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Part-Time? No Problem!

Part-Time? No Problem!

If you're working and going to school part-time it's no problem to get financial aid if you follow this advice.

By Jennifer LeClaire

September 05, 2008

Has someone told you that only full-time students can cash in on financial aid programs? If so, listen up. It’s time to bust another higher education myth.

It’s true that many financial aid programs are limited to full-time students, but determined part-time college-goers like you can also leverage the system to subsidize your educational opportunities. If knowledge is power, then arming yourself with the tips in this article could prepare you to win the college budget battle.

Before you read another paragraph, go online and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can find it at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Applications for the 2007-2008 academic year are available now. The FAFSA is a tool used to determine a student’s eligibility for aid at the federal level, but states and individual institutions also use the info to put together aid packages for students. This single step alone can help you make the most of financial aid opportunities.

Now that you’ve done that, read on for other options – and requirements. What you discover may pleasantly surprise you. Indeed, finding financial aid may not be as laborious as you thought.

Demonstrating Your Need

Of course, the jumping off point for all student financial aid eligibility is demonstrated need, according to Richard Eddington-Shipman, director of the financial aid office at Michigan State University. Aid givers calculate that need like this: the cost of attendance minus the family contribution toward college costs. The bigger the gap between the two the greater the need.

“Students who enroll part time have much lower tuition and fee amounts than full-time students but the same contribution is used,” Eddington-Shipman explains, “so a student who might demonstrate need when full time might not when part time.” That part-time status has been a problem, and can still close the door on some financial aid programs.

The good news is that needy students taking as few as three credits a semester can qualify for Federal Pell Grants. The size of the grant increases as you enroll in more classes, but you can cover at least part of your educational costs if you can demonstrate a bona fide need. Most financial aid programs based on financial need – such as the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan Programs – are available to part-time students on a pro-rated basis.


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