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Financial aid options for working professionals

Judi Sandall, May 7, 2007

Think you earn too much to get some financial help for your online education? You may not be eligible for grants and loans for the lowest income students, but there are other options to help finance your education. Recognizing that more traditional and non-traditional students are looking to the Internet for educational opportunities, the federal government recently enacted legislation that makes more online programs eligible for financial aid as well as making additional financial aid available for study online.

If you're a computer professional who needs some financial help to continue your education or earn a technical certification, there are resources available. Some options that could help fund your online education are:

  • Employer tuition reimbursement programs
  • Merit-based scholarships
  • Education loans
It's always a good idea to apply for financial aid through your school you just might be eligible for some type of aid. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online to begin the process. Contact your school for specific information and deadlines.

Employer Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Understanding the value of education, many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs to their employees. Each employer has specific application procedures, annual limits and maximums, completion requirements, and other restrictions. Your manager or Human Resources representative can tell you whether your company has a tuition reimbursement program and can give you specific information.

Merit-Based Scholarships

FastWeb, a free scholarship search service, estimates that over 1.3 million scholarships worth $3 billion are available. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on criteria other than financial need, such as writing an essay, involvement in community service, where you live, your field of study, and many other criteria. Scholarship search services can be very helpful because you can search for only those scholarships for which you might be eligible. There are a number of free scholarship search Web sites, so don't pay out any hard-earned cash.

Education Loans

There are a number of educational loan programs to help you fund your online education:
  • Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and William D. Ford Direct Loan Programs
  • Education loans from private lenders
To receive a loan under the FFEL and Direct Loan Programs, you must be enrolled at least half time in a degree or certificate program, but some private loans may be available for continuing education in approved certificate or training programs.

Tax Benefits for Education

In addition to financial assistance, the Internal Revenue Service provides tax benefits for education. Go online and review IRS Publication 970 for detailed information.

Sources
Department of Education Federal Student Aid
FAFSA on the Web

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