FIGURE OUT
FINANCIAL AID

Discover a variety of resources that can help put your training or degree program within reach.

Funding your future

Money to help you pay for your education is out there—and not just for those attending a four-year university. Students in a variety of training, certificate and degree programs can apply for financial aid. Funding comes from federal, state, school or private sources. Some forms of aid have to be repaid while others don’t. Some are based on what you do while others are based on who you are. So, the more you know about the options you’re eligible for—and which ones you want—the more likely you are to collect some of that money for yourself.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is likely your first stop in unlocking potential cash for tuition and other school-related expenses. Filling out the application online takes around half an hour, as long as you have your social security number, W-2 or 1099 forms stating how much you earned last year, your tax records and a permanent residence card (if applicable). After submitting your FAFSA form, you’ll receive an award letter letting you know what you can get in the form of loans, grants and work-study options. Eligibility for FAFSA is often a requirement for taking advantage of other opportunities for financial aid, so be sure to tackle this before applying for any other aid.

Loans

When it comes to loans, you can either get a federal student loan or a private loan through any number of lenders. This is money you’re borrowing—and paying to borrow through interest that gets added to the total amount of your loan repayment. Federal loans typically have lower interest rates than private ones and often offer more flexibility in their payment plans (which begin upon your graduation). All loans should be closely reviewed and compared to make sure you’re getting the best deal with the lowest interest rate. Remember: interest continues to accumulate as long as money is still owed, so if you can, try to pay these off as fast as possible. It’ll help you avoid spending more than you need to.

Data woman monitors

Work-Study

Another way to help pay for your education is by participating in a work-study program. These are federal and state aid programs that allow students with financial need to pursue a part-time job on or near campus to offset the cost of tuition. Even if you qualify for work-study you’re not guaranteed a job and usually are responsible for finding your own. Students can work no more than 20 hours per week earning $9-$11 per hour to put toward the cost of their education. Since this is money you’re earning, there is no repayment. Work-study can help you either reduce the amount of loans you take out or help you avoid them altogether, making your lifetime cost of schooling significantly lower.

Have you heard?

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund provides $14.5 million to fund scholarships for students in short-term workforce training programs for high-demand industries, like transportation, health care and IT.

Grants

Grants are a way for the federal government (and other entities) to fund a variety of endeavors that align with their goals—which include getting an education. This sum of money goes toward tuition and does not have to be paid back. Federal Pell grants, for example, are based on financial need and require you have a satisfactory academic record. They cap out at $3,172.50, although you could potentially get more if you have a family member in the military. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants have similar eligibility requirements and could get you up to $1,000 per year. The North Carolina Community College Grant is available to North Carolina residents enrolled in at least 6 credit hours and paying some of their own money to attend school. The specific amount varies and is decided by the State. Finish Line Grants come from the state and were created to help community college students complete their studies when hardships arise. Of course, these are just a few examples, so spend some time researching grants online to find ones offered by other groups, organizations and individuals.

Scholarships

Much like grants, scholarships do not need to be repaid. The award amounts can range from $50 to a full ride (meaning no out-of-pocket expenses). Generally, the larger the scholarship, the more competition you’ll have getting it—so consider going after lots of smaller scholarships that are easier to get. They can really add up. While application requirements for scholarships can vary, some will likely overlap, making the submission process faster. Some scholarships have requirements to fulfill once you’ve received the award, so check for those before applying. There are scholarships based on gender, race, religion, financial need, grades, field of study, where you live, what organizations you belong to, etc. One example is the state-wide SECU Scholarship which offers $500 for students in eligible training courses. Start digging around to see what else you can find. And don’t forget to check your local community college’s website too.

Let’s find the right path for you.

Answer a few questions to see what your best route to getting hired might be.

Have you completed high school or an equivalent?

Nope. I’ve got a few years left.

Do you want to work toward earning a degree?

Yep.

All signs point to you getting a head start on your higher education while you’re still in high school.

That’s because the Career & College Promise program allows you to have duel enrollment, so you can work on both at the same time. And since this program is also tuition free, it’s a real money-saver.

Maybe.

All signs point to you getting a head start on your higher education while you’re still in high school.

That’s because the Career & College Promise program allows you to have duel enrollment, so you can work on both at the same time. And since this program is also tuition free, it’s a real money-saver.

Nope.

Your answers suggest on-the-job learning might be a great way to get your foot in the door.

This type of training combines hands-on learning with related classroom instruction. Apprentices earn money while learning a highly-skilled trade from an employer. State and federal certificates as well as other credentials can also be completed through an apprenticeship.

No.

How do you see community college benefitting you?

By helping me grow my skills.

Looks like your top priority is getting the skills you need fast—so you can land a good job quickly.

Short-term training, sometimes called continuing education, comes in various forms and are all focused on helping you gain the real-world skills you need to get into—or move up in—a number of fields. These courses often lead to state licensure or a certificate upon completion.

By preparing me to start a new career.

Your answers suggest on-the-job learning might be a great way to get your foot in the door.

This type of training combines hands-on learning with related classroom instruction. Apprentices earn money while learning a highly-skilled trade from an employer. State and federal certificates as well as other credentials can also be completed through an apprenticeship.

Yes. (Or at least, I will soon.)

Are you interested in earning college credit?

Yes, definitely.

Which way do you prefer to learn?

Virtually or physically, being part of a class works for me.

How much time are you willing to spend getting an education?

Two years, tops. I’m trying to get done and get a job ASAP.

Seems like you want the opportunities that come with a degree, but in half the time of a bachelor’s. 

Associate degrees are perfect for that. They can give you a big advantage over many non-degree holders in the job market—and open up even more potential positions that were previously out of reach. You’ll have relevant skills employers want in about two years.

I could do four—or more.

Great! Sounds like you plan on using community college as a stepping stone to a four-year university.

Like any associate degree, transfer degrees take about two years to complete—but this one includes general education credits that are easily transferable. It counts the same as having completed two years toward a bachelor’s degree.

I learn best by being hands-on. Just show me how to do it.

Your answers suggest on-the-job learning might be a great way to get your foot in the door.

This type of training combines hands-on learning with related classroom instruction. Apprentices earn money while learning a highly-skilled trade from an employer. State and federal certificates as well as other credentials can also be completed through an apprenticeship.

Nope, I don’t need it.

How do you see community college benefitting you?

By helping me grow my skills.

Looks like your top priority is getting the skills you need fast—so you can land a good job quickly.

Short-term training, sometimes called continuing education, comes in various forms and are all focused on helping you gain the real-world skills you need to get into—or move up in—a number of fields. These courses often lead to state licensure or a certificate upon completion.

 

By preparing me to start a new career.

Looks like your top priority is gaining real-world skills—either through on-the-job learning or continuing education.

Short-term training or an apprenticeship can help you gain the specific skills you need to get into—or move up in—a number of fields. Certificates, licensure and other credentials can be completed through these programs via hands-on learning and/or classroom instruction.