Getting a student loan if you’re taking a non-degree course can be tricky. Usually, federal college aid is only for students pursuing an associate’s, bachelor’s, or professional degree. This means that non-degree seeking students have difficulty finding appropriate loans. So, paying for an education that doesn’t give you a degree can be challenging.
There are many reasons why you may not be pursuing further education to earn a degree. For example, you may already have a degree but need to work in a specialized field in your industry. Or you might just want to improve your skills. Some professions require that you get re-certified after a specific time.
Non-degree students look for student loans as they tend to have lower interest rates and have income-based repayment options. But there are other ways to pay for non-degree programs in vocational or trade schools. In reality, there could be better options than student loans to finance your education.
Are you a non-degree student who wants to enroll in a program that doesn’t end with a diploma? This article answers your questions on what loans you can get if you’re a non-degree seeking student. You will also find helpful tips on where else to find help to fund your education.
Federal Grants for Non-Degree Seeking Students
Before signing up for a student loan, it’s worth pursuing other types of financial aid. Some non-degree students can qualify for free college money, such as federal grants. Unlike student loans, grants, such as the Pell Grant, don’t have to be repaid.
Non-degree seeking students must meet specific requirements to qualify for federal aid. Here are the conditions to meet for getting free money from the government for non-degree courses:
- The non-degree course is necessary to enroll in a certificate or degree program.
- You need to complete courses for re-certification or teacher certification.
- The non-degree certificate program is a requirement for a specific career.
In addition to finding an eligible program, you’ll need to ensure the school has the appropriate accreditation. It’s also good to remember that to qualify for a Pell Grant, you need to show extreme financial need.
Federal Loans for Non-Degree Seeking Students
In some cases, you may be eligible for federal loans when pursuing a non-degree program. Federal student loans have lower interest rates and better repayment options than private loans. In most cases, they can be three times cheaper than private student loans.
Generally, the conditions for non-degree seeking students to get federal loans are the same as for grants. Non-degree students can get loans for teacher certification or prerequisite work to enroll in a degree program.
Before applying for federal grants or loans, you need to fill out the FAFSA form.
Related reading: How to avoid costly FAFSA mistakes.
Non-Degree Seeking Student Loan Options
Federal assistance is typically not available for non-degree seeking students. If you require additional financing, you may have to explore options for getting a private student loan. However, like any debt, it’s wise to consider the cost of repaying the loan against the coursework benefits.
Let’s look at some of the loan options for non-degree seeking students.
Private student loans
Many private lenders offer loans specifically for students, non-traditional students, and non-degree seeking students. It’s worthwhile shopping around for the best student loan deal. But you should be aware that most private loans have high-interest rates, limited repayment options, and require a credit check.
One loan option for non-degree students is the Sallie Mae student loan. The “Career Training Smart Option Student Loan” is for students enrolling in programs that don’t award degrees. The loan rates can be as low as 4.25%, depending on your credit score. This type of student loan also has flexible repayment options.
College tuition payment plans
Non-degree seeking students can qualify for college payment plans. Many colleges allow you to pay college tuition and fees in installments rather than a lump sum. This payment plan spreads out payments over the semester, making it easier to pay for college.
Here are a few things to be careful of with college payment plans:
- You may have to pay service fees in addition to the regular tuition fees.
- You can end up with a massive debt if your circumstances change and you can’t make payments.
- Using credit cards to make payments can sometimes be costlier than private student loans.
Reasons to Avoid Non-Degree Seeking Student Loans
Taking out loans is usually a last resort for non-degree students. Private loans can rack up an enormous amount of debt. The last thing you want is to be paying off the loans for many years in the future. A poor credit score due to your credit history could impact your ability to get financing to buy a home or car.
Before you start borrowing money, it’s wise to explore alternatives to student loans.
Here are a few financing options to attend a non-degree school or program.
Non-traditional students and non-degree seeking students should make getting scholarships a priority. Many organizations provide free money to assist people through school, even if they are not studying for a degree. Scholarships can amount to many thousands of dollars — ideal if you need help to pay for college.
Compare non-degree programs
It helps to compare various programs if you’re a non-degree seeking student. For example, many career opportunities are open to students who attend trade schools or community colleges. Courses offered by vocational schools can give you the necessary qualifications to start a lucrative career. They are cheaper than degree courses and usually don’t leave you with a pile of debt to repay.
Check out apprenticeships instead of student loans
Becoming an apprentice in a trade can help you avoid taking out student loans. Apprenticeships give you on-the-job training, and you earn a salary at the same time.
Getting a Loan as a Non-Degree Seeking Student: Key Takeaways
It’s wise to avoid taking out private student loans to pay for non-degree courses. First, explore possibilities to qualify for federal grants or loans. Second, apply for as many scholarships as you can to help pay for education. Also, many trade schools offer programs for affordable tuition and fees.
Avoiding the burden of student loan debt means you have more money after you complete your program. You will then find more satisfaction from your new career and more income to spend on what you love doing.