Resources exist for adults to go back to school

This was originally published on Monday, February 23, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I am a 43-year old single mom of two. I have worked hard to send my children through private school and my oldest through college. My youngest child will graduate this year and wants to start college in the fall. I have put my college dreams on hold to raise my children, but now I would like to go back and get my degree. Are there financial aid programs for adults wanting to go back to school?

Answer: I want to start off by applauding you. You certainly have worked hard to make your kids’ futures brighter. There are resources out there that are available to assist you.

Free Job Training

The Department of Labor operates the One Stop Career Center. Depending on your current job status and the industry you work, you may be able to receive free job training. The One Stop Career Center offers low-cost and some free courses in various studies. To learn more, go to the One Stop Career Center website athttp://www.careeronestop.org.

Tax Breaks

Although a tax break does not directly pay for college, it could help students that qualify by lowering the student’s taxes. There are two tax breaks that are available.

• The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for students who go to school part-time and are not necessarily enrolled in a degree-granting program.

• The American Opportunity Credit is for students enrolled full time in a program that leads to a degree or a certificate.

To verify if you qualify and the amount you can claim, go to the Internal Revenue Service’s web site at www.irs.gov.

Employer’s Assistance

Check with your human resources department if your employer offers programs that can help offset the cost of tuition. Some employers will cover the cost of tuition and require pay back in service over a specific period of time. Be sure to understand the policy. Depending on the program, you may have to consider the money as extra income.

GI Bill

If you have served on active duty for at least ninety days since September 10, 2001, you may be eligible for tuition assistance, books and supply costs, and possibly a housing stipend. In some cases, your GI Bill benefits can be transferred to your dependents.

Grants

As with recent graduates, adults, too, can qualify for federal grants. The federal government offers two grants for adults who wish to return to school:

• Federal Pell Grant is determined by financial need and can be used for part-time and full-time students.

• The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is for adult students who are returning to school to further their education. It can be used in conjunction with the Pell Grant to help pay for the total of tuition.

Applicants must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Student Loans

Adult students have some of the same resources when it comes to getting loans for their education. Loans can be secured by private or federal agencies. The Direct PLUS Loan is a federal loan that graduate students and parents of children under the age of 24 can use to assist paying for college. Go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/plus for information about the loan program.

Financial aid for adults who are returning to school are out there, it just takes some digging. Go online.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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