Have you always wanted to pursue a degree at Colorado Christian University but fear of not being able to pay for your education has held you back? Most students who attend college need financial assistance to some extent, so you are not alone. The faculty and staff of CCU want you to pursue your dream of a college degree, and there are opportunities for financial assistance “out there.” Scholarships for adults and grants for adult learners abound–you just have to put in the time and effort to find them. Scholarships and grants differ from loans in that they don’t have to be repaid upon completion of your degree program. They are monetary gifts to assist you in achieving your dream of a college education.
Government Money for Tuition Assistance
Millions of unemployed and underemployed adults are thinking about going back to college to improve their job prospects in this difficult economy. One of the many secrets of scholarships for adults is the amount of money available depends on what degree students aim to pursue. For example, government agencies and charities give very few grants to graduate students in MBA and similar professional degree programs because they assume graduates in these fields will make plenty of money to repay student loans (which, of course, is not always the case).
Top students interested in doing research for a Ph.D., however, can often get assistantships or other funding. Adult college students looking for help to cover undergraduate tuition (to get associates’ or bachelors’ degrees or some kinds of professional certifications) are eligible for a surprising number of financial aid programs from two major sources:
Federal government: The single biggest source of college financial aid, the federal government, hands out money only to those who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Adults who prove they have low incomes (generally below about $12,000 a year for a single person) can qualify for need-based Pell grants of up to $5,350. Part-time students get smaller Pell grants, since their tuition bills are lower. Adults who have recently stopped working can ask their colleges’ financial aid officers if they qualify for a Pell with their current lower income, instead of the higher past income reported on their FAFSAs. Pell grants cannot be used to defray the costs of a second bachelor’s. The only graduate programs Pells will cover are teacher certification courses.Federal student aid generally does not have any age restrictions. The main exception is the Coverdell Education Savings Account, which requires the funds to be used by the time the beneficiary reaches age 30. Section 529 college savings plans, on the other hand, do not have any such age restrictions.
According to the Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid:
“Students who are age 24 or older as of December 31 of the award year are considered automatically independent. Independent undergraduate students are eligible for increased unsubsidized Stafford loan limits — an additional $4,000 per year during the freshman and sophomore years and an additional $5,000 per year during the junior and later years — since their parents cannot borrow from the PLUS loan program. This yields annual loan limits of $7,500 during the freshman year, $8,500 during the sophomore year, and $10,500 during the junior and later years. The aggregate limit increases by $23,000 for a total of $46,000. Graduate and professional students are eligible for up to $20,500 in Stafford loans per year, no more than $8,500 of which can be subsidized. They are also eligible for the Grad PLUS loan.”
Students of any age preparing for a teaching career could qualify for $4,000-a-year TEACH grants, but here’s a caveat: There is quite a bit of fine print associated with these Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grants, however. Those who don’t maintain excellent grades and teach for at least four years at specially designated schools could have to repay the grants with interest.
Adult students can also get federal student loans as long as they haven’t already maxed out their student loan eligibility, aren’t in default on previous student loans, and are attending school at least half time. Undergraduates can borrow up to $12,500 a year through the federal Stafford program. Graduate students can borrow the entire cost of their educations, including reasonable living expenses, by combining federal Stafford and Grad Plus loans.
State governments: A few state governments are providing financial aid to adults hoping for retraining. Retraining grant information is usually available through one-stop career centers or community colleges. Scholarships for adult students abound, but it takes time and patience to look for them. You can seek help and advice from upperclassmen, financial counselors at CCU, your employer and the Web for adult student grant and scholarship opportunities.
Although many schools restrict eligibility for the school’s own financial aid programs to the first Bachelor’s degree, some schools will waive the restrictions when the student is an adult returning to school to earn a second degree in preparation for a career change.