The average vocational program will run you over $30,000 — which isn’t a small price to pay. If you’re in the process of determining how to pay for trade school, consider these 6 avenues for footing the bill.
Scholarships are free money, meaning you don’t have to pay them back. Because of this, you’ll want to maximize the number of scholarships you apply to and accept.
First, contact the trade school you plan to attend and ask about any institutional scholarships they may offer. Then, look for scholarships offered in your local area. Both will be far less competitive than most scholarships you find online.
If that doesn’t yield results, search websites such as Scholarships.com and Bold.org. These websites are, in essence, aggregators that compile massive lists of scholarship opportunities. That said, they’ll likely be more competitive in comparison to the aforementioned opportunities, so you’ll need to have a strong application.
When searching, try to narrow your search to specific aspects of your life. For example, try searches like:
- Scholarships for Boy Scouts
- Scholarships for disabled women
- Scholarships for Indian men
The more narrow the eligibility criteria, the smaller the applicant pool is likely to be, and the better your chances are of receiving the scholarship.
Like scholarships, grants are also dealt on a no-strings-attached basis, meaning you don’t have to pay them back either. As you can imagine, you’ll want to maximize how many grants you can rack up, too.
Most grants will come directly from the federal government. To access these, you’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you’re eligible, you’ll receive notice in your financial aid award letter from the program(s) you apply to.
Sometimes, non-government entities also offer grants. These are typically need-based, meaning you’ll have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible to receive one. You can find these grants by simply searching online.
After submitting the FAFSA, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from the trade school(s) you apply to. Within this letter, you’ll see whether you qualify for any federal aid, which can come in the form of grants, work study, or federal student loans.
If you receive a federal student loan, it’s wise to accept it, but only after accepting gift aid like scholarships and grants. This is because federal student loans tend to have lower interest rates, more flexible repayment options, and the potential for loan forgiveness — three elements private student loans may lack.
Note that programs need to be accredited to be eligible to receive federal student aid. Make sure to consider this before selecting which program to attend.
Tuition Reimbursement Programs
If you’re currently employed, ask your employer about the potential for tuition reimbursement. Believe it or not, a wide range of employers will pay for your studies — some even paying 100% of the bill.
When you inquire about this, make sure to cover all the bases, asking questions like:
- What courses are eligible for reimbursement? Which wouldn’t be eligible?
- Do I need to complete the program within a certain timeframe?
- Do I need to agree to stay employed here for a certain period of time after completing the program?
- What percentage of my studies will be reimbursed? How soon after completing the course can I expect reimbursement?
Private Student Loans
After exhausting the above options, consider private student loans. Private student loans are offered by private entities such as banks and other financial institutions. They each come with their own unique interest rates, repayment plans, and terms.
To find a private student loan that works for you, submit a free application here.
If you’re unable to qualify for a private student loan on your own, consider asking a parent or guardian to borrow a parent loan on your behalf. Like traditional private student loans, parent loans are offered by private organizations to parents to fund their child’s education.
Legally, your parent will be the sole individual responsible for repaying the loan, but you can contribute to repayment as you would with a traditional private loan. That said, keep in mind that some private lenders might not offer parent loans for trade schools, so you’ll need to search carefully.
When paying for any educational institution, it’s important to remember the following order of events: free aid (scholarships, grants) → earned money (work study, tuition reimbursement) → borrowed money (loans).
By accepting free and earned money first, you’ll be able to minimize the amount you need to borrow, which results in less student loan debt.