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Back to College: Federal and State Aid

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, October 14, 2013

The government provides a huge chunk of all financial aid — about 70 percent — and even adults going back to college can qualify. This money can help pay for everything from a two-year technical program to a doctoral degree.

Learn everything you can and get your share.




Continuing education students are often "independent"

You're automatically "independent" at age 24. This can be a good thing because you may qualify for more aid. However, the government sets strict guidelines for defining independent students, so don't try to fool them. If you are independent and married, you will have to report your spouse's income.

Calculating financial need
From the federal perspective, need is pretty straightforward:

COA (Cost of Attendance) – EFC (Expected Family Contribution) = Need

You are considered to have need at a participating school if your EFC is less than the cost. That means you should qualify for financial aid.

Applying for federal aid
One form is your gateway to all government and much college-based aid when going back to college. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to determine what you'll pay and how much help you're entitled to.

Big important FAFSA rules:

  • Submit your form ASAP after January 1
  • Everyone should apply, even students returning to college
  • Respond immediately to requests for more information

Tax breaks and tuition
There are more ways to save on your tuition than squirreling away your pennies and searching for scholarships. Under a program promoted by the IRS, you can receive tax breaks if you paid tuition for yourself, a spouse, or a child.

Types of aid
If you're planning to go back to college or take continuing education courses, you may receive grants, work-study, and loans. Grad students generally don't receive grants from the government, but can still qualify for loans, work-study, and institutional awards. Every student should apply.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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