One of the concerns many non-traditional students have is financing. As a mature student, if you are currently working or have been working, your income may disqualify you from many of the grants and student financing available to traditional students. In most cases, you also may have a mortgage or apartment rent, car loans, and the expenses typical to living.
For some potential students, the opposite is true. Due to the current economic situation, you may find yourself unable to get any type of financing due to bankruptcy, job loss or other hits against your credit rating.
There are options.
There are scholarships and grants available to non-traditional students. Most colleges have some kind of scholarship/grant program. Sit down with your admissions officer and explain your personal financial situation. They will know of grants/scholarships funded through your college that may not be widely publicized.
Your next stop is your financial aid officer. Since their job is to help students finance their education, they will also provide you with any available options.
On your own, sit down and think about what makes you unique as a student. Are you a minority? A single parent? Have you left an abusive situation? Related to someone in a military branch? The options are endless. Perform an internet search on that specific search term: (e.g. scholarships for single latina women).
However, beware of ANY scholarship, grant, or loan that requires you to pay any money upfront. Carefully investigate any organization that claims to provide student loan funding if they require any upfront investment on your part. Legitimate scholarships and grants will not require any financial investment from you.
If you are working, speak with your Human Resources officer about tuition reimbursement. In some cases, companies will only reimburse you for certain types of job-related courses, so make sure your classes are pre-approved.
Do you belong to any organization – professional or otherwise? Contact them and ask if there are scholarships, grants, or loans available for non-traditional students. Many professional organizations provide educational funding but it is poorly advertised and not well-known.
Some new networks are forming to provide access to low-cost college financing sources through credit unions and other banking institutions. Perform an internet search for “education finance networks”.
Lastly, peer to peer financing is becoming more popular for educational loans. Some education finance networks provide peer to peer financing, but it is typically an under-utilized resource in the non-traditional student sector. Peer-to-peer financing allows students to raise financing through micro-loans from family, friends and other contacts. Basically, you use a peer to peer financier to connect with your social network to let them know you need assistance in paying for college. The peer to peer financier formalizes the borrowing relationship – exactly like a “normal” student loan. They verify the borrower is enrolled and going to school, and then they disburse the funds directly to the school. They also administer loan repayment after the student finishes school.