Every day more people realize that the education they currently have is not going to get them where they want to go. Promotions are based partly on education level, and many hiring companies weigh the education heavily in making hiring decisions. Once upon a time, most college students were teenagers who went straight to college from high school.
However, there is an increasing number of working adults who are returning to college campuses to better themselves, and their prospects for employment. These non-traditional students usually do not qualify for many grants and scholarships because they earn too much money. Luckily, there are many grants and scholarships available for these working students.
Local Organizations have Scholarships
There are many small, local organizations who want to help people go to school. These groups include the Elks, Shriners, Rotary Club, the Eagle, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Knights of Columbus and other community groups. The funds are not advertised, applicants usually have some connection to a member. Network with everyone you know to see if you can find one of these grants. Tell them that you are going back to school and are trying to find out about scholarships in the area. Someone you talk to just might be a member of a group that is looking for a worthy scholarship candidate.
Besides community groups, the local churches are also an excellent source of small grants and scholarships. Some religions offer funds for members of their religion who are going to school. The amounts with these groups are usually small, perhaps only $500 or $1000. However, they can quickly add up they can help reduce your tuition expenses.
Federal Student Aid
Federal student aid isn’t only for traditional students. It can also help non-traditional students pay for their education. At the federal student aid government website you can find information on filling out the FAFSA form, as well as information on programs that can help you pay for college. Located here, this website provides free information provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
This site provides an extensive list of scholarships that are geared for non-traditional students. The scholarships listed here are geared for working adults, and people who have been out of school for more than five years. Many of the programs do have grade point average requirements, and some also have financial requirements. However, some of the programs listed here are available to part-time students as well as full-time students.
Non-traditional students have an excellent source for grant-type programs via their employers. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs, especially if employees are pursuing a field that is related to the work. Information on these programs can be obtained from the Human Resource department. Employees are typically required to apply ahead of time, and get approval for each course. The employee would pay for the class out of his or her own pocket, then be reimbursed by the company after the course is completed and a satisfactory grade is obtained.
Some companies also require that an employee remain employed with the company for a certain length of time after the course if paid for.
Some companies also offer direct scholarships, with no mandates on courses taken or employment contracts. Talk to your human resources department to learn more about either program. These programs are especially attractive because there is very little paperwork involved. Once you are approved by the company, you are ready to take the classes, earn the grade, and get it all paid for.
Belonging to a professional association can help you get money for college. Contact any organization you are already involved with to see if they offer scholarships or grants for members who will be pursuing degrees in a related field.
Many fields have a shortage of workers, and an excess of philanthropists willing to entice people to move into that field. The fields of math and science, in particular, typically have a high number of grants and scholarships available for students willing to enter those fields. Other fields with grant money available for non-traditional and traditional students include:
- physical and occupational therapy
If you are pursuing a degree in any of these fields, research grants based on working towards these majors.
The GI Bill is there to help soldiers go back to school. Many former soldiers are non-traditional students attending on the GI Bill. However, there are also programs geared for spouses and children of soldiers to pay for school. One example is the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program, which awards grants for widows and widowers of soldiers or veterans, as well as MIA spouses.
Research fellowships are often awarded to help people pay for education expenses. One caveat of the award is that the recipient will have to work for the institution for a certain length of time, typically a summer. The fellowship not only pays for the schooling, but also provides a stipend for the working period. These programs can benefit non-traditional students, also, and should not be discounted. The working experience is even more valuable than the grant money.
You may also qualify for grants and scholarships because you are a woman, a minority, a single parent, or some other group. Research scholarships and grants of all kinds, and apply for everything you might qualify for. There is no limit to how many you can apply for, and there is never a fee for doing so.
The school you are attending can often help you find programs you qualify for. Make an appointment with a guidance counselor so you can sit down and discuss the different programs. Take the time to submit your FAFSA application to the college you choose so they can help you find all of the programs you are eligible for.
