Grants for Older Students
College classrooms in the 21st century are filled with students labelled “non-traditional;” that is, outside of the usual 18-24, post high school age range. Older students have experienced first hand how much more economically secure and professionally valuable they could be with a college degree, but they are often the ones who have other financial burdens that make it difficult to pay for college. Older students often have children and living expenses and would not be able to puruse their education if it weren’t for the availability of grants for older students.
Some grants for older students are the same as those for more traditional college students. You can go to your financial aid officer and fill out a FAFSA, or Free Application for Student Assistance. This will determine your elegibility for federal financial aid grants that all college students have access to, such as the Pell Grant, the FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant), and the LEAP Grant (Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership). Federal grants are not restricted by age. The government also offers grants for retiring workers in the events of downsizing or layoffs—a situation many older students find themselves in.
However, there are many grants and scholarships that are offered to older students from private sources. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers second career and career development grants to older women returning to school. fastweb.com offers a whole category of scholarships for second career students, and there are a variety of sources available for both men and women who want to make nursing their second career, as well.
Employers also sometimes offer tuition assistance to trusted workers. A long term employee can be made into someone even more valuable with a few hours of extra educaiton or training. Many employers include tuition assistance in their benefits package. Both the student and the company benefit from this offering; the student gets further training and the company gets highly trained, well educated employees.
It can seem discouraging at first for an older student to search for grants or scholarships and to be met time and time again with qualifications such as, “must be a high school senior,” or “students under 30 are eligible for this grant.” But this is really one of the fastest growing areas of financial aid in the country; everyone from the government to employers to private organizations are starting to realize that grants for older students pay off for everyone in the end.