Finding Money to Go Back to School

Finding Money to Go Back to School

China says of the process, “I looked into fellowship programs offered at the school. After completing the application and the GRE, I applied to UVA and got accepted.” China decided to rent out her Columbia, South Carolina, townhouse (she is charging $850 each month and adds $350 to that to cover the mortgage) to pursue graduate studies 350 miles away at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “I came back to school with a lot of things. I owned my own business and I own a home and I had to prepare for that,” says China, who is now in her second year of a four-year Ph.D. program. When she completes the program she will have a doctorate in reading education and plans to conduct research to develop interventions to help struggling readers.

Look for career-change grants and scholarships.
“Scholarships are available. They do exist,” says Weaver, noting that applicants just have to know where to look. A good place to start is at the college of your choice. “Make sure you go to the financial aid page on the school’s website,” he advises. “Make sure you are looking at this year’s info, not last year’s or the year before.” Quinn says, “Usually under the school’s financial aid site there is a separate link to scholarships.” She notes that financial aid information can also be “buried” on the school’s home page or found on the admissions page.

In addition, at websites such as, you can look for awards that address your unique qualities or interests. For instance, the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund’s Career Development Grants offer up to $12,000 for women who are looking to advance their careers, change careers, or re-enter the workforce, and the Robert Toigo Foundation Fellowship offers up to $5,000 to minority students who want a career in financial services.

Take advantage of tax credits.
“Tax credits are often more beneficial than some tax deductions, because deductions only reduce the amount of your income that is subject to tax, while the credit reduces the actual tax,” explains attorney and CPA Shannon Nash of the Nash Management Group. She advises students to calculate both to see which one is more beneficial. The Lifetime Learning Credit offers a $2,000 tax credit for various types of schooling, including vocational and skills training courses, for unlimited years. “You can only get one Lifetime Learning Credit, even if you’re paying educational expenses for multiple people,” Nash warns adults who may be returning to school at the same time as their children. The Lifetime Learning Credit and the American Opportunity Credit, which is for degree or certificate programs only but allows up to $2,500 per student, per year, for the first four years of undergraduate school, cannot be claimed by the same person. However, a person can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for one student and the American Opportunity Credit for another in the same year. Recently extended by Congress, the American Opportunity Credit will be available through tax year 2017.

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