Financial Aid Resources
For many displaced plus 50 workers, financing a return to community college may be challenging. While many scholarship opportunities target traditionally-aged students, financial aid is available for plus 50 students at many institutions. Some community colleges offer free tuition for displaced workers, and some states, such as Michigan, have instituted programs like No Worker Left Behind to help displaced workers. Talk with the financial aid office at your local community college for more information about what is available in your area. Generally, financial aid comes in three forms: federal financial aid, credits that add deductions to your federal income taxes, and scholarships.
FAFSA: The Doorway to Federal, State, & Local Financial Aid
Any student requesting federal financial aid is required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. FAFSAs for the 2008-2009 academic year are being accepted between January 1 and midnight Central Standard Time, June 30, 2009. Do not wait until the last minute to apply, because federal aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, most states and schools use FAFSA information when awarding their financial aid.
To fill out the FAFSA forms online, you will need your most current tax return, social security number, driver's license, bank statements, and investment records. For applications by June 30, 2009, you will need your 2008 tax return. Federal Student Aid recommends that you do your taxes before completing the FAFSA because you must report your income earned in the previous year. The higher your cash assets and adjusted gross income, the less government assistance you will receive.
Talk with your accountant about ways to maximize your tax deductions. These steps may also help lower your tax burden and maximize your deductions:
- Contribute as much as you can to your retirement savings account.
- Contribute to a flexible benefits plan.
- Make energy efficient improvements to your house.
- Pay down or pay off loans and bills.
- Sell bad investments by December 31.
Federal Student Aid
This Department of Education website offers an overview of what types of financial aid is available, how to prepare for college, and how to apply.
Adult Student Checklist
For adult learners considering college for the first time or returning to college after years away, this checklist is a helpful introduction to planning for college. It advises students to consider the linkages between the career they desire, and the skills and credentials required. It also offers links to a scholarship database and a college selection tool.
Federal Aid First offers a variety of resources to help you understand the various financial aid options available for college through the government. Stafford loans may be an option for some students.
The booklet, Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid is a comprehensive source of information about the Education Department's federal student aid programs. It includes an overview of federal student aid, as well as more detailed information on the application process and student loans.
Lifetime Learning Credit
An individual paying qualified tuition and related expenses at a postsecondary educational institution may claim the Lifetime Learning Credit on his or her federal income taxes, provided the institution is an eligible educational institution. Unlike the Hope Scholarship Credit, students are not required to be enrolled at least half-time in one of the first two years of postsecondary education. Nonresident aliens generally are not eligible to claim the Lifetime Learning Credit.
The Lifetime Learning Credit on your federal income tax form allows you to deduct up to 20 percent of the taxpayer's out-of-pocket expenses for a maximum of $10,000 in expenses. Thus, the maximum Lifetime Learning Credit a taxpayer may claim is $2,000. The maximum credit does not change even if the taxpayer is claiming a credit for the expenses of more than one student in the family.
The Lifetime Learning Credit is calculated on a per family basis, and not on a per student basis. Even if more than one person in the family is in school, the maximum credit that can be claimed cannot increase. Consult your accountant if you have questions about whether you qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit.
Career Scholarship Search
Created by the U.S. Department of Labor, this online tool can help students search hundreds of available college scholarships that provide funds for students. No registration is required and more than 5,000 scholarships, loans and other financial opportunities are listed.
Executive Women International ASIST Program
The Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) is coordinated by participating Executive Women International chapters throughout the United States. This scholarship program is open to adult students at transitional points in their lives. Applicants may be single parents, individuals just entering the workforce or displaced worker. Chapter awards vary in amount. At the corporate level, the organization awards 13 scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Scholarships are generally awarded in May/June. Each chapter has its own deadline date for submitting an ASIST application, so contact a chapter near you to obtain their timeline for the application process. Applications should be submitted to the President of a participating chapter.