5 Ways to Pay for Trade School
January 24, 2013

College isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. Not everyone needs to go college and not everyone will make it through. The college enrollment rate  skyrocketed 37% between 2000 and 2010, yet college dropout rates are also soaring. 40% of those who begin college will never get a degree. There is a stigma if you don’t go to college, but many of us are clearly not a fit for higher learning in this environment. But there are other forms of education that have drastically higher graduation and success rates. Trade schools and community colleges offering technical programs have success rates as high as 93%.

A college education is no protection from economic hardship in these troubled times – the majority of jobless workers have at least some college learning and many are degreed. And there are tons of job opportunities that require some technical training, but not a college degree. The Federal Reserve has reported that a shortage of skilled workers is hampering economic recovery. Sheet metal workers, welders, machine operators, truck drivers and other skilled trades are in high demand and there are hundreds of thousands of these jobs sitting open right now.

If the idea of sitting in a classroom learning non-essential skills such as art appreciation, physical education and English literature is not for you, trade school or technical college may be the answer for you. But this training can be as costly per semester as an “academic” education and financial aid to help pay for it is harder to come by. So what’s an aspiring person who wants training to become part of the workforce to do? The good news is, while there are more resources for traditional college financing, there are ways to finance your technical training. Consider these five ways to pay for trade school:

#1 Lottery Grants
I live in Atlanta and Georgia has an excellent lottery funded scholarship and grant program. Georgia’s HOPE grant program pays most of the tuition for a trade or technical school program regardless of high school grade point average. They also tack on $100 toward textbooks. South Carolina has a similar program as do many other states that have a lottery.

#2 Employment Programs
Many states have programs to help the unemployed and underemployed get trained or re-trained (if your skills are obsolete) so they can get back into the workforce and earn a living wage. Your local unemployment office will have more details about these programs that are federal and state government funded as well as underwritten by private and public companies seeking trained staff. These programs are often also open to self-employed whose businesses have failed and stay at home parents or long term unemployed who are ready to re-enter the workforce.

#3 Student Loans
Traditional student loans are only open to those attending two and four year academic colleges and pursuing degrees. In light of the need for skilled tradespeople though, this seems counter-intuitive. But since when does our government make sense? But there are some borrowing options open to you. Sallie Mae offers Career Training Student Loans, but you have to have pretty good credit to get one. The lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate. You can get a lower rate with a cosigner and after you make 12 monthly payments on time, your cosigner can be released from your loan. Federal loans may be available depending on your financial circumstances. 

#4 Trade School Grants
Grants are even better than loans because you don’t have to pay them back. Depending on your demographics and circumstances, you may qualify for a grant that will pay all or some of your technical training tuition. Grants can often be combined so you can stack them together to try to cover the entire cost of your courses, textbooks and materials. Women, minorities and disabled have the best shot at grants, but there are also low-income, returning to the workforce and other grant programs. The best source of information for grants is the financial aid office of your technical school

#5 Social-Financial Agreements
This is an interesting new way to finance a trade school or technical training program. Pave is a community where prospects are paired with backers to form individual social-financial agreements that are “designed to unlock potential and create a long-term sense of shared purpose.” Backers provide money to pay for education, training and equipment (such as tools), offer advice, encouragement and connections. In return, prospects agree to pay a percentage of their earnings (typically 5%) for a decade. This is a truly interesting notion and certainly one to consider. High interest private education loans could result in payments much higher than this, so it is a financially viable alternative. 

One tool firm, Beach Mold & Tool can’t find enough workers to fill their $30 per hour jobs and says, “We’re ready to hire people every day. But our biggest challenge is finding people with the skills and with the work ethic to do the job.” So before you decide to invest in a degree program, consider what you really want. Trade schools can put people to work rapidly in good paying jobs that employers are desperate to fill. These financing opportunities can get you the money you need to pay for your training and get you to work right away.