Going back to school shopping for yourself may not have been what you thought you’d be doing 20 years ago. But, with the ever changing job market there has been a drastic increase in adults returning to school to complete a wide variety of degrees. Some things have changed since the last time you attended class - one of the most notable changes being the ever-rising cost of tuition. However, one thing has remained constant, that financial aid is available to help make college affordable. In fact, there are more financial aid options available to you than your younger counterparts.

Like everyone else attending your institution you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA). While filling out your FAFSA, either for undergraduate or graduate aid, complete it as an independent student. Being an independent student allows you to be eligible for more financial aid than the dependent students. As an independent undergraduate student you are eligible for increased subsidized Stafford loan limits, $7,500 for freshmen, $8,500 for sophomores, and $10,500 for every subsequent year. Graduate and professional independent students become eligible for up to $20,500 in Stafford loans per year, with no more than $8,500 of which can be subsidized. The Pell Grant is also available to students who have not already completed a bachelor’s degree or first professional degree. Additionally, all students are eligible for federal work-study.

As a returning student you could also qualify for some educational tax benefits to ease your financial burden. You may qualify for either the American Opportunity Tax Credit (Form 8863) and/or the Lifetime Learning Credit (Form 8863). Tax credits, such as these, reduce the amount of income tax you may have pay. This differs from a deduction, which reduces the amount of income subject to tax, as a credit directly reduces the tax itself. The American Opportunity Credit can be worth up to $2,500, and is based on adjusted qualified education expenses.  There is a list of qualifications you must meet for the IRS to honor this tax credit. Up to 40% of the American Opportunity Credit may also be refundable, and if the refundable portion of your credit is more than your tax, the excess will be refunded to you. The Lifetime Learning Credit can be worth up to $2,000 to be used towards qualified education expenses. Additionally, you may qualify for a Tuition and Fees Deduction (Form 8917). The tuition and fees deduction can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000 if you and your expenses meet the qualifications

If you are currently have full-time employment, you may be able to to take advantage of employer tuition assistance. Some companies offer financial assistance for their employees to further educations. Many big companies take part in this type of employee empowerment program. Financial support involvement may be decided by the individual company but the amount is determined by government guidelines, meaning that companies are more inclined to spend up to the tax-free limit per employee per year ($5,250). To find out if your company takes part in this initiative contact your Human Resources department.

Give credit where it’s due - literally. You may able to significantly cut the cost of school by entering with already earned credits under your belt. If you are returning to school after a hiatus and have previous college credits, check the registrar’s office at your future institution in regards to what credits are transferrable. Also, many schools are now awarding credit for life experience, so be sure to check and see if your school participates.

If you are a member of the armed forces or have a family member in the service there are grants and loan repayment options designed specifically for military personnel.

And, of course, an option for additional funding for school is applying for scholarships and private grants. While searching for scholarships and private grants that pertain to you, keep your eyes peeled for “Non-traditional students,” one of the official terms used for adults returning to college. There are a multitude of options available designed to empower the non-traditional student and support furthering your education.

One of the hardest parts of being an adult returning back to school is balancing a job and school work, especially with all the time consuming paperwork involved with getting financial aid. Go Financial Aid provides a multitude of services to help ease the process including our product for automating the process of completing the FAFSA and our Financial Aid Consultants.

Categories: Financial Aid | Grants | Scholarships | Student Loans | Work Study | Financial Aid Applications | FAFSA | Go Financial Aid
Tags: adult student fafsa financial aid going back to school non-traditional student

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