Check Your State for Grants
States are vested in increasing the education of their residents. Research your state to see if there are any programs being offered to help you pay for your education. State websites will list available grants and scholarships that you may qualify for. Many states are offering programs specifically for teachers and nurses, as well as some other fields.
Examples of Grants and Scholarships
Michigan Adult Part Time Grants
The state of Michigan offers grants for financially needy adults who have been out of high school for two years or more, and will be attending school part time. They can qualify for up to $600 a year in grant money for up to two years.
Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Scholarship
The ASIST fund is available for adults who are dealing with social, physical, or financial challenges and are trying to return to school. Local Chapters and corporate partners make these grants available, and they are geared specifically to non-traditional students.
Robert and Thelma Sargeant Past Graduate/Adult School District Resident Scholarship
Shelby County, Ohio has a scholarship available for students attending a two or four year program. The recipient is chosen based on a combination of factors, including academic ability, financial need, and community service.
NCCF Scholarship Program
People who have had their battles with cancer can apply for scholarships through the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation. $1,000 awards are issued to people between the ages of 18 and 35 who are cancer survivors and are trying to return to school.
These scholarships are geared towards people of all ages who are members of the Surfrider Foundation, and are actively working to improve coastal environments. Applicants should be majoring in oceanography, marine affairs, public policy, environmental sciences, natural resources, or community planning.
New York Financial Writers’ Association Scholarship
College students pursuing fields in business or financial journalism may apply for these scholarships.
The R.O.S.E. Scholarship
Victims of domestic violence face a lot of challenges when trying to return to school. This scholarship is designed to help ease those hardships. Applicants should have completed one year of undergraduate studies.
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation
This group offers scholarships to members who are at least 25 years old so they will be better prepared to advance in their fields.
Teaching Degrees from University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix awards stipends to students who are pursuing teaching degrees. In return for receiving assistance with tuition, these students who are pursuing Masters Degrees in Education agree to teach in high-need areas for a minimum of three years.
Purdue’s Span Plan
Adults who wanted to finish their four year degree and found that they were unable to can apply for this program, aimed specifically at adult students.
Women’s Opportunity Awards
Funded by the Soroptomist International of the Americas association, funds are offered to women struggling with disadvantaged situations. The applicants are responsible for household support and must show financial need.
Raise the Nation
Geared specifically for single mothers, this program helps pay for child care and grocery expenses while women return to school to better themselves.
Open to residents in the Chicago area, this scholarship specifically looks for students age 25 and older.
Talbots Women’s Scholarship and the Jeanette Rankin Foundation Awards
Both of these awards are meant for working, adult women.
Minimize Student Loans
Most working adults pay for college by taking out student loans. Unfortunately, these loans must be paid back at some point. Like death and taxes, the payback can not be avoided or circumvented. Non-traditional students can, however, minimize the amount they have to borrow. Many grants offer small amounts, but those $1000 and even $500 scholarships can quickly add up. Every small amount that is awarded will help lower the overall amount borrowed, placing you in a better position when the loans finally come due.
Not every student will be approved for every grant, every year. Not winning an award one year does not mean you will be turned down the next year. When you find a grant that you qualify for, apply for it every year that you are in school. Likewise, you may receive awards for the same grant for every year you are in school. Keep a list of grants that you apply for, and keep applying for them.
Maximize Your Grant Options
You may be a prime candidate for a Pell Grant. Pell Grants can pay a substantial portion of your education expenses, especially if you are a non-traditional student and are not staying on campus. These grants will cover up to $4,000 of expenses every year if you are currently earning less than $20,000 annually. Applying is free, and the payoff can be substantial.
Many non-traditional students don’t apply for scholarships, believing that they are all geared to high school students. However, this is absolutely a myth. Most scholarships have no age limit on them; they are geared only towards people seeking a degree. Many of them require full-time attendance in school, but with the accelerated programs that are available, you might still meet that requirement. Do not limit your search to non-traditional scholarships, search for scholarships based on your field of study, your current profession, and your race or gender.