The Best College Grants for Adults

By Kristen May , last updated December 11, 2011

Adults who are returning to college or getting higher education for the first time often rely on grants to pay for much of the education. This is because they generally have financial responsibilities, including a mortgage, car payment or supporting a family, that require more income than younger college students would need. As an older student, you have plenty of sources to look at to find the best college grants to help you afford to go to college.

Pell Grants

The most readily available grants for adult students are Pell Grants. The federal government awards these grants to undergraduate students who have significant financial need. If you qualify, you can receive up to $5,550 per year for your undergraduate tuition, fees and living expenses. Apply for Pell Grants by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the Department of Education's website prior to beginning your school year. The government calculates your eligibility based on your income, household size and several other factors. If you receive a Pell Grant, the government will send it to your school, which will apply it to your tuition bill and write a check to you for any remaining amount to help with your living expenses.

State Grants

Some states have grant programs to supplement grants from the federal government. For example, if you live in California, you might receive a Cal Grant for your undergraduate education as an adult. Contact your state higher education agency for more information about available grants and what you need to do to apply for them. In most cases, states obtain all required application information directly from your FAFSA. You usually must be a resident of the state prior to attending college to be eligible for grants in that state.

Institutional Grants

Check with the college you are interested in attending to find out whether it offers any grants specifically for students attending that college. Many reputable colleges have grant programs for students who have financial need. Some colleges also offer grants tailored for older students, women, minorities or students going into particular fields. These grants can supplement your federal and state government assistance to further reduce your out-of-pocket cost. The financial aid office at your college can tell you about the grants available and how to apply for them.

Employer Grants

As an adult who has a full-time job prior to going back to school, you might be able to get grants from your employer to support your education. In most cases, employers require that you continue to work at least part-time while you are in school, or have you sign a contract stating that you will come back to work for them after obtaining your degree. This is a way for the employer to benefit from the education it is paying for you to get. In some cases, employers will offer tuition reimbursement plans rather than grants, but these amount to the same thing because they are free money you can use to reduce your out-of-pocket cost of going to college.

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