As people age, they often find that their responsibilities change. They may have retired from their longtime career or become empty nesters as their children have gone off to college. For many adults over 50, this can be a time of transition and self-reflection.
For those looking to return to school, there are now more options than ever before. And thanks to a growing number of grant programs specifically for older adults, funding your education is within reach.
Whether you’re looking to finish your degree, take some classes for personal enrichment, or train for a new career, there are grants to help you pay for it.
Federal, state, and private grants are available for older adults who want to return to school. The most well-known federal grant is the Pell Grant, which is awarded based on financial need. There are also grants available from states and private organizations that don’t have age restrictions.
Some colleges and universities also have programs specifically for older students. These programs may offer reduced tuition rates or other financial aid.
Grant Programs for Older Adults
There are a number of grant programs specifically for adult students who want to return to education. Below are some of the most popular programs.
Federal grants are financial aid opportunities provided by the government to help students pay for college. Grants are typically need-based, meaning they are awarded based on financial need rather than academic merit. Unlike a student loan, a grant does not need to be repaid. There are a variety of federal grant programs available.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to begin your search for grants. This form determines your eligibility for federal student aid, including grants.
The federal government uses the information on the FAFSA to determine how much money you will receive in federal grants, student loans, and work-study funds. You will need to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend further education.
There are no age restrictions on the FAFSA, so individuals of all ages can apply, and there is no cost involved. Ensure that you apply early and don’t miss the deadline to give yourself the best chance of securing your grant.
Federal Pell Grant
The Federal Pell Grant is a type of financial aid awarded to students of all ages who demonstrate financial need to pay for educational expenses. The most you can be awarded for the academic year 2022-2023 is $6,895.
To be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, students must:
- Demonstrate financial need.
- Be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at an accredited educational institution.
- Be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen.
- Have a valid Social Security Number.
- Not be in default on a federal student loan.
- Not have been convicted of drug possession or sale.
To apply for a Federal Pell Grant, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) mentioned above. The grant amount is based on factors such as your financial need, the cost of attendance at your school, and whether you attend full-time or part-time. If you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, your school will disburse the funds to you directly to cover your educational expenses.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
Another Federal Government grant is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). The difference between this grant and Pell grants is that FSEOG funds are limited to a fixed amount and are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to students with exceptional financial needs. On the other hand, with Pell grants, the federal government pledges that the institution will be paid enough money to pay all eligible students enrolled in the program. FSEOG is usually reserved for students with the lowest expected family contributions (EFCs).
To be eligible for FSEOG:
- You must be a US citizen
- Hold a valid Social Security Number
- The Institution must be accredited
- No previous drug convictions
- Have not defaulted on any other federal student loans
- The student must receive a Pell grant award to qualify
To apply for an FSEOG, you must fill out the FAFSA and attend a participating school. Your school’s financial aid office will then determine your eligibility based on your financial need and the availability of funds at the school. If you are eligible, your school will award you the FSEOG funds in addition to any other federal grants for which you may qualify. The maximum annual FSEOG award is $4,000.
Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
The TEACH Grant program is designed to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession by providing financial assistance for their education. The program is open to nontraditional students, including those who are over the age of 50.
If you want to give back to the community by becoming a teacher, the TEACH Grant Program may be able to help. To be eligible for the TEACH Grant program, you must consent to work as a full-time teacher in a high-need field in a low-income area for at least four years.
Within eight years of finishing the program for which you received the Grant, you must fulfill this service requirement. If you don’t fulfill this agreement, the grant will become an unsubsidized loan that you will have to repay with interest.
To be eligible for a TEACH Grant, you must:
- Be enrolled as an undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate student at a participating school.
- Meet certain academic standards, such as having a test score above the 75th percentile for college admissions or keeping a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25.
- Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.
- Teach a high-need subject at an elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students.
- Teach for at least four complete academic years within eight years of finishing the program for which you received the grant.
You must complete the FAFSA and the TEACH Grant Counseling Session to apply for a TEACH Grant. You can be awarded a grant of up to $4,000 per academic year.
Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP)
The Federal Work-Study Program is a need-based financial aid program that allows eligible students to work part-time to earn money to help pay for their education. The federal government provides funds for the program, and participating schools use these funds to create on-campus jobs for students. The FWSP is open to students of all ages, including those over the age of 50.
Eligibility requirements include:
- Demonstrate financial need by submitting the FAFSA.
- Be enrolled at least half-time in a participating school’s eligible degree or certificate program.
- Be pursuing a degree or certificate at an eligible institution.
- Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements.
- Not have any student loans in default.
- Be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen.
The number of hours worked will depend on the amount of the award and the class schedule, but you can expect to work 10-20 hours per week during the academic year.
Many states offer education grants to cover the cost of tuition and other expenses related to attending college. However, most have residency requirements, meaning the student must reside in the state to receive the grant. Several states have programs providing grant money for older adult students.
You’ll have to research the grants available to your specific state; you can find information about state government grants on your state’s website.
You Can. Go Back.
The You Can. Go Back. Program is an adult student grant provided by the state of Indiana. The grant is available to any nontraditional student returning to college to complete their degree. The grant provides up to $2,000 yearly for tuition and other education-related expenses. To be eligible for the grant, students must be enrolled in an accredited college or university in Indiana.
The GO-60 Program at Penn State University is designed for state residents who are 60 years of age or older and are either retired or have a part-time job for less than 20 hours a week. The program allows participants to take advantage of the resources and facilities of the university, including its libraries, computer labs, and recreation facilities. In addition, participants can audit most undergraduate courses for free on a space-available basis.
