Attending a trade school gives you access to hands-on training and allows you to develop a valuable, marketable skill set. Many trade schools also place their students in jobs after they graduate, which means that you can immediately start earning an income. Generally, the classrooms in trade schools are relatively small, so you’ll get individualized attention from instructors.
Skipping a traditional university to enroll at a trade school is beneficial for several reasons. However, as a new enrollee, you’ll have to find financial aid to cover your tuition and other trade school fees. Whether you are considering a career as a wind turbine technician, welder, diesel mechanic—or any tradesman—a number of financial aid options are available.
Below, we look at various ways to get trade school financial aid, including loans, grants, scholarships, and employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs.
What is a Trade School?
A trade school, or technical school, is an educational institution offering specialized training programs for skilled and mechanical trades. Trade schools offer relevant, on-the-job training, which prepares students to carry out specific operations within their chosen fields.
As a prospective enrollee, you can choose from different types of trade schools. For example, some trade schools focus on a specific field, such as marine or automotive mechanics, HVAC systems, or welding. A trade school can also offer a wide range of training programs, which is ideal if you want to keep your career options open.
Even if you have no experience or knowledge, attending a trade school will give you the foundation you need to succeed in a competitive job market.
Ways to Get Financial Aid for Trade School
After deciding to attend a trade school, the next step is to get financial aid to cover your tuition fees. Obtaining financial aid for a trade school qualification is not as straightforward as it is for a college or university degree. However, with a trade school enrollment, you may have access to a job placement program, and trade school programs generally cost less than a college degree.
Below, we look at ways to secure financial aid for trade schools.
Federal Student Loans
A federal student loan is a loan the federal government issues to students who are in financial need. If you take out a federal student loan to cover your trade school costs, you have to pay it back with interest.
Two types of federal student loans are available: Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. To qualify for the former, you have to demonstrate financial need, but the interest rate is relatively low. Direct Unsubsidized Loans’ interest rates are higher, but you don’t have to demonstrate financial need to qualify.
The federal government offers student loans at fixed interest rates for the loan’s life, and you can opt for an income-driven repayment plan. With this plan, a set percentage of your income will go towards repaying your student loan. The repayment period for a federal student loan starts six months after graduation.
To apply for a federal student loan, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, providing your financial and federal tax information.
Private Student Loans
A private student loan is a loan from a private lender, such as a credit union or bank. The application process for a private student loan depends on the lender’s policy, but most institutions allow applicants to apply online.
A private student loan doesn’t fall under federal financial aid, and you don’t have to complete a FAFSA form to apply. However, you should only apply for a private loan if you know how much you need to borrow to cover your education expenses.
Generally, private student loans don’t offer the same benefits as federal student loans. For example, the interest rates of private loans are higher than those of federal loans. The repayment period for private loans typically also starts immediately after graduation with no six-month grace period.
On the upside, a private loan allows you to cover a wide range of costs in addition to tuition fees, including accommodation, books, and living expenses.
A federal grant is a gift aid from the federal government, and it differs from a student loan in that you don’t have to repay the funds. To apply for a federal grant, you have to complete and submit a FAFSA form and provide your and your parents’ financial and tax information.
Various types of federal grants are available as financial aid for trade schools. Federal Pell Grants have a maximum amount of $6,195 and cover up to six academic tears of funding. According to the federal government, this grant is available to students in exceptional financial need who take part in programs leading to undergraduate qualifications.
A Federal Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is financial aid available to students whose parents or guardians died due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. If you didn’t qualify for the Federal Pell Grant because of your expected family contribution but meet the remaining eligibility requirements, you can apply for this grant.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program
The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program is a type of federal grant available to students who have the lowest expected family contributions to finance post-secondary expenses. The FSEOG program is also available if you are a Federal Pell Grant recipient.
To apply for an FSEOG grant, you have to file a FAFSA form to demonstrate your financial need. The trade school where you plan on enrolling must be a participating post-secondary institution. A participating institution applies annually for FSEOG allocation by submitting a Fiscal Operations Report and application to the U.S. Department of Education.
Trade School Scholarships
A trade school scholarship is a money-based award you can use to pay education-related expenses. Trade schools and professional associations in your career field can base this award on academic performance, talent, or merit. An institution may also award a scholarship to students in financial need or who meet specific career goals.
Whether you can qualify for a scholarship depends on the specific program, and scholarships are not only available through trade schools. You can also research other sources, such as foundations, non-profit organizations, and private businesses. As is the case with student grants, you don’t have to repay the money you receive as a scholarship award.
