room and board. If these expenses are covered, you are free to spend the leftover funds as you wish.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
FSEOG is another federal grant that is available based on your financial need. FSEOG uses a similar system to determine both eligibility and how much financial aid you receive, comparing your expected family contribution with the total cost of attendance. The biggest change from the Pell Grant is availability. While the Pell Grant can be used at any school, your school must be participating in the FSEOG program to receive the funds. Additionally, each school only has a number of funds that can be allocated to FSEOG each year. As of writing, the maximum available is $4,000 each year. If you are an undergraduate student, you may keep applying for the FSEOG.
American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) Career Development Grants
AAUW offers private career development grants to women with an existing college degree who are returning to school to either advance their education or pursue a new degree to change fields. To qualify, you must have received your original degree before June 30th, 2015. If you are pursuing a new career, it must be in the field of either STEM, social sciences, health and medical sciences or education.
When you apply for the grant, you must explain why you are returning to school, which school you are applying to and why you deserve the funding. The minimum amount for the grant is $2,000, while the maximum is $20,000 as of writing. How many grants are available changes each year. New applicants can apply on August 1st, with submissions closing on November 15th each year.
State Financial Grants
One of the best resources for educational grants is through your state. Program eligibility varies depending on where you live. For example, Indiana offers the You Can Go Back grant program, while New York has the Tuition Assistance Program. Completing your FAFSA is an excellent way to find out what state grants are available, but you can also search through the Department of Education.There are also a number of online resources available to help you find both state and federal grants. For example, the education directory offers a search directory for students who make less than $80,000 each year, offering $6895 in grants if you qualify.