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Is Financial Aid available?

The cost of college makes it difficult for many adults who must support themselves and their families while going to school. What adult learners often do not know is they can qualify for and receive financial aid. No one is too old or too wealthy to be eligible for financial aid.

In 1982, $17 billion in financial aid was available from the federal government, state governments and directly from colleges and universities. Of that money, almost $2 billion went unused because no one applied for it.

Federal, state and college aid programs award financial aid based upon financial need and/or scholastic ability. It is not necessary to be poor to have "financial need". Financial need is the difference between what it costs to both live and go to school and what you can afford to pay toward meeting those costs. If you are poor, aid awards may cover not only all school costs but actually improve your standard of living as well.

There is yet another far larger pool of financial aid. The College Board estimates that individuals, corporations and institutions have more than $100 billion available for scholarships and loans every year. No one knows how much goes unclaimed. Many of the awards in this pool are given without regard to financial need or academic ability.

Some of these scholarships have unique eligibility requirements. A sampling would include these awards given annually:
  • $3,500 to students who overcame asthma and went on to become star athletes. Given by Schering Laboratories, New Jersey.
  • $5,000 to female helicopter pilots. Given by Whirly Girls, Texas.
  • $500 to descendants of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Given by The Grand Army of the Republic Living Memorial Scholarship Fund, Washington, D.C.
  • $1,000 to U.S. Citizens of Polish descent. Given by the Kosciuszko Foundation, New York.
  • $1,500 to students studying grape cultivation. Given by The American Society of Enologists, California.
  • Varying amounts to left-handed upper classmen. Given by Juniata College, Pennsylvania.
Where do you begin your search for college loans and scholarships?

There are computerized services who, for a fee, will attempt to match students with scholarships. Most experts in financial aid agree that computerized scholarship services are not likely to be of much help to students in their search for private aid sources. If you employ them you will likely end up searching on your own anyway.

I suggest you begin your search by reading a book published by the College Board. It is an excellent book specifically for the adult learner. It is entitled, College Cost & Financial Aid Handbook 2006 : All-New 25th Edition (College Costs and Financial Aid Handbook). It can be found in most libraries. If your library doesn't have it in stock they can get a copy for you through inter-library loan.

The book can also be purchased from:

College Board Publications

P.O. Box 886

New York, NY 10101

The price is $23.95.

Financial aid resources can be found at: Paying for college

Another publication that you will find valuable is Federal Financial Aid For Men and Women Resuming Their Education or Training. It is a guide for non-traditional students available free from the:

Federal Student Aids Program

P.O. Box 84

Washington, DC 20044

You should also read chapters 12 and 13 in a book entitled, Don't Miss Out: The Ambitious Student's Guide to Financial Aid by Anna Leider and Robert Leider.

Make application to all federal and state financial aid programs that you are eligible for. Any college financial aid office can assist you with identifying which aids you qualify for and submitting the proper forms.

The College Board suggests you take inventory of yourself and your family. Make a list of everything you can think of; your hobbies and interests, every company you or your spouse or your parents ever worked for (even if only for one day), identify unions and associations you or anyone in your family has ever belonged to, identify your ethnic and religious connections, and list any diseases or injuries you may have had. With this list, go back to the library where you can begin your search for scholarships and loans in earnest.

Start with the College Blue Book, which is a directory of scholarships. Or, for online users: FastWeb, or Student aid on the web.

Other directories you should carefully review are:

A last reference is unique because it does not list scholarships directly, rather it is a directory of lists of scholarships. It will lead you to the little known, often overlooked, hard-to-find scholarships. The most recent update is titled How to Find Out About Financial Aid and Funding: A Guide to Print, Electronic, and Internet Resources Listing Scholarships, Fellowships, Loans, grants, Awards Internships, Gail Ann Schlachter, editor.

Online Financial Aid
Note: these links will open in a separate window.

With these sources and your persistence, the chances are very good that you will find all of the money you need to go back to school.

If you find a listing or source of scholarships that we have not included please let us know. Contact us on our Feedback page.

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