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.
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.
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, meaning that on top of having to pay the full amount back, you’ll also be responsible for paying any interest accumulated from that loan. 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.
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 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.
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.