- Identify other potential sources of income available while attending school full or part time
In addition to federal financial aid, you might be eligible for financial assistance from other organizations, such as your state, non-profits, and your school. A bit of research and digging can unearth a treasure trove of resources.
There are state and federal programs you can access for funding in addition to the ones that you normally think of when you fill out your FAFSA. A partial list includes:
- Special aid programs or additional aid eligibility for serving in the military or for being the spouse or child of a veteran
- Education awards for community service with AmeriCorps
- Educational and training vouchers for current and former foster care youth
- Scholarships and loan repayment programs through various institutions:
- Department of Health and Human Services Indian Health Service
- National Institutes of Health
- National Health Service Corps
If your financial aid office doesn’t have a comprehensive list available, a simple web search is a good place to start.
Many nonprofit and private organizations offer scholarships to help students pay for college or career school. This type of aid doesn’t need to be paid back, which can make a real difference in helping you manage your education expenses. Keep in mind that scholarships can be based on your academic merit, your specific talents, or your particular area of study.
Your school’s financial aid office may be able to direct you to a scholarship or aid foundation, and many schools have a single scholarship application that will work for multiple opportunities, saving you a lot of time and increasing your chances of getting more financial help.
Your College’s Financial Aid Office
Many schools have a pool of money set aside that allows them to offer their own grants and scholarships, as well as emergency funds for things like housing, supplies, and even living expenses. Fill out any applications your school requires for its own aid programs, and make sure you meet your school’s deadlines.
More Places to Look
Ideas for finding scholarship opportunities:
- Visit your school’s financial aid page on its website, or contact the financial aid office.
- Ask at the department that offers your course of study; they might have a scholarship for students in your major.
- The U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool.
Some students are lucky enough to have a parent, grandparent, or another third party who has either transferred resources into a trust or bank account or a 529 college savings plan. However, those assets have to be reported on the FAFSA and may adversely affect the amount of financial aid awarded.
In addition, you, your parents, your spouse, and even your grandparents can take an early withdrawal from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to pay for qualified education expenses.
Normally, IRA withdrawals before age 59.5 result in a 10 percent early distribution penalty in addition to any regular income tax due, but education expenses are an exception. Again, as this is a tax issue, it pays to do some research into the exact current rules, and this is one place it’s a good idea to hire a qualified expert for advice on college funding.
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TAX BENEFITS
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) provides a partially refundable tax credit worth up to $2,500 for the first four years of school as you work toward a degree or similar credential. (The refund number is based on a tuition, fees, and textbook expenses cost of up to $4,000.)
The Lifetime Learning Credit allows you to claim up to $2,000 per year for any college or career school tuition and fees and other expenses. Part of the AOTC is considered a “refundable” credit, which means that even if you don’t have a tax liability, you can still get a refund from the IRS. Tax credits can be a bit complicated, and the laws are subject to change, so it pays to do some research and/or consult with a qualified tax advisor.
You can watch this video from CNBC for additional tricks to pay for college.