According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are more than 8 million adult students in America. A significant number have previously attended college but were unable to finish their degrees. Others were willing to come back, but the the right circumstances had yet to materialize.
The federal government has a variety of grant and scholarship programs adult students can take advantage of to achieve their educational goals. Some organizations and private institutions also collaborate with initiatives which can provide significant relief to adults pursuing a college degree.
In this article, we discuss the best known grant and scholarship programs adult students can rely on to make attending college a more affordable journey. With the number of adult students expected to rise 18 percent by 2025, it is important to understand which methods are available to reduce the cost of attending college.
Completing the FAFSA application
Adults thinking about returning to college should prepare to fill the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, commonly known as FAFSA. This step is required to receive any type of government assistance, including financial aid from the major federal grant programs.
Some might think FAFSA applications are only for high school senior students. However, anyone can fill out the form. Adults students can apply freely if they are U.S. citizens or legal resident, have a valid Social Security number and a high school or general equivalency diploma (GED). To fill out the form, prospective students must provide detailed information about themselves and their family. Additionally, the federal government requires financial documents, such as tax returns, to determine how much money can be awarded through its programs.
Filling out the FAFSA form should be done annually, even if the person has yet to decide when to attend college. Doing so will create a record of their social and economic situation that’s needed to access federal student loans if grants are not available. Federal student loans have generous conditions, including low interest rates and flexible repayment policies.
Grants To Go Back To School
Students in the United States have access to a variety of programs which help pay for college. The U.S. Department of Education administers the largest education grant programs in the country, the Pell and FSEOG grants. They provide financial assistance to low-income Americans who cannot afford an education, including adults returning to college. State governments often run programs offering financial assistance to local residents.
Grants, unlike loans, don’t have to be repaid. They are a form of subsidy given by the government as long as certain conditions are met. The main requirements to qualify for a federal education grant are filling the FAFSA form and falling within the eligible income brackets. Other factors such as maintaining a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), being a U.S. citizen or eligible resident, and having a high school or equivalent diploma are also taken into consideration.
The Pell Grant is a subsidy provided by the United States government to undergraduate students who cannot pay for college. The program was created in 1965 and is currently the largest educational grant in the country with more than 6 million recipients including students from colleges and vocational schools. Pell grant money is awarded annually, usually at the beginning of the academic year.
To become eligible for a Pell grant, prospective students should fill and submit the FAFSA form before the academic period begins. The government will use the information provided by the applicant to produce a number called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This number is used to confirm the applicant’s eligibility and determine the amount of money to be given during the academic period.
Adult students should keep in mind that the government evaluates a wide array of factors when calculating how much money is awarded to Pell grant recipients. For example, college tuition and annual family income have a significant effect in the calculation. Whether the student plans to attend college part-time or full-time is also relevant. As of January 2018, the maximum amount of financial aid which can be received through a Pell Grant is around $6,000 annually for up to six years.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, better known as FSEOG, is an alternative for students who cannot afford college. Similar to Pell Grants, FSEOG Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who meet the required criteria. However, the FSEOG program awards between $100 and $4,000 annually only to U.S. citizens. Legal residents have no access to the program and must look for other funding avenues.
Another key difference is that the federal government often awards FSEOG funding directly to educational institutions, which then choose which students are in financial need and how much money they require to successfully complete their school year. In this case, the federal government covers up to 75 percent of the subsidy, while the school is responsible for the remaining 25 percent.
Adults students who were unable to receive a Pell grant can try and apply for FSEOG funding. There requirements are similar to Pell Grants with the exception that only students of participating schools are eligible. FSEOG grants are often awarded on a first come first served basis, so applying as early as possible increases the chances of receiving the grant. Students who want to maximize their chances can apply to receive Pell and FSEOG funding simultaneously. However, they can only participate in one of these grant programs at a time.
Students pursuing a degree in teaching or educational administration are eligible to receive financial aid from the federal government through the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, better known as the TEACH Grant. This form of financial assistance is available to undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate students. However, they must be willing to teach in a low income school for at least for years to become eligible for the grant.
TEACH recipients receive as much as $4,000 from the government to finance their educational careers. If, for any reason, a student is unable to complete the mandatory four-year tenure at a low income school, the government turns their grant into a federal student loan that must be paid back. Adult students interested in this funding source must carefully consider the mandatory conditions before accepting a TEACH grant.
Grants awarded by local governments
Many states run grant programs designed to help local residents get an education without going deep into debt. For example, the state of New Jersey operates a financial assistance programs targeting adults who have previously abandoned college. The programs offers them financial incentives to continue studying without affecting their finances.
Other states run similar programs meant to provide a way for the local population to increase their earnings. Adult students looking for local help can receive information about regional assistance programs at the local government offices.
Scholarships for Adults
Scholarships are a popular funding source for adult students across the country. Many organizations and educational institutions award scholarships every year to help both young and adult students afford the cost of their degrees. Like grants, scholarships don’t have to be repaid, though the requirements to receive them are often higher.
Adult students looking for financial assistance through scholarships should keep several things in mind. Unlike grants, scholarships are often based on high grades or previous academic achievements. The individual talent of applicants is also important. Some institutions only award scholarships to students focusing on academic subjects which are of strategic value to the grant committee.
There are some scholarships who behave like grants, though most are given following unique criteria. For example, the Return2College scholarship is awarded every year to students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. The prize is $1,000 and applicants must submit an essay to be eligible. The Unigo $10K Scholarship awards $10,000 to students enrolled in an accredited post-secondary institution. The process to participate is similar to Return2College: students must submit an essay answering the question set by the Unigo organization.
Some scholarships target older students specifically. For example, the Imagine America scholarship awards $1,000 to nontraditional students who are 21 years or older. The program is meant to help adults going through financial hardship. However, they must become members of the Imagine America foundation to become eligible for the scholarship.