College Funding Solutions for Working Adults: What Are Your Options?

adult learner and college funding solutions

One of the economic discussions that's been getting a lot of ink lately is a tighter labor market. Forward-thinking employers are already planning ahead for a shortage of new hires by putting skill-development plans in motion. A key component of these plans are undoubtedly employees who are willing to learn and earn. But many working adults are understandably concerned about the cost of returning to school. At the forefront is figuring out how to pay for tuition, books, and other educational expenses. As an employer, there are three major funding solutions you'll want to make them aware of.

3 College Funding Solutions for Adult Learners

Taking out a loan

There are two types of loans: federal and private. Both typically require at least part-time study to qualify.  Federal loans are accessed through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. These loans do not require a credit check or co-signer, have maximums based on grade level, and offer fixed interest rates. With private loans, students can borrow up to the full cost of their education. Conversely, private loans do require a credit check and often a co-signer, and offer either fixed or variable interest rates.  

Securing grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are often called "gift aid" because they are free money -- financial aid that doesn't have to be repaid. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are generally merit-based.  Grants are typically for undergraduate degrees. Grants and scholarships can come from the federal government, the state government, a private or nonprofit organization, or one's college or university.

With so many options and places to look, it's important to do your due diligence. Here are some places to look for grants and scholarships: Federal & State Sources: Apply for these funds with the FAFSA form. Institutional Sources: Employees should be sure to check the college's website they will almost certainly provide information on grants & financial aid and speak with the Admissions office to make sure they understand their options. Individual academic departments sometimes have specific grants and scholarships as well, so it's a good idea to reach out to the department that houses their academic program, too. Private Sources: There are a myriad of professional, fraternal, and advocacy organizations that also reserve funds for education. Depending on what employees are going to school for, academic and professional journals that align with their program of study may even offer financial support.

Finally, it's always a good idea to check www.scholarships.com and www.cappex.com  you never know what you could stumble across.

 Supplementing with employer-sponsored programs

Of course, there's always your company's tuition assistance and reimbursement plans to help employees pay for college. Organizations offer education assistance for some very important reasons, including talent development, employee retention, and professional development (among many others). A company's policy will outline the dollar amount available, qualification criteria, and timing for the financial support (i.e. reimbursement, after the course, or disbursement, before the course). It's important to pay attention to the way a year is calculated (whether Calendar, Fiscal, or Academic) and what the tuition assistance policy will cover (tuition, fees, books, exams, etc.).

 

Many adult learners work full-time and try and take on a full-time course load. It's imperative to find a balance that works to be successful in the completion of a degree program. College advisors can help plan out courses and schedules, depending on the amount of time available for school, finances, work, family responsibilities, and educational goals. Going back to school has its challenges, but having funding solutions is a first step in pursuing educational advancement.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.