Grant Programs for Women Over 50 Going Back to School
If you are a woman who has been out of the education system for many years, have been busy raising a family or working, and are now ready to go back to school later in life, many grants are available to help you finance your education.
The AARP Foundation is a charitable organization that offers a variety of programs and services to support older Americans. One of the programs they offer is the Women’s Scholarship Program, which provides financial assistance to women over 40 who are pursuing higher education. The program provides grants of up to $5,000
Jeannette Rankin Foundation
The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRSF) offers scholarships to low-income women 35 years or older. The grant is based on financial need and academic merit. JRSF awards scholarships of up to $2,000 per academic year and can be awarded up to five times for a total of $10,000.
If you can’t find or aren’t eligible for any grants or scholarships, there are still other options for funding your education. You may be able to take out a student loan, either from the federal government or a private lender. Federal loans typically are preferable to private loans, as they often come with lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms. The starting point to apply for a federal loan as an adult student will once again be the FAFSA.
Benefits of Going Back to School for Over 50’s
Returning to school in your 50s has plenty of benefits for your career and overall well-being. Here are some reasons why it’s a great idea to go back to school as a non-traditional student.
You’re never too old to learn
Adult students often find that they learn more effectively than younger students, as they can draw upon more life experiences. While it might be a chore for a 20-year-old student to sit in a classroom, an older learner will likely appreciate the opportunity to broaden their horizons. Many institutions allow you to earn college credit for life and work experiences.
Going back to school can improve your career prospects
If you’re over 50 and looking for a career change, going back to school can help improve your job prospects. Employers often look for candidates with relevant qualifications and up-to-date skills in today’s competitive job market. Returning to school and studying for a new qualification can make you more attractive to potential employers.
Going back to school can help you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in your chosen field. Whether you’re interested in changing careers or advancing within your current industry, going back to school and getting the relevant qualifications can give you the edge over other applicants.
With increasing healthcare costs and other expenses rising, improving your financial situation is more important than ever. New qualifications can help you get a better salary, which can, in turn, lead to a higher standard of living.
You’ll meet new people and make friends
One of the most important benefits is meeting new people and making friends. In today’s society, it’s easy to become isolated, especially if you’re retired or no longer working. Going back to school allows you to socialize and connect with others who share your interests. It can also open up networking opportunities that might not have been available otherwise.
It’s a great way to keep mentally active
Pursuing further education later in life helps keep your mind active and sharp. As we get older, it’s natural for our mental faculties to start to decline. However, by continuing to learn new things and challenge yourself intellectually, you can help to slow down this process.
In addition to the cognitive benefits, further education can also lead to improved mental health and wellbeing. Studies show that people who participated in lifelong learning were less likely to experience depression and anxiety.
It can also help us stay physically active, as many older adults who stop learning can become more sedentary.
You’ll feel proud of your accomplishment when you finish
You’ll have a sense of pride and accomplishment when you finally finish your degree or certification. After years of juggling work and family commitments, it’ll feel great to achieve your educational goals finally.
Grants to Go Back to School for the Over 50’s – Final Thoughts
If you’re over 50 and thinking of going back to school, there are plenty of reasons to do so. Whether you’re looking to improve your career prospects or simply keep mentally active, going back to school can have a number of benefits.
There are also plenty of grants and financial assistance programs available to help older students pay for their education. Going back to school might seem a little daunting at first, and the costs can be off-putting, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor if you take advantage of the available financial assistance.
Grants are a type of financial aid that you do not have to repay. They are typically awarded based on financial need, although some grants may also be awarded based on other criteria. The most common student grants are federal grants and state grants.
Grants are typically need-based, meaning they’re awarded based on your financial status. On the other hand, scholarships are usually merit-based, meaning they’re awarded based on academic achievement. Additionally, scholarships are usually offered by private foundations or individuals, while grants are typically provided by the federal government or colleges. Often you will hear them used interchangeably.
Eligibility requirements for a grant vary depending on the type of grant and the organization that is awarding the grant. However, some general eligibility requirements are common to most grants. For example, most grants are need-based, which means that you will need to show that you need financial aid to be eligible for the grant. To do this, you will need to provide information regarding income and assets on the FAFSA.
Some grants are only available to students enrolled in certain types of programs, such as teacher education programs.
The terms and conditions of a grant vary depending on the type of higher education grant and who is awarding the grant. However, some general terms and conditions are common to most grants. For example, most grants are renewable, which means that you can receive the grant for more than one year. Most also require that you use the grant money for educational expenses only.
You can apply for federal grants through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a form you can fill out online or print and submit by mail. You will need to provide information about your financial situation and about your academic records, such as your grades and test scores.
The process for applying for a state grant differs from state to state. In some states, you must fill out the FAFSA to be considered for a state grant. In other states, you may need to fill out a separate application. You should contact your state’s financial aid office for more information about how to apply.
If you’ve been awarded a grant, you will typically receive a notification from whoever awarded the grant. The notification will include information on how to accept or decline the grant and get started using the money. Be sure to respond promptly, as some grants are often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you don’t receive a grant, there are other types of financial aid that you can apply for, such as federal student loans and scholarships.
If you don’t finish your program, you may be required to repay the grant money you received. Before starting your journey as a nontraditional student, make sure you’re ready to commit to your program of choice.