Financial Aid for Part-Time StudentsAugust 9, 2021
Attending college can open a lot of doors for your career. But if you’re working full time or you have family or other obligations that prevent you from a full course load, you may only be able to attend school part-time.
The good news is that even if you’re not a full-time student, you may still qualify for financial aid. Here’s what you need to know if you need help paying for college but can’t attend school full time.
What You Need to Qualify for Financial Aid as a Part-Time Student
Depending on the school you’re attending, full-time status may be defined as nine or 12 credit hours per semester. However, federal financial aid for part-time students typically only requires you to attend school half time to qualify.
Half-time status means you have at least six credit hours per semester if you’re an undergraduate student. If you’re a graduate student, those requirements can vary, so check with your school before you proceed.
The important thing is that you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA for part-time students is the same as it is for full-time students, and it’s required to be eligible for federal financial aid.
You may also be required to fill out the FAFSA to access certain scholarships offered by your school.
Financial Aid Options for Part-Time Students
If you’re attending school at least half time and you filled out the FAFSA, here are some federal financial aid for part-time students, as well as some non-federal options.
Depending on your situation, you may qualify for one of the following federal grants for college students:
- Pell Grant: Available for certain undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. The Pell Grant offers up to $6,495 for the 2021-22 school year.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): Awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need attending a college that participates in the program. You’ll be prioritized for the FSEOG if you’re a Pell Grant recipient. It offers up to $4,000 per year.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: The TEACH Grant offers up to $3,772 for the 2021-22 school year to eligible undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a career in education.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: Students whose parent or guardian was a member of the armed forces and died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan post-9/11 may receive up to $6,124.79 for the 2021-22 academic year through the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Note that grants generally don’t require repayment, so they’re one of the best forms of financial aid.
Check with your school to see which scholarships it offers. Institutional scholarships may be need-based or merit-based. You can also use websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb to search millions of scholarships offered by private organizations.
There’s a wide variety of opportunities through these websites, and it may take time to find ones you’re eligible to receive, but like grants, scholarships typically don’t need to be repaid.
Federal Work Study
The federal work-study program works by offering financial aid in exchange for working part-time, either on or off-campus. In some cases, you may even be able to get a job that aligns with your field of study.
That said, being awarded federal work-study funds doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually get a job—you’ll likely need to search for a job yourself. Also, you may be limited on how much you can work based on the award amount you receive.
Student loans for part-time students are generally the same as the loans offered to full-time students. As long as you maintain half-time status, your loan payments will be deferred until you graduate.
Federal student loan options for part-time students include:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The federal government pays the interest on these loans while you’re in school, as well as during any future deferment period.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students, these loans don’t require you to demonstrate financial need. However, you’ll be responsible for all the interest charges that accrue while you’re in school. The interest rate on these loans is higher for graduate and professional students than for undergraduate students.
- Direct PLUS Loans: These loans are available to graduate and professional students, as well as to parents who want to help their child pay for school. They charge higher interest rates and loan fees than Direct Unsubsidized Loans, but they also offer higher loan amounts.
Private Student Loans
If you’ve exhausted all of your other financial aid options, private student loans can help you bridge the gap between what you can afford and what you still owe.
Unlike most federal student loans, private student loans typically require a credit check, and your eligibility and loan terms depend on your financial situation and credit history. In some cases, you may need to get a creditworthy cosigner to apply with you to get approved.
If you’re considering private student loans, shop around and compare many lenders to ensure that you get the best deal for your credit profile.
What to Do if You Don’t Have Half-Time Status
Federal financial aid for part-time students is available as long as you’re attending your college or university at least half time. Even many private student loan companies require half-time status to get approved.
But what if you don’t meet that requirement? Unfortunately, you won’t qualify for federal financial aid. But you may still be able to get scholarships through your school and through private organizations.
Check with your school’s financial aid office to get an idea of what your options are and how to pursue them. Also, consider arranging your schedule in a way that you can maintain half-time status, so you have more financial aid options from which to choose.