Financial Aid 101 for Non-Traditional Students

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Most people who want to go back to school think that they can’t afford it or they think they have to quit their jobs so they can go back to school full-time.  Mountwest Community & Technical College is among the most affordable institutions in the area, and our students do not have to be full time to receive financial aid. Mountwest offers a wide variety of financial resources for non-traditional students. 

The FAFSA

The first step for any student who wishes to receive financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is open to everyone, and there are no age restrictions. The FAFSA is an application for the Pell Grant, SEOG Grant, Federal Work Study, Federal Student Loans and a variety of State Grant programs. Completing the FAFSA by April 15 each year ensures that you also apply for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant, which can pay up to $1,300 per semester for full-time enrollment for West Virginia residents who meet the eligibility requirements.

The FAFSA no longer requires mounds of paperwork. If you filed your taxes electronically at least three weeks prior, you can import your IRS data directly into the FAFSA. If the mere thought of the FAFSA gives you chills, Mountwest has trained financial aid counselors who can assist you. We also have evening hours so that working students can seek assistance with FAFSA filing.

Don’t bypass the FAFSA because you think you won’t qualify for anything but student loans. Some state agencies require that you complete the FASFA before requesting their help. Also, if your family circumstances have changed in the past year, you may be able to request a change to your FAFSA. Since the FAFSA is based on previous year income data, life changes such as job loss or divorce can affect your aid package. Talk to one of our financial aid counselors at Mountwest if you have had a change in your financial circumstances, and we may be able to assist you in getting more grant funding.

Full- vs. Part-Time Students

Have you decided to go to school part time or full time? Changes in your course load also affect your financial aid package. Part-time West Virginia residents, who meet the eligibility requirements can qualify for a HEAPS Grant, which may pay up to the full cost of part time tuition and fees.  Your residency also affects your financial aid. Mountwest offers Metro Tuition Waivers to students in certain counties where a portion of metro fees are waived and students pay in-state tuition rates.

Tuition Waivers

Do you have other characteristics which might qualify you for state aid? There are tuition waivers for West Virginia Residents who are 65 or older, for students who were in foster care upon turning age 18, for the dependents of firefighters or policemen killed in the line of duty and for Medal of Honor or Purple Heart recipients. Veterans and active duty service members have many options available. Our Military Program Coordinator at Mountwest can assist veterans and active duty military in deciding which benefits will best assist with paying educational expenses.

Payment Plans

If you would rather pay on your own, Mountwest offers payment plans during the fall and spring semesters. Contact our Cashier’s Office to find out more about the plans. Working students may have other payment options available.

Your current employer may offer a tuition assistance program. Investigate your human resources office to find out if your employer has such a program and find out how you can qualify. Another advantage to being a working student and a homeowner is the possibility of using a home equity line of credit to finance your education. Oftentimes, you can qualify for interest rates that may be lower than federal student loan rates. One word of caution: don’t borrow too much, either using a line of credit or federal student loans. Make a realistic budget of expenses that includes tuition but also factors in such items as books and transportation. Don’t exceed that budget.

Other State Resources

There are other state agencies that may assist you with your education. Perhaps you have suffered a diagnosed disability or you have been recently laid off from your job. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services offers assistance to those with a diagnosed disability to include tuition and books, even for adult students who wish to return to college. The U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with the WorkForce Investment Act may be able to provide assistance that could include tuition assistance, books and a small stipend. Check with your local unemployment office to see if you qualify.

Whether you decide to attend school full time or part time, there are many options available for financing your education. Speak with one of our financial aid counselors at Mountwest today to explore your financing options. Don’t let money worries stand in the way of a brighter future.

 

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