Financial Aid for the non-traditional Student

Financial Aid for Non-Traditional Students

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It is a common misconception that only fresh high school graduates can avail themselves of financial aid for their college education. As a result, a lot of adults who wish to return to college may be disheartened and eventually just give up on their dream to finally graduate.

In reality, financial aid is available for those who qualify, even for adults. There are financial aid programs to help you as you return to school to finally earn your diploma. The important thing is to know exactly where to look.

Here are five ways you can get financial aid for your return to college:

1.) Federal Aid

Adults can also avail themselves of federal aid. They just have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Federal Pell Grants, for example, are not limited by age, so even adults have the opportunity to get assistance. (Note that Federal Pell Grants may be available for only those who qualify who also have not already obtained a bachelor’s degree and are attending under-graduate studies, not those who are seeking post-graduate completion.)

You may also eligible to borrow from the Direct Stafford loan—a federal student loan program.

2.) Company Assistance

For those who are employed, ask the Human Resources department or your manager about tuition assistance programs. Many companies offer financial education assistance programs for employees who want to continue their studies.

Although companies gladly share part of the tuition with you, it’s likely that they will also require you to stay with the company for a minimum number of years. An alternative to direct tuition payment is that some companies offer assistance in the form of tuition reimbursement; that means you’re expected to pay your tuition first and then get the reimbursement later, often with the submission of proof of completion.

3.) 529 Savings Plan

There is no age limit for the 529 savings plan, so if you have one that you have not used, it’s still valid should you wish to return to school. Unlike the Coverdell Savings Account, which requires the owner to use the funds by age 30, the 529 plan is always valid and is therefore a potential financial source for adults going back to college.

Another tip: if your child opted not to pursue higher education, you can transfer the 529 savings plan for your own use. It’s a good way to make sure the savings don’t go to waste, and a means to fund your own higher education.

4.) Lifetime Learning Credit

This is a tax credit available to help offset the costs of higher education by reducing the amount of your income tax liability. The amount of the Lifetime Learning credit is  20% of your tuition expenses up to no more than $2,000. However, the credit will be reduced by the amount of any tax-free education assistance you may have received, e.g., grants and scholarships.  The credit can be used for anything school-related, even non-degree training courses. To get the maximum, however, your adjusted gross income should be less than $62,000 if you’re single, head of household or qualifying widow(er) (and double that, $124,000 if married filing jointly).

However, you cannot use the Lifetime Learning Credit in conjunction with your 529 plan.

5.) Scholarships

A lot of adults think there are no scholarships for them. Why? First, they believe that scholarships are only for young people. Second, they believe that even if scholarships were available to them, they wouldn’t qualify.

The truth is that there are usually no age limits on scholarships. Plus, there are scholarships specifically designed for adults returning to school. One example is the Robert and Thelma Sargeant Past Graduate/Adult School District Resident Scholarship in Ohio.

At the very least, it’s a good idea to give it a shot. Use our CU Select Tool to find a Credit Union in your area to discuss your options to finance your education.

6.) Student Choice Undergraduate Private Loan

The Student Choice Undergraduate private loan solution was designed to fill the funding gaps that may exist after all-lower-cost sources of aid (including scholarships, grants and Federal Stafford loans) have been exhausted and with many benefits.

Learn if your credit union offers the Undergraduate Student Choice Private Loan Solution or find a credit union near you because #educationmatters.


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