Financial Aid for Adult Learners
Financial aid is a vital piece of the puzzle for adults and non-traditional students heading off to college. Here are some tips to find help paying for college for adults:
FAFSA for Adults
You'll want to begin by filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Typically, this form becomes available each year on October 1st for financial aid consideration in the upcoming school year. For example, if you’ll begin college in fall of 2025, you’ll want to complete the FAFSA soon after October 1st, 2024. For the 2024-2025 academic year, the Department of Education has announced that the new FAFSA will be released later than usual and is expected in December of 2023. This means that students planning to attend college during the 2024-2025 academic year will not be able to fill out the FAFSA form until December 2023 or after, instead of starting October 1, 2023.
The FAFSA will need to be completed each year and is based on your income and some assets. When you complete the FAFSA, you are applying for federal and state grants, federal work-study, and federal student loans. Many scholarships and some institutional aid also require the FAFSA form to be on file as part of the application process. There are also back to school grants for adults, and the FAFSA opens the door for most of those as well.
College Scholarships for Adults
You’ll also want to research scholarships for adults. Be sure to look at your college’s website, as it will list institutional scholarships and deadlines. Remember that scholarships are gift aid and do not need to be repaid. Also research national, statewide, and local scholarships. CFNC.org has a scholarship tool to help you, as well. Scholarship information should always be free; never pay someone to help you find “hidden” or “special” opportunities. Always be aware of scams.
Employer Scholarships and Reimbursement Programs
Be sure to ask your employer about scholarships or reimbursement programs. Many organizations offer scholarships to employees (and children of employees), as well as reimbursement opportunities if the college courses are related to your career or the organization as a whole.
Student Loans for Adults Going Back to School
Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) – FELS is a program open to students in North Carolina who are going into specific careers. Funds are available for students working on Certificates, Associates, Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral Degrees. Complete an application for the funds if your career falls into one of the Approved Education Programs (AEP). There are other eligibility requirements, such as GPA and approved institutions, so review all of the information before you apply.
Alternative Loans – if you are considering private or alternative loans, be sure to do your research. Many lenders have different interest rates, fees, and terms. North Carolina offers an alternative education loan through our state-based nonprofit, College Foundation, Inc.; NC Student Assist Loan and NC Assist Parent Loan. These loans have competitive, low fixed interest rates and no fees.