Aid for collegeWhen you are feeling stuck in your career, your best option may be to get more education. A higher degree opens up so many more opportunities to advance to a better position or take the business you own to a new level. Unfortunately, not many people are able to afford to stop working and pay for college out of their personal funds. Thankfully, there are many sources of financial aid to turn to when you need money for getting a higher degree.

First and foremost, check with your current employer to learn if it has a tuition reimbursement program. Many employers have programs that help dedicated employees further their education, usually by taking online or evening courses while staying with the company. In general, you need to be studying something that will make you more of an asset for your company to qualify for tuition reimbursement from that employer. If your employer offers full reimbursement, you might not even need to turn to other sources of aid.

Next, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for financial aid from the federal government. This application takes information from your tax return and calculates how much you should be able to afford to spend on higher education in the coming school year. If the cost of attending school, including your supplies, housing, food, personal expenses, and transportation, exceeds what you can afford, you are eligible for need-based financial aid. The federal government offers Pell Grants to some students pursuing undergraduate degrees and many types of student loans with low interest rates for all eligible students.

When you apply for federal financial aid, your application also goes to your state higher education commission. Many states offer grants and loans in addition to the ones from the federal government. However, you might also have to submit a supplementary application, so check with the office in your state to find out what additional requirements it has.

The financial aid office at your school is the last place you need to contact to get your federal and state financial aid packages in order. The office is the one that works with the federal government to calculate how much aid you are eligible to receive, and they notify you what your award is. Many schools also offer additional financial aid for students who qualify, so find out if the school has a separate application. You may need to write essays or give additional information about your desired field of study.

The final source of financial aid to consider is outside scholarships, which come from local or large businesses or foundations. Your school’s financial aid office might be able to point you to some organizations in the area that offer scholarships, and you can also use scholarship search websites online to find scholarships you may qualify for.

To calculate whether you can afford school, start with the total cost of attending school for the year. Subtract the assistance from your employer, federal aid, state aid, college aid, and scholarships. If you can pay whatever is left, then you can afford higher education.