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What types of student aid are available for a second Bachelor's degree?

Mark Kantrowitz

September 08, 2009

I am thinking about going back to school to get a second bachelors degree. Because I already have a B.A. degree, it seems that I am not able to receive any aid other than student loans. Is this true or am I missing something? — Josh S.

Student with a prior Bachelor’s degree are ineligible for the Pell Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant, National SMART Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) for a second Bachelor’s degree. There is an exception for post-baccalaureate teacher certification and licensure programs in certain circumstances.

Associate’s degree recipients remain eligible for these undergraduate grant programs until they receive a Bachelor’s degree.

Students with a prior Bachelor’s degree are ineligible even if the prior Bachelor’s degree is from an unaccredited or foreign school. There is an exception if the college determines that the foreign degree is not the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree.

Students seeking a second Bachelor’s degree may still qualify for the Perkins Loan, Federal Work-Study (FWS), Stafford Loan and, if still dependent, the Parent PLUS Loan. Students may also receive the Stafford Loan for a second bachelor’s degree up to any remaining eligibility under the undergraduate aggregate loan limits. (If the student has exhausted the undergraduate Stafford loan limits, a possible workaround is to enroll in a graduate or professional degree program instead of pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree.)

Students who are seeking an Associate’s degree but already have a Bachelor’s degree are subject to the same restrictions. However, community colleges tend to offer very low cost degree and training programs. So if you are pursuing a second degree to gain or enhance job skills or change careers, look into the programs offered by your local community college. (The US Department of Education will be providing grants to community colleges to enable the development of new programs for retraining displaced and unemployed workers.)

Some private scholarship programs are open to students pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree, but these are usually highly competitive. Some states offer retraining grants through their one-stop career centers. A handful of colleges are offering free or reduced tuition to unemployed alumni, so ask your alma mater if they offer such a program.

The education tax benefits might help. The Hope Scholarship tax credit is limited to the first four years of postsecondary education, but the Lifetime Learning tax credit does not have such a restriction.


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