Are Part-Time Students Eligible for Financial Aid?
Pursuing a graduate degree is a worthwhile endeavor, one that will offer many rewards. A graduate degree will increase your knowledge, skills, and earning potential. If you’re a part-time student pursuing a graduate degree, you might be wondering if you qualify for financial aid.
The short answer is yes! But the longer answer depends on several factors unique to the kind of student you are. There is a common misconception that part-time students are not eligible for financial aid, but that is simply not true. While part-time students do generally receive less aid than full-time students, there are still additional ways to fund your higher education. The most common types of aid are federal aid, grants, scholarships, and tuition reimbursement.
The first step in the federal financial aid process is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your FAFSA will help federal and state agencies as well as your university determine how much aid you qualify for. The eligibility requirements for FAFSA are not entirely dissimilar than those of traditional undergraduate students, but there are some key differences. Typically, graduate students are considered independent students, so your parent’s financial information is not needed. Further, graduate students are not eligible for certain types of aid, such as subsidized loans. Here’s the breakdown of the types of federal aid available to most graduate students:
- The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program: Under this program, the Department of Education is your lender rather than a bank or an institution. Graduate students may receive two types of Direct Loans:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: You are eligible to borrow up to $20,5000 per year to cover costs. If you are enrolled in a certain health program, you may be qualified to borrow more. Always check with your institution to see what is available to you.
- Direct PLUS Loans: If education costs are more than the maximum unsubsidized loan amounts, then you are eligible to take out the remainder in a Direct PLUS Loan.
- TEACH Grant and Federal Pell Grant: The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant offers up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing a degree to begin a career in teaching. There are certain requirements such as courses and jobs that a student must satisfy to prevent the grant from becoming a loan that needs to be repaid. Students enrolled in a teaching certification program may also be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant, which does not need to be repaid.
- Federal Work Study Program: This program allows graduate students with demonstrated financial need to work part time to earn money that you can put toward education costs and is available to both full- and part-time students. This program encourages students to engage in work related to their studies, so it’s good for your wallet and your résumé! For more information, visit the Department of Education website and the financial aid office at your institution.
Grants and Scholarships
While there are limited federal grants available to graduate students across the disciplines, there are plenty of private foundation grants available. The College Grants Database is an exhaustive resource to find grants for every type of student and areas of study. Remember, grants are essentially free money and never require repayment. Scholarships are similar in that they do not require repayment, but the eligibility requirements are different. Scholarships tend to require proof of merit, an essay, or a personal statement. Regardless of the requirements, you should apply for as many as you think you might qualify for. Search Careeronestop to find scholarships at the graduate level.
Another way to fund your part-time education is to seek tuition reimbursement from your employer. As a valued employee who is also improving their skills and expertise by seeking an advanced degree, you are a sound investment for your company. See if your company offers tuition reimbursement to offset your education costs. If not, consider making a case for yourself.
Pursuing a graduate degree is advantageous, albeit, costly endeavor, but there are resources out there to help you pay for it. Federal aid, grants, and scholarships are just a few ways you can help pay for your degree, even as a part-time student. Part-time students pursuing a graduate degree are almost always eligible for some type of financial aid.
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