By Tee Townsend/ reporter
While returning to college over the age of 50 can be scary, finding the means to pay for school without disrupting the household income may be even scarier.
“The adult nontraditional students over 50 should look for scholarships and grants just like the traditional student,” said Jolynn Sprole, South financial aid director.
The first step for any student, regardless of age, is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is required to receive federal and state aid. Completing the FAFSA can provide a means to receiving scholarship money and grants that may be unknown to the student.
For the adult student over 50, TCC offers the 50 Plus Program, which uses workforce training and employment referrals to help adult learners reinvent themselves, said Debra Sykes West, NE special projects coordinator.
Similarly, TCC offers adult learners over 65 senior citizen discounts and the ability to audit courses tuition-free, said Mary Hill, NE registration representative.
“There are no specific federal or state scholarships or grants that are based on age,” Sprole said.
Some private scholarships and grants, however, are intended for the nontraditional student and are based on age.
The American Association for Retired Persons offers scholarships for older adult learners. AARP offers scholarships for students over the age of 50 who are interested in returning to school or starting a new career.
“AARP is here to help older students with access to educational opportunities as well as a variety of other needs,” AARP representative Rebecca Madden said. “We want to ensure they have the financial resources they need for school.”
In addition to AARP, the Executive Women International Program offers scholarships to adult women who are “single parents, just entering the workforce or are in a transitional stage of their life,” EWI communications director Denise Labrado said.
EWI’s program for the Adult Student in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) provides scholarships for adult learners looking to change their circumstance through education.
The Leveraging Educational Assistance Program, a government-based grant program, also offers scholarships and work-study for adult students. Based on the students’ needs, LEAP provides adult students with educational opportunities and work experience.
Because federal grants and scholarships do not have age restrictions, TCC sees a lot of senior citizens seeking and receiving federal aid, Sprole said.
The Federal Pell Grant, for example, has no age limitation. Adult learners qualify based on need.
These scholarships and grants offer the older adult learners the ability to expand on their current careers, start a new career or meet long-wanted educational goals.
“I would love to see more ways to pay for college,” South student Shay Coleman said.
Adult students over 50, like Coleman, don’t have to use their household funds to pay for their education.
“My son and I are both in school, and I have a lot of responsibilities, so help for students my age is a good idea,” Coleman said. “Money I don’t have to pay back, too. That would be great.”