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Financial Aid for Non-degree Programs

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As you begin your journey toward education and helping others, the financial implications will become part of the discussion. While many natural health schools offer federal financial aid, certificate and diploma programs aren’t always eligible for this specific type of assistance.

There are strict regulations on what makes a program eligible for federal aid. One factor that’s considered: Whether the program leads to gainful employment. Since certificate and diploma programs—especially in the natural health space—are often intended as add-ons to an established profession, federal aid isn’t typically available.

In other words, if you’re a massage therapist looking to enhance your practice with more skills, such as aromatherapy, federal aid won’t cover the cost of those classes.

There is good news though. There are plenty of alternative methods to pay for your certificate or diploma.

Payment Plans

You’ve reached a place in your life where healing others is your main goal, but what if that same place in life doesn’t financially allow you to write a big check in one fell swoop?

Ask your school about a payment plan. The total amount you owe is divided into monthly installments. This can be a great option for students who don’t want to borrow money, or can’t secure a loan, but have enough money each month to make payments.

Typically, these plans are interest-free, but you may be charged fees by the school. Find out before signing up.

Private Loans

Payment plans not an option? No problem. When your certificate program doesn’t qualify for federal loans, you still have borrowing options if you need them.

School loans provided by private lenders are available to students, but be cognizant of a loan’s terms. The following factors impact how much you’ll pay:

  • Interest rate: Rates are connected to the prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Look for a loan using the LIBOR rate plus 2 percent or the prime rate minus 0.50 percent. Typically, loans tied to LIBOR are preferred.
  • Fees (look for no-fee loans)
  • Length of the loan: The longer the loan, the more you pay in interest in the long run.
  • Variable rate vs. fixed rate

If you opt for a variable rate loan, the interest rate will fluctuate at specified times. If rates have jumped since you secured your loan, your monthly payment will increase. Of course, the alternative is also true: If rates decrease, your payments could go down.

Quick Tip: Unlike federal loans, private lenders typically require borrowers to begin repayment while they’re still in school.

If you’re going to utilize private loans, shop around. Federal credit unions and community banks tend to have the most attractive terms.

Work-Exchange Programs

Some schools also employ a work-exchange model as form of need-based financial aid. In these scenarios, the school will waive the amount owed in exchange for the student’s time working on campus projects or tasks.

Not all schools offer work-exchange programs; ask about it before enrolling. These programs are often used to take care of the remaining costs not covered by other financial aid. Be sure to calculate what you’ll need to decide if a work-exchange program will work for you.

Military Benefits

If you’re a member of the military or a veteran, you may be entitled to some financial aid for non-college degree programs. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, cosmetology school is one type of program covered under this benefit.

The amount you can receive is based on the GI Bill you’re using and the type of program you’re enrolled in.

When in doubt about financial assistance, always talk with the financial aid office at your school. They’ll be able to sift through the financial aid jargon, clearly explain costs and suggest the most appropriate methods to pay for your certificate or diploma program.

Don’t let the cost of school break your motivation to gain more knowledge. You, like many students before you, will find a way to your goals.