As companies begin to cut jobs in a deepening recession, it's a good time for older workers to stay one step ahead of a pink slip by returning to school and beefing up their resume with a master's degree or simply some extra credits in their professional field.
And there's no reason the cost of additional education has to fall on your shoulders alone, especially if you’re an older worker. Here are six ways that age can help you land financial aid:
Paying for continuing education
1. Target scholarships for grown-ups People who believe the only students receiving financial aid are graduates fresh from high school should talk to Abigail Nall. A recipient of the REACh Scholarship, an aid award from the group Resources for the Education of Adults in the Chicago Area only available to adults ages 25 and older, Nall is putting her free $1,500 toward her master's in speech language pathology at Rush University on the city's West Side.
"I applied for this scholarship because it was geared toward adults and that meant there was a smaller pool of applicants," Nall says. "As an adult student, I thought that I had a story to tell."
Indeed, working adults can get a leg up on the competition by applying for scholarships aimed exclusively at older audiences, such as the Talbots Women's Scholarship Fund and the Jeannette Rankin Foundation awards. They also can use their work experience to their advantage when applying for scholarships available through professional associations.
When starting the scholarship hunt, Kelly Tanabe, co-author of "501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College," recommends that students with work experience head directly to their school's financial aid office and their academic department to ask about profession-specific scholarships.
Older students also should look for scholarships targeting older students through their school's office of adult education or office of continuing studies. Only after school-based aid options have been exhausted should older students begin making national aid searches aimed at traditional college students.
2. Use your experience Tanabe says working adults who have spent a lifetime in a particular profession or occupation may be able to opt out of some classes before going the financial-aid route to take additional classes.
"People who have worked in a certain field might be able to get credit for two or three courses because of life experience," Tanabe says. "Not every college has a program where you can use life experience to get credit, so adults should research that before applying."