With student loan debt in America at an all-time high of $1.5 trillion, it’s no surprise that trade schools and certificate programs are becoming increasingly popular.
Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, are specialized educational institutions that specialize in or focus on one-track learning. This means students can focus on a single area of interest and graduate with a diploma or trade certificate in as little as 8-months to 2-years.
Similar to traditional college, students are eligible to receive financial aid to help pay for their trade certificate or diploma. In fact, many vocational schools are regionally accredited and accept Federal Financial Aid.
How to apply for financial aid
First, it’s important to find out If the school is accredited and accepts financial aid. This can be done by either searching the financial aid page on the trade school website or calling the financial aid office.
Now, it’s time to file the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). This application will determine the student’s financial aid eligibility. After filing, the student’s trade school may award them grants, scholarships, or federal student loans.
Pay attention to State and Federal deadlines to ensure everything is filed on time. The sooner this application is filed, the better the chances are for the student to maximize their financial aid offer.
Keep in mind this application will need to be filed every year the student plans on attending their trade school if they want to receive financial aid.
In addition to applying for federal aid, it’s important to apply for scholarships, too. Scholarship money is free financial aid towards trade school and doesn’t need to be repaid.
There are hundreds of free scholarship search websites available, and thousands of scholarships just waiting to be claimed. Unigo.com and CollegeScholarships.org are two of the many sites that offer vocational scholarships to help cover the cost of college.
There is no magic number when it comes to applying for scholarships, so students should apply for as many as they can. There’s no such thing as winning too much money. If the award amount is larger than tuition costs, the school will issue a refund to the student.
Taking out a private loan is not a decision that should be made lightly. Private loans generally have a higher interest-rate than federal loans and, in most cases, require repayment to start almost immediately. For trade school specifically, it’s not always the best course of action.
It’s also important to note that private loans require a credit check, and with little to no credit, can be difficult to get.
To understand the difference between Federal and Private student loans, check out our post here.
Before applying for a private loan, students should reach out to their school’s financial aid office to discuss alternate options. Some schools, both trade and traditional, offer in house financial aid or loans that were created with the student’s best interest in mind.