college

How to pay for vocational training

The federal Office of Apprenticeships currently lists registered apprenticeships in more than 1,000 career fields, but Thurmond adds that students can also find additional opportunities through local labor unions.

Job Corps offers another alternative to paying your own vocational tuition. Available for low-income youth ages 16 through 24, Job Corps offers free on-the-job training in more than 100 technical areas ranging from heath care to manufacturing, as well as free courses at local community and vocational schools in select fields. Job Corps programs are free, last anywhere from eight months to two years and provide students with no-cost housing, health care, a living allowance, career counseling and, at some centers, child care. Information on programs and eligibility requirements is available at jobcorps.gov.

Specialized scholarships and loans

"Most students don't realize that there are scholarships for vocational schools that four-year students aren't eligible for," says Meury. "Organizations like the Automotive Hall of Fame and The Home Depot offer strictly vocational scholarships."

Meury advises students to start the hunt for free tuition by checking out scholarship search sites like Fastweb.com, contacting their vocational school to find out about institutional funds and investigating aid opportunities through large and small companies in their field. Students can also win scholarships based on how well they perform on certain career assessment tests including the VICA SkillsUSA test and through vocational competitions in their field offered through companies such as Ford and AAA.

If students can't land scholarships, take out federal loans or afford school themselves, their options may be limited, says Falk.

"In the past few years, we've seen more private lenders back out of lending for students attending technical and two-year institutions," she says.

While several major private lenders have stopped creating small loans for shorter degree and certificate programs, other organizations such as Sallie Mae still offer loans specifically for accredited technical, trade and vocational schools. Check out student loan rates at Bankrate.com.

"The money is out there for trade students, they just have to do their research and apply," says Meury.

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