Financial Aid for Adult Education

VSAC can help you get the financial aid you need to help pay for college and/or training

There’s no doubt about it, cost is a factor in any decision to go back to school. But don’t assume you can’t afford to go to college or get more training! There’s a lot of financial aid out there to help students—including adult learners—pay for higher education. Your VSAC EOC counselor can help you research, apply for, and/or refer you to sources of funding.  

I had never done the FAFSA before, but my EOC counselor helped me apply and the financial aid covered my classes and books! It wasn’t as stressful as I thought, and she helped a lot.”

Funding for College

Your role:

The primary responsibility for paying for training programs lies with the student and, if applicable, with the family. Financial aid is designed to supplement, not replace, a student’s or family’s contribution to these expenses. EOC counselors can help you navigate this.

Financial aid includes:

  • grants — money that's generally awarded based on a student’s and/or family’s level of financial need (money you don't have to pay back)
  • scholarships — money that students search for individually and compete against other students to win (money you don't have to pay back) 
  • work–study — jobs that are coordinated by colleges to provide students with income each semester
  • education loans — money that's borrowed by students and/or parents to pay for school (money you do have to pay back)
  • workforce training and additional funding that may be available 

There’s money available to help eligible Vermonters earn certificates and degrees. Your EOC counselor can help you research, apply for, and/or refer you to:

  • Federal student aid, which is available to income-eligible students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to demonstrate financial need and to be considered for grants and work–study. The FAFSA is the first step for federal student loans and parent PLUS loans, both of which are available regardless of income. All colleges that award federal aid require this form, and it’s often needed for scholarships.
  • Vermont grants, which are available to income-eligible students who complete the FAFSA and Vermont grant application, and submit all required documents before funds are depleted for that academic year.
  • Curtis Training Scholarship, available for Vermont residents who seek college certificates to build their job skills in a high-demand industry that supports a livable wage. Contact your local EOC counselor.
  • VSAC-assisted scholarships, available to Vermont residents. To identify and apply for scholarships you’re eligible for, download VSAC’s scholarships booklet  DOWNLOAD20.gifor visit https://publications.vsac.org to request a printed copy in the mail.
  • Additional scholarships, which may be found at your college (check its financial aid webpage), from your employer, from industry and professional organizations (for example, the Society of Women Engineers or the American Institute of Graphics Arts), and through online scholarship searches such as fastweb.com, scholarships.com, or cappex.com. VSAC does not maintain or necessarily endorse any of these sites.
  • College or training-specific programs in specific industries, which may be available as regional training needs arise and new programs and funding opportunities develop. Examples include the medical assistant program offered in collaboration between Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and CCV, and the Hypertherm Technical Training Institute for CNC operation.
  • Employer contributions, which may include tuition reimbursement. Some employers offer this benefit; the human resources office and employee manual will have more information.
  • Registered apprenticeships, which allow Vermonters to work and earn money while taking related classes. Periodic wage increases are established by the employer at the start of an apprenticeship. Earn a nationally recognized portable credential. Veterans are eligible for the G.I. Bill and can use benefits while completing the Registered Apprenticeship Program. Vermont’s Department of Labor has a partnership with Vermont Technical College and Community College of VT to advance apprenticeships in Vermont. The colleges work closely with employers in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and construction. Many apprenticeships offer college credits.
  • SWFI (The Strengthening Working Families Initiative) that provides no-cost training and support services to eligible parents seeking a livable wage job with benefits in the manufacturing sector.
  • Veterans Administration benefits that help military-connected Vermonters. Visit www.va.gov to identify the benefits you may be eligible to receive. Your college may also have a special advisor who can help identify resources for military-connected students.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation, which offers free, flexible services to any Vermonter or employer dealing with a disability that affects employment. Vocational Rehab partners with human service providers and employers across Vermont to help people with disabilities realize their full potential.
  • WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), which offers 3 different programs to support adults, youth 14–24, and dislocated workers in developing career skills and accessing training programs. Contact your local Department of Labor to learn more.

