How to Pay for a Trade School Education

Kelly Hernandez
A hard hat sits on top of some trade school textbooks and alongside a certification.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Trade school is different from traditional college because it allows you to focus on learning one skill with the purpose of building a career in a specific industry. When you attend trade school, you’re generally only in school for a year or two, focused on becoming a skilled worker in a trade industry, such as carpentry, auto mechanics, or plumbing. If you’re looking into trade school majors, you may find there are many high-paying trade school careers that are challenging and rewarding jobs.

Since trade school doesn’t require a commitment of four or more years of education at a university, it’s usually a more inexpensive educational option than a university. However, trade school students still need a financial plan that ensures they can successfully pay for their education. If you’re interested in attending trade school, it’s important to learn about the financial aid and student loan options available to you and how they may affect your financial future and goals.

Cost of Trade Schools

Before you create an adequate plan to pay for your trade school education, you must understand the costs you’ll incur by attending school. When you know how much financial aid is necessary for trade school, you’ll find it easier to figure out which resources will be useful to help pay for your education.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the 2017 to 2018 school year, full-time students attending public two-year in-state schools paid an average of $4,235 in tuition and educational expenses. Average tuition costs and educational expenses increased to $8,186 when they attended two-year schools full-time that were out of state.

In-state schools with less-than-two-year programs were associated with average tuition costs of $7,437 for full-time students. Out-of-state schools with programs that require less than two years of attendance had average tuition costs of $8,578 for full-time students.

For private trade schools, tuition and educational expenses increase exponentially. Full-time students attending private nonprofit schools for two years in the 2017 to 2018 school year paid an average of $14,572 in tuition and fees. Full-time private school students attending trade school for less than two years were responsible for average tuition expenses totaling $14,667.

While the tuition and associated educational expenses for trade schools are less than four-year colleges, many students need financial assistance to ensure they can complete their trade school education successfully.

How to Get Financial Aid for Trade Schools

If you’re interested in attending trade school but not sure how you’ll pay for the tuition and fees, there are different ways to get financial aid. Before you enroll in school, review the eligibility requirements for these options so you can choose the best way to pay for your degree.

Student Loans for Trade Schools

If you obtain a student loan for trade school, you’re responsible for paying it back when you graduate. Not only do you pay back the money you borrowed, you’ll also incur interest charges on the loan amount as you pay it off. You may apply for a federal student loan or a student loan through a private lender.

Not all trade schools participate in the federal loan program. If your school does, to apply for a federal loan, you must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with your trade scchool’s financial aid department. The federal government analyzes your financial situation and may offer you a federal student loan to pay for your educational expenses.

If your trade school program is longer than 15 weeks, the federal government may offer you a grant or a loan to pay for school. If your program is shorter than 15 weeks, you may only be eligible for a student loan through the federal government.

It’s important to review the loan terms, including the interest rate and loan amount. Ensure the loan amount is enough to pay for your trade school education and if not, you may need to apply for a private loan in addition to the federal loan.

A private loan is provided through a private lender, such as a financial institution or bank. The lender analyzes your credit score, income, and other financial factors before potentially offering you a loan with a specific interest rate and loan amount.

You can shop this loan offer around to several private lenders to ensure you find the one that’s best for you. Upon completion of your education, you’re responsible for making monthly payments plus interest to the lender until your loan balance is paid off.

Trade School Scholarships and Grants

If you qualify for scholarships or grants to pay for your education, you’re not responsible for paying them back when you graduate. Check in with your trade school to learn about scholarships you may qualify for and you may be able to obtain free money to pay for your tuition. Reach out to local associations related to your field to see if there are any career-specific scholarships you may be eligible to receive.

Grants are provided by the federal government to students who financially qualify. When you submit your FAFSA, the federal government reviews your eligibility qualifications and will let you know if you qualify for grants. Keep in mind, you’re only eligible for a grant if your trade school program takes longer than 15 weeks to complete.

Trade school may be just what you need to advance your employment or start a career in a high-paying industry. If you’re planning to attend trade school, it’s important to know about grants, scholarships, private loans, and federal student loans. When you know what you qualify for, you can choose the financial aid option that works best for your situation.

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