Federal Parent Loans
If you are applying to trade school, your biological, adoptive, or stepparents can apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. This federal loan from the U.S. Department of Education covers expenses that other forms of financial aid don’t.
Parents have to repay the federal parent loan at an interest rate that stays fixed for the life of the loan. In 2020, the interest rate for the Direct PLUS Loan was 7.08%. Other costs, such as loan fees, may apply as well.
To qualify for a Direct PLUS Loan, your parents will need a good credit history. However, it may be possible to apply with a poor credit history if the applicant can provide documentation proving extenuating circumstances. All applicants must complete and submit a FAFSA form and meet federal student aid general eligibility requirements to succeed in their application.
Tuition Reimbursement Incentive Programs
Employing companies often offer Tuition Reimbursement Incentive Programs (TRIP) as part of their benefits packages. Employers provide these benefits to attract and retain talented employees and develop their skills. Tuition reimbursement is also a tax-deductible expense.
Tuition reimbursement incentive programs vary from company to company. In most cases, employees have to pay their tuition fees upfront. Upon completing a semester or graduation, the employer would refund a portion or the full amount of the costs.
The financial aid you receive as part of a TRIP may only cover your tuition fees. Alternately, the company can make the funds available to cover additional expenses, including textbooks, travel, or internet fees.
Employers may limit their tuition reimbursement programs to specific subjects or trade schools. When applying for jobs, pay attention to the terms of employers’ tuition reimbursement incentive programs to ensure that you receive funding for training that aligns with your career goals.
If you take part in a tuition reimbursement program, you may have to remain with the company for a predetermined time following graduation. Employers insert this clause to ensure that they don’t pay for training that benefits their competition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some commonly asked questions about trade schools, costs and duration to help you!
How Much Does It Cost to Attend Trade School?
Trade school costs vary and range from around $3,000 to $15,000 per year. The total education costs of attending trade schools can be up to $33,000, roughly the same as one year’s tuition at a four-year college.
Trade school costs depend on various factors, including location, the training programs, and the type and specialization of the institution. Trade school cost categories include tuition, books, and supplies. Before applying for a loan, grant, or scholarship, determine all the expenses you’ll have to cover for the duration of your studies.
How Long Does Trade School Take?
Trade schools generally offer programs that are highly relevant to the skills students need to do a job. Unlike four-year academic colleges, trade schools don’t include classes providing liberal arts background knowledge or general elective credits, which reduces program lengths significantly.
General skilled trades training programs can take six months to a year to complete. However, specialized training programs can take up to two years to complete.
If you don’t have a high school diploma, you’ll have to pass the GED examination before starting your trade school program, which requires extra time. Many trade schools offer GED preparation programs for students, which streamlines the process.
What Is the Difference Between a Loan, a Grant, and a Scholarship?
Loans, grants, and scholarships are all forms of financial aid available to trade school enrollees, but they differ in terms of eligibility, repayment terms, and application processes. With a grant and scholarship, you don’t have to pay the money back. However, with a federal or private loan, you have to repay the money plus interest.
The eligibility requirements of loans and grants mostly involve the applicant’s financial situation. However, other factors come into play with a scholarship, such as students’ academic performance or talents. Receiving a scholarship can affect your eligibility to receive additional financial aid, such as a federal loan.
Which Type of Financial Aid is Best?
The best type of financial aid for trade school depends on your individual situation. Ideally, you want to receive a grant or scholarship that you don’t have to repay.
Many consider the Federal Pell Grant to be the best for covering education-related expenses. If you have an adjusted family income of $40,000 or less, you can receive up to $6,345 to pay for your studies.
Make sure that the financial aid you choose doesn’t affect your eligibility to receive grants or aid as part of a tuition reimbursement program.
Is Trade School Worth It?
Many people are apprehensive about attending trade school, especially if they have the opportunity to attend a university or four-year college. However, a career in the skilled trades can be highly lucrative and rewarding. The ever-increasing demand for trade skills also ensures competitive salaries, even during economic downturns.
Attending trade school allows you to develop a high-value, marketable skill. A trade school may also help you with employment placement, which mitigates your risk of unemployment. You also won’t have to deal with the stress of job seeking.
You can choose from various areas of specialization, and choosing to attend trade school instead of a four-year college will not limit your career prospects.
Find the Perfect Career Path
Through the various financial aid options available, you can attend a high-profile trade school to develop your skills for the job market. Selecting and applying for financial aid may be time-intensive, but it will make it possible for you to pursue a lucrative career in the skilled trades.
At Blue Collar Brain, we are the leading source of information on non-degree job options and trade careers. If you haven’t decided on a specific career within the trades, explore our various trade job overviews for more information.