Next: Find Adult Learner Steps to Success 

Financial aid may include:

  • grants — money that's generally awarded based on a student’s and/or family’s level of financial need (money you don't have to pay back)
  • scholarships — money that students search for individually and compete against other students to win (money you don't have to pay back) 
  • education loans — money that's borrowed by students and/or parents to pay for school (money you do have to pay back)
  • Veterans Administration benefits — help military-connected Vermonters. Visit www.va.gov to identify the benefits you may be eligible to receive. Your college may also have a special advisor who can help identify resources for military-connected students.
  • workforce training and additional funding that may be available (money you don’t have to pay back, as long as you meet program requirements)
  • additional funding for special populations, including Veterans Administration benefits, Vocational Rehabilitation, and WIOA programs

If your training includes classes for college credit, please work with your local EOC counselor or college financial aid administrator to find out whether you should be utilizing the aid listed in this document or the federal financial aid pathway for college credit.

Next: Find Adult Learner Steps to Success 

There’s money available to help eligible Vermonters earn credentials and certificates of value. Your EOC counselor can help you research and apply for these funds, and/or refer you to:

  • Advancement grant (formerly known as the non-degree grant) for Vermont residents enrolled or planning to enroll in a non-degree course or training program that will enhance job skills to improve your ability to get a job or that gives you an introduction to college courses.
  • Curtis Training Scholarship for Vermont residents who seek short-term training programs to build their job skills in a high-demand industry that supports a livable wage.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation, which offers free, flexible services to any Vermonter or employer dealing with a disability that affects employment. Vocational Rehab partners with human service providers and employers across Vermont to help people with disabilities realize their full potential.
  • WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), which promotes employment and training services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth ages 14–24. Contact your local Department of Labor Career Resource Center to learn more.
  • Veterans Administration benefits that help military-connected Vermonters. Visit www.va.gov to identify the benefits you may be eligible to receive. Your college may also have a special advisor who can help identify resources for military-connected students.
  • Registered apprenticeships that allow Vermonters to work and earn money while taking related classes. Incremental wage increases are established by the employer at the start of an apprenticeship. Earn a nationally recognized portable credential. Veterans are eligible for the G.I. Bill and can use benefits while completing the Registered Apprenticeship Program. Vermont’s Department of Labor has a partnership with Vermont Technical College and Community College of VT to advance apprenticeships in Vermont. The colleges work closely with employers in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and construction. Many apprenticeships offer college credits.
  • SWFI (The Strengthening Working Families Initiative), which provides no-cost training and support services to eligible parents seeking a livable wage job with benefits in the manufacturing sector.
  • College or training-specific programs in specific industries, as regional training needs arise and new programs and funding opportunities develop. Examples include DHMC Opthalmic Assistant, Community Kitchen Academy in Barre and Burlington, Hypertherm CNC operation, and many more. Contact local employers and workforce development to ask about trainings offered in the field you wish to work in.
  • Employer contributions that may include tuition reimbursement. Some employers offer this benefit; the human resources office and employee manual will have more information.

Please work with your local EOC counselor or college financial aid administrator to find out whether you should be utilizing the aid listed in this document.

Next: Find Adult Learner Steps to Success 

Many financial aid resources for undergraduate degrees aren't available to fund graduate studies. Students pursuing advanced training often need to identify multiple funding sources and plan to combine gift aid and self-help aid to pay for graduate-level work. The following information will help you navigate opportunities and options; but since funding sources may change, we can’t guarantee the information will be current, accurate, or complete.

Before You Begin Your Studies

Vermont residents who demonstrate financial need and who have to take prerequisite courses before starting a graduate program may be able to use the Advancement Grant (Vermont’s non-degree grant) to help fund these courses. Get details and application links.  

VSAC Advantage or federal student loans may be used to pay for prerequisite courses, depending on the number of credits taken per term. Check with the financial aid office to determine your best option, based on whether you’ve used the maximum in federal student loans.

Choosing Your Institution

When you applied to undergraduate colleges, you likely applied to multiple schools, and part of your decision to attend may have involved a price comparison. You should do the same for your graduate studies; explore multiple options and ask each institution about the financial support they can provide for graduate students.

