Statistics show that a majority of students across the nation need financial aid to further their education. For example, a 2021 report by student loan lender Sallie May found that during the 2020-21 school year, more than 68% of college students completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), adding that more than 50% of families used scholarships and grants to pay for tuition expenses.
Funding postsecondary education without outside assistance can be challenging. Fortunately, there are numerous scholarships for adult students, as well as grants for adults returning to college, whether they plan to attend in person classes or go back to school online.
Scholarships for Adult Students
Numerous financial aid guides for adult students are available online, many of which include information about grants, scholarships, military assistance for veterans and active-duty service members, and employer-run tuition assistance programs.
Additionally, other scholarships for adults returning to college exist for students who are part of an identity group, who study in a certain field, who play sports, or who have other qualities that appeal to granting foundations. In addition, many colleges provide scholarships to incoming students and have webpages listing scholarship application opportunities. The following are some of the scholarships that may be available to adult learners:
- College JumpStart Scholarship. Nontraditional, returning adult students may apply for this semiannual, non-renewable $1,000 scholarship from the JumpStart Scholarship foundation. Any U.S. citizen or resident is eligible for this award. Applicants must attend a U.S. college for undergraduate or graduate school. Information about this scholarship can be found on the JumpStart Scholarship website.
- The ASIST Scholarship. Executive Women International (EWI) sponsors nationwide scholarships for men and women who are starting, returning to, or continuing their higher education. The selection criteria favor adult students who have financial challenges and who are raising children. Read about the organization and its scholarship on the EWI ASIST Scholarship website.
- The 1,000 Dreams Scholarship. This non-renewable, semiannual scholarship awards grants up to $1,000 to selected female applicants currently enrolled in high school or college. Funds are to pay for the student’s education-related expenses, like books, but not tuition. Visit the 1,000 Dreams Fund website to learn more about the scholarship, its past winners, and the 1,000 Dreams Foundation.
- Get Educated Online College Scholarship. Get Educated, an online education guide site, sponsors a semiannual $1,000 scholarship that is open to U.S. students who are enrolled in an online college program. Award criteria include academic merit and financial need. To learn more about this opportunity, visit the Get Educated Online College Scholarship Program main page.
- Nursing student scholarships. RN scholarships are available to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral nursing students. A comprehensive list of nursing scholarships, including their award amounts and application deadlines, can be found on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website.
- Boomer Benefits scholarship. This scholarship is available to students ages 50 or older who are currently enrolled in an accredited four-year undergraduate or graduate program. Two $2,500 scholarships are awarded annually, and award consideration is based on the applicant’s GPA, the strength of their letters of recommendation, and the amount and nature of their community service. Read more about this scholarship on the Boomer Benefits website.
- Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) scholarship. The ANTSHE scholarship is designed for nontraditional students, including students employed full or part time, minority students, parents, those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and veterans of the U.S. armed services, among others. ANTSHE awards scholarships of varying amounts each year. Visit the ANTSHE website to learn if you qualify for a scholarship.
Financial Aid for Adults Returning to College
There are a number of financial aid opportunities, in addition to scholarships, for adults returning to college. While some adults may be concerned that they won’t qualify for financial aid, the good news is that there is no age limit for federal student aid, and almost anyone is eligible. There are many financial aid options available through government programs, including federal grants. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the quickest way to apply is online through the website at fafsa.gov.
Categories of federal student aid include:
- Federal Pell Grant. This grant is based on financial need and does not have to be repaid. This is the most popular government grant for adult undergraduate students, whether they’re studying full or part time. To view a list of the major federal grant opportunities, refer to this Federal Student Grant Programs chart.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). This grant is well-suited to undergraduate students with acute financial needs, and is available to adult students who have attended college previously and are interested in returning to school to continue their education. Only students who have qualified for a Pell Grant are eligible for this grant. Funds are limited, so students who need extra funding should apply for this grant early in their eligibility year. Complete information about this program can be found at the official FSEOG page.
- Award amount. The amount of the award varies from $100 to $4,000 per year. Awards are granted according to financial need.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. This grant is available to students interested in pursuing a career in teaching. Grant recipients must also commit to completing a teaching service requirement. Individuals who do not complete the teaching service obligation will have their grant converted to a conventional loan. More information can be found on the TEACH page.
- Loans. The Federal Student Aid program extends loans to deserving adult students. These loans may be subsidized, which means that students do not pay interest on them while in school, or they may be unsubsidized, meaning students are responsible for paying interest regardless of enrollment status. All loans must be repaid with interest.
If you received student loans in the past and are still paying them off, those loans need to be in good standing before you can receive additional aid. Generally, credit scores are not considered for the award of federal student aid, so if you have less-than-ideal credit, you may still apply.
Grants for Adult Students
Apart from federal grants, students may not realize that nongovernment grants are available to specific types of adult students to address their financial needs. For example, grants can be specific to a student, subject, degree level, or minority when outlining their qualifying criteria. Some specialized grants include the following:
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation support awards. These awards are available to low-income mothers ages 17 and older who are pursuing their first postsecondary degree. The application criteria for the awards can be found on the foundation’s website.
- Foundation for Science and Disability grant. This grant is available to fourth-year undergraduate students with disabilities who have been accepted to a STEM program at a professional or graduate school.
- Geologic Society of America awards. The GSA offers grants and scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students, including grants to support students engaged in field research.
State grants, such as those listed below, can be accessed when federal and other grant programs do not provide sufficient funding:
- Missouri offers the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, which is designed for adults who want to pursue a degree or certificate in a high-need field. The state offers a number of additional grants and scholarships.
- The Cal Grant is the largest source of state funding for California undergraduates of all ages.
- New York state has a Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which is available to state residents enrolling at an approved school. Applicants for the award must meet income eligibility requirements.
- The Ohio College Opportunity Grant helps Ohio residents in financial need — as determined by the FAFSA — attend a higher education institution.
Returning to College? Explore Scholarships for Adults and Advance Your Education
There are no obstacles to going back to school that you can’t overcome, and it’s never too late to further your education. There are a number of available financial aid, grant, and scholarship opportunities for adults to help you in your journey to return to college. Are you ready to continue your educational journey and advance your career? Discover how earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from Maryville University can prepare you to transform your ambitions into action.