Over the years, one thing that I have noticed is that while my income has always made me eligible for a Pell Grant, it is not always possible for a Pell Grant to cover every certificate or necessary training. Some of the most common classes that are usually not paid for by a Pell Grant include becoming a Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA), or taking specific classes that are designed to make you more proficient in an office setting. This is because current federal guidelines state that there is a minimum number of credit hours that the Pell Grant will pay for, and the programs that are very short don’t usually qualify. Most of the time, you will be unable to receive a Pell grant unless you are taking at least six credit hours a semester,
Finding The Elusive Financial Aid
The good news is that there are some grants available, you will just have to look a little harder for them. The first place to talk to will be the financial aid office at the school that you would like to take classes at. They will be able to point you in the direction of specific scholarships that are geared towards shorter-term classes. I took a series of classes in Louisiana several years ago to earn my CNA, and the financial aid office had a grant that not only paid me seven dollars a day for transportation expenses, but paid for my child-care as well. I found it by calling them up and asking. I had a brief interview, and five weeks later I was in their classroom. It was the first time that they had had that grant, so I was very lucky.
The bad news is that you may find waiting lists for this type of aid. You will probably have more than one person who tells you to apply for a Pell Grant, even after you have verified that the training you need will not be covered. If you are placed on a waiting list, call back…and call back often. Just remember that the squeaky, but polite wheel gets the oil. There is a thin line between persistence and annoying, and crossing that line could delay your funding. The Financial Aid office will never admit it, but it’s true. If they want to help you, they can go above and beyond their job requirements, if they don’t, they won’t.
The Workforce Commission
If that does not yield the results you were hoping for, and you are either unemployed or underemployed, the Workforce Commission ( which may also be known as the Unemployment office).
They have been known to pay for classes that are expected to result in better possibilities for future employment, and in some states will even help you pay for your childcare. To find the nearest office, call 211 or go to http://www.211.org/, and search for their office.
Will Your Social Services Office Help You?
If you are currently receiving cash assistance or food stamps, then your state probably wants to help you make more money. In order to help with that, they may very well be willing to pay for your classes, childcare, or even uniform and transportation costs. If you are not sure if you can receive services, you can find a list of offices, by state, here: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=618
If eligible, you should ask about grants that your state has as soon as possible, even as early as your interview. When you are getting help from the state, it can take a while to process, and you don’t want to wait any longer than you have to! You might also want to ask if they only pay for your class, or will they help you pay for books as well. Books for any college class can get expensive quickly.
As a final choice, you could contact a company where you would like to work. If you are hoping to become a Certified Nurse’s Aide, you could contact a nursing home or hospital, and if you would like to work in an office of some sort, you could contact bigger companies that you would like to work for. Many medical facilities, and some businesses are willing to pay for your education in a field that would benefit them, as long as you are willing to sign a contact to work for them for a certain period of time when you are done.
You should also keep in mind that if you’re lucky enough to find an organization who will do this, and for any reason you can’t live up to the terms of your contract, you will be required to pay back all the costs of your education, and probably some interest as well. The upside to this option is that you are guaranteed employment when you have finished the classes you need, which not everyone has, particularly in the current economic situation. So, if you are not sure that you are in a place in your life where you can concentrate on furthering your education, you might want to wait until you can.
Everyone talks about going back to school to get a better job, and for a lot of people that just means a class or two to brush up on your computer skills, or becoming a Nurse’s Aide to get your foot in the door in the medical field. Whatever it is that you want, as long as you believe that you CAN do it, you WILL do it.
Technical schools, business colleges, and every other type of college will always have counselors available, and their jobs will be to give you the tools necessary to do well in school, regardless of how long you will be in school.
I’ve never heard of anyone looking back on their lives and saying they shouldn’t have gotten their education, and I’m sure that you won’t be the first. Furthering your education is the best investment you can make in yourself.