How to Pay for School after Losing Your Job

The following is a guest post from Karen Schweitzer who writes about online education for OnlineColleges.net and serves as About.com’s Business School Guide.

If you are one of the many people who are considering going back to school after losing your job, you shouldn’t let a bad economy stand in your way. There are many different ways to come up with the money you need to pay for school.

1. Community Grants and Programs. The first place to start when you need money for school is your local community.  The recent downturn has prompted many local governments and community organizations to establish special programs for unemployed individuals. Some of these programs provide career education; others provide grants to cover education costs.

2. State Aid. State programs or grants may also be available for students who need financial aid. You can learn more about potential programs by contacting your state’s education department or related agencies. If aid is available, you will most likely need to apply for it using state-supplied forms. Whatever you do, be sure to follow all of the instructions and apply as soon as possible. State aid is always limited and is usually available on a first come first serve basis.

3. Federal Grants. The federal government awards billions of dollars in grants to needy students every year. The most commonly used grant is the Federal Pell Grant, which provides need-based grants to low-income students. All grants, including the Pell Grant, can be used to cover tuition costs, books costs, and other fees.

4. Scholarships. Scholarships are also an excellent way to pay for your education. Like grants and state aid, scholarship money is free money. You will not have to pay it back after graduation. Scholarships are usually awarded through commercial organizations, professional associations, and individual benefactors. You can find scholarships through the many scholarship search engines on the web. Good engines to try include Scholarships.com and FastWeb.com.

5. Government Loans. Taking out a loan to pay for your education may not seem like the ideal scenario, but the investment will eventually pay off. Research has shown that a degree can increase salary potential and competitiveness in the job market. If you decide to get a loan, be sure to look at loans that are guaranteed and subsidized by the federal government. Good examples include Stafford Loans or Perkins Loans. These loans usually have low interest rates and deferred payment options.

6. Private Loans. Taking out a private student loan may also be an option worth considering. Most banks have some sort of student loan program that can be used to cover the cost of tuition and other expenses. If you do decide to get a loan from a private bank, be sure to compare interest rates and loan terms before making a final decision. Rates and repayment options can vary from bank to bank.

7. Social Finance Companies. Traditional banks aren’t the only institutions you can turn to when you need money for school. There are companies out there who are dedicated to matching people who need money with people who have money. Commonly known as social finance companies, these organizations act as a mediator between private lenders and needy borrowers. Popular companies include Zopa, which offers low-rate loans from a non-profit member-owned credit union, and Prosper, which can help you get a personal loan from one of the company’s many partners.

8. GreenNote. Designed specifically for students, GreenNote is a unique company that offers an alternative to the traditional student loan. GreenNote doesn’t lend money directly, but it does offer a platform for students to get money from parents, friends, mentors, and strangers. Loans have low interest rates and do not require a credit check, citizenship, or a co-signer.

9. Federal Work Study Programs. Students who need money to fund their postsecondary education can also turn to the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. The FWS provides funds to students who agree to work part-time either on-campus or off-campus. Jobs are usually community service oriented or related to your job field.

10. School Programs. A lot of colleges and universities have their own financial aid programs for needy students. To learn more about possible programs, you should contact several schools you are interested in and ask to speak to their financial aid department. The department will be able to tell you about their programs and eligibility requirements.

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer who writes about online education for OnlineColleges.net.

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