Going back to school may be a necessity if you have lost your job or need to make a career change. It might also simply be a way to make more money or have more satisfaction in your job or maybe it’s a goal you’ve always had. A major concern of returning students is how to juggle not only college expenses but also the loss of income that may come from reducing work hours to focus on school. Fortunately, there are ways to make starting or returning to school affordable.
The financial aid process and types of financial aid you are eligible to receive are typically the same for students of all ages. Many types of financial aid are available even if you plan to attend school part-time.
Scholarships for Adult Students
Additionally, many scholarships are targeted specifically to adult learners. Be sure to use terms like “non-traditional student”, “adult student” and “returning to school” when searching for scholarships. Here are a few sites to visit:
- Maine Community Foundation
- Maine Competitive Skills Scholarship helps workers learn new skills and succeed in a changing economy.
- Adult Degree Completion Scholarship supports adult students returning to college after an absence of 3 years or more and who are completing their very first baccalaureate degree.
- Many schools also offer scholarships especially for adult students. Check with any schools or programs you are interested in attending.
Explore State Level Programs
The State of Maine Office of Family Independence, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, has programs available to help students with dependent children reach their academic goals. Two of these wrap-around support programs are the Parents as Scholars (PaS) program and Higher Opportunities for Pathways to Employment (HOPE). Both provide financial support beyond direct higher education expenses and include a point person to help you navigate and complete a degree program. Information on eligibility and program requirements can be found on the program websites.
Employer Benefits for Education
Many students continue to work while attending school. Some employers offer education benefits such as tuition reimbursement. Ask your employer if they offer education benefits and how the process works at your company (i.e. upfront payment or retroactive reimbursement).
Some employers offering tuition assistance include:
- Home Depot
- Wells Fargo
- Many banks & credit unions
Tax Benefits for Education
Take advantage of tax credits and deductions to lower the overall cost of attendance. The state of Maine and the federal government offer tax benefits for higher education.
If you have the opportunity to plan ahead, saving for college is a great idea and can potentially reduce your student loan borrowing.
Managing Student Loans
If you have student loans from attending college before, you may have questions about how to manage your student loans while you are in school.