August 3, 2009

Financial Aid for Returning Students

JobMonkey is not a college financial aid website, but many who visit us are thinking about going back to college. And for good reason: A college degree is an invaluable asset. Studies show that associate degree holders earn an average of $1.6 million over the course of their working life.

Bachelor’s degree holders will earn $2.1 million, and doctoral and professional degree holders can make as much as $4.4 million.

But just how much will those bumps in salary cost you? The average price tag for a four-year degree is $50,000, with annual tuition rate of inflation of more than 7% a year. Figuring out how to finance your college degree can be an overwhelming task. The good news is there are numerous resources available to help you foot the bill. JobMonkey’s Guide to Financial Aid provides you an in-depth overview of most of them, but here’s some good information to get you started.

The Pell Grant
The government provides millions of dollars a year in free money, known as grants, to college students from low-income families. The most common of these is the Pell Grant, which is awarded to one in four American college students. The Senate is currently debating legislation, which would increase the amount of the grant from $4,800 per year to $5,500 in 2009 — and $6,900 by 2019. To qualify, you and your family must earn less than $50,000 per year.

Federal Work Study Program
One of the best ways to pay for college is with a job. Of course, if you have ever tried to work and study full-time, you know what a challenge that can be. For many students, the Federal Work Study program is the ideal solution. It allows you to earn money for college living expenses (think: room and board, text books and supplies) while still having plenty of time to study for college exams.

Student Loans
If you have to take out student loans to help pay for college (and most students do), make sure you do it the smart way. Start by learning all about government loans, such as the Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans. The federally guaranteed, low-interest Stafford loan, for example, can provide up to $57,000 over the course of your college career. Also be sure to educate yourself about payment plans, grace periods and more in our article on college loan repayment.

College Savings Programs
Are your plans for college still a few years off? Get a jumpstart on financing your college degree by stashing cash in a tax-deferred savings program, known as a 529 Plan. These vehicles are a great way to save for your education — or that of a family member.

These four programs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financing your college education. Visit the JobMonkey to learn about all your options, from scholarships to military service and beyond.

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