Eligibility and Grants
Introduction to How Vocational Financial Aid Works
"What do you do?" is one of the first questions a new acquaintance asks. Most of us define ourselves by our work, and our career choice can be one of the most pivotal decisions we make in our lives. Of the many paths that could lead to a satisfying, well paying career, vocational education (also called career and technical education) is probably the most straightforward.
The next step is figuring out to pay for that education. It might surprise you to learn that vocational students have access to the same types of federal financial aid as college, graduate and professional degree students. Department of Labor job training program for at risk young people ages 16 to 24Workforce Investment Act Training: federal program that provides short term training and education[source: Career One Stop]
Federal aid is probably the most common form of financial assistance for either traditional four year colleges or vocational education programs. We’ll tackle eligibility requirements and different types of federal grants in the next section.
Federal Financial Aid: Eligibility and Grants
All students applying for federal aid and most students applying for state, institutional and other aid will need to submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). In order to qualify for federal aid, applicants need to meet several eligibility requirements:
Prove financial need. You don’t need to repay grants. The federal grants most applicable to career and technical students are:
Pell Grants: Pell Grants are the type of grants awarded to most eligible students. The award amount is $100 to $4,000 per year. We’ll talk about those on the next page.
Student Loans and Work/Study Programs
Federal loans must be repaid. However, most loans will allow you to defer paying interest until you have completed your education. This gives students a chance to find a job and establish some income before they need to begin repaying the loan. To apply for federal loans, fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Department of Education pays the interest while you are in school. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans don’t require financial need. Department of Education’s guide "Funding Education Beyond High School."
The Federal Work Study (FSW) program gives jobs to students with financial need who are enrolled at least part time. Students can use their earnings at their discretion. Most work/study jobs are with the school or nonprofit and public agencies. The FWS program encourages students to work in their fields of study or in community service jobs [source: Department of Education].
If you don’t think federal aid will work for you or if you’re hoping to supplement it with additional aid, there are still several other options. Next, we’ll cover state aid, institutional aid and scholarships.
State Aid, Institutional Aid and Scholarships
Most states offer need based grants or scholarships. The eligibility requirements for need based scholarships are sometimes more flexible than federal grants. If you think you were close to qualifying for Pell Grant but didn’t quite meet the criteria, or if you qualified for a Pell Grant but would like to find additional aid as well, look into a need based scholarship. Eligibility requirements and the types of aid offered by states vary. Check with your vocational or technical college to see what sort of state aid is available through your school.
In addition, some institutions also offer financial aid, often in the form of scholarships, which does not need to be repaid. Check with your school to see which institution specific scholarships might be available to you.
Businesses, foundations, community groups, churches and almost every imaginable type of organization also offer scholarships. These gifts of money are given to students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, students from particular regions, students with financial need and for many other reasons. Here are a few examples of the many scholarships available specifically to students pursuing vocational education:Hunting for scholarships takes dedication and research. Be persistent and you may well discover a scholarship tailor made for your situation or background. You aren’t always required to fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) when applying for scholarships; however, most sources strongly recommend you do, since most aid both federal and nonfederal requires a completed FAFSA.
People looking to pursue a specific career path, which may or may not require a degree or certificate at a vocational school or technical college, may also benefit from federal job training programs, such as registered apprenticeships, Job Corps programs and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) training. Read on to find out how these programs work.
Registered Apprenticeships, Job Corps and WIA Training
The Department of Labor’s registered apprentice program has been training eligible individuals for skilled labor careers since 1937. Registered apprenticeships are available for more than 1,000 occupations, including able seaman, carpenter, chef, electrician, pipefitter and many more. Apprentices receive paid, on the job training as well as the education needed to pass certification examinations. In most cases, employers pay for all or most of the education expense, which can include associate or even bachelor degree programs [source: DOA]. Department of Labor job training program open to at risk 16 to 24 year olds. Through Job Corps, students receive free career and technical training in more than 100 fields of study, including automotive repair, construction, renewable resources, manufacturing and information technology. If students don’t already have a high school diploma or GED, Job Corps helps them earn one. Job Corps also helps students develop social and independent living skills and provides them with assistance in finding a first job [source: JobCorps].
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 created "one stop" career centers in each state that bring a full range of job seeker assistance together under one roof. One type of assistance offered at Career One Stops is help in applying for various WIA training programs. A number of various and sometimes highly specialized opportunities are available. For instance, Casey and Son Horseshoeing School in La Fayette, Ga., is affiliated with the WIA program. If an advisor agrees that a certain region may have a need for more trained farriers (professionals trained in equine hoof care), the WIA program might agree to subsidize tuition at the school. Visit the WIA Web site for more information about training programs available in your area.
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