Funding for Graduate Work

Gift aid that doesn't need to be paid back
  • Tuition assistance/tuition reimbursement programs are often offered through the workplace. With tuition assistance, your employer makes some or all of the tuition payment; with tuition reimbursement, you pay for a class/classes, and then upon successful completion, your employer pays you back some or all of the tuition. These benefits may have limits and may be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis; and some employers may require that the courses be directly related to your job. This may be considered taxable income. Reach out to your HR manager to learn more.
  • Tuition waivers allow you not to have to pay partial or full tuition. This aid is not considered taxable income. Waiver funds may be specially earmarked for certain populations. Call the school you’re interested in and ask the financial aid office for a tuition waiver if you’ve served in the military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or other service organization.
  • Veterans’ education benefits include the GI Bill, support from Veterans Administration Vocational Rehabilitation programs for students with a qualified service disability, and the Troops to Teachers program, among others. Contact your VA office to speak with an education specialist to explore your benefits to the fullest. 
  • Fellowships are competitive awards for prospective or already-enrolled graduate students. Training fellowships usually cover tuition and living expenses for the first years of graduate work; dissertation fellowships support living expenses while a student conducts research and completes a dissertation.

Search for fellowships in the same way you'd search for scholarships, and include national organizations in your field, such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; also search by identity, for example, through the American Association of University Women. Useful sites include GradSchoolHeaven.com and Profellow.com, though VSAC does not endorse general Internet content.

  • Scholarships are possible for graduate study. Contact the department you’re interested in to find out whether there are specific scholarships you may be eligible for in your program. Also contact the financial aid office to learn about scholarships offered by the institution. To locate graduate-level scholarships, use scholarship search engines such as fastweb.com and scholarships.com, though VSAC does not endorse general Internet content.
  • Grants are awards usually based on financial guidelines. Contact the institution and department to see whether there are grants for graduate students. If you’re pursuing an M.D. at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont or are enrolled in an accredited Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, you may be eligible for a Vermont state grant, depending on income and assets. Apply here.    
  • Study-abroad scholarships and fellowships are specifically meant for graduate training outside the United States. Fulbright and Rhodes are well-known examples, but there are others. Studyabroad.state.gov has extensive information on this type of award, though VSAC does not endorse general Internet content.
Self-help aid that requires repayment or work exchange 
  • Residence hall director positions often provide reduced tuition, room and board, and/or a stipend in exchange for living in and managing an undergraduate residence hall, which may include mentoring undergraduate students and creating programming for them.
  • Assistantships are arrangements with the school to waive tuition in exchange for work. Full assistantships typically require about 20 hours per week and often are reserved for doctorate students, but partial assistantships requiring less time (but with smaller tuition waivers) may be available to master’s students. Teaching assistantships (TAs) require you to help teach an undergraduate course, while research assistantships (RAs) require you to help faculty conduct their research. Administrative assistantships may involve office work, advising other students, and general administrative duties.
  • Federal work–study involves part-time jobs that pay students directly so that salary can be used for education expenses. Students must demonstrate financial need. To determine eligibility, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov. To locate a work–study position, contact the institution to ask about their work–study procedures.
  • Payment plans enable students to pay tuition in monthly installments rather than in one lump sum, and your school may allow students to set up payment plans. If you’re planning to remain employed while pursuing your studies, you may be able to incorporate tuition payments into your budget. Contact your institution for information.
  • Loans can be used to pay education expenses. These financial obligations need to be paid back over time, with interest. Options include the unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan, which begins accruing interest upon disbursement. The yearly limit is currently $20,500. Some health profession programs have increased borrowing limits. The lifetime (aggregate) limit for Federal Direct Loan borrowing (including loans borrowed for undergraduate work) is currently $138,000. Complete the FAFSA at fafsa.gov to access unsubsidized loans and follow additional instructions from your institution. 

If additional loans are needed beyond the $20,500 unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan yearly limit, the Federal Graduate PLUS Loan is available for students attending graduate schools. Borrowers must not have adverse credit history. Private student loans are another source of funding; these loans are credit-based, and some require cosigners. Review terms and conditions carefully, examine borrower protections, and look for fixed interest rates rather than variable interest rates. 

If federal loans are a part of the plan for paying for graduate studies, there may be options for the use of an income-driven repayment plan or even loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness. There are many factors to consider when determining loan repayment options and whether loan forgiveness may be an option. The best source of information is through the Federal Student Aid loan repayment section, where you can review payment options and learn about forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge options.

The VSAC Advantage Loan is an example of a private loan with a fixed interest rate. To access private student loans, you’ll need to complete loan applications and any additional paperwork required by the lender.

Track Your Estimated Financial Aid

Use our chart to compare financial aid offers from the programs you're interested in.