Trade schools have often been thought of as an alternative to a regular two-year college or four-year university. But this genre of highly specialized, fast-track technical schools is a fast-growing option for many of the nation's youth and non-traditional students.Still, like any post-high school institution, trade schools can carry a hefty tuition cost. However, there are funding opportunities out there, just waiting for hard-working and persevering students to snatch up. That is, if the students can plow through the pile of paperwork necessary to obtain the grants, loans and highly competitive top scholarships that are available.
"Nationwide, each state has different types of financial aid," notes Katrina Houser, Co-Director of Vatterott College in Quincy, Ill. "There are a wide variety of (national) scholarships available."
Vatterott College is a key player in the trade school world, with 18 campuses in various states which feature different programs specifically tailored to their students. Most of Vatterott student financial aid comes from the traditional federal scholarships: loans, grants such as Pell Grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and federal student loans. Students also can tap into programs such as Title 4 which support various trade school campuses.
Because trade schools are typically considered private institutions, tuition costs can be higher than for traditional state schools, where federal funding helps to keep rates lower.
"Just like traditional college, students should do a regular (Internet) search for financial aid," said Alex Dejesus, the Cooperate Financial Aid Director for Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and the Motorcycle and Marine Mechanics Institute (MMI). UTI and MMI regularly place their graduates with the top five motorcycle manufacturers as well as important automotive industry leaders. Dejesus has worked with many students mastering the art of getting some financial aid help. While the programs do not offer specific scholarships, she typically offers students reference points including free national scholarship sites such as FastWeb!, Scholarships.com, or SallieMae College Answer.
"While many of the students entering trade schools now are non-traditional students, or students who have been out of school for some time, high school seniors graduating in the spring will have the best chance at obtaining financial aid because more is tailored to them," Houser said.
As students fully exhaust the list of literally thousands of scholarships, grants and loans available nationwide, they should then turn towards their chosen trade school campuses to seek financial aid closer to home. For example, Vatterott gives out two scholarships to its students at all of its campuses, Imagine America and Make the Grade. "We participate in (Imagine America) through the Career Training Foundation Trade School, and graduating high school seniors are eligible," Houser said. "There are so many scholarships out there. Those are just two that we offer ourselves that are through Vatterott, but we have honored a lot (of outside financial aid) at this campus," Houser said.
In addition to that hefty tuition bill, students expecting to go to trade school should also consider the additional costs of tools, supplies and other ancillary items and fees. Sometimes such costs are included in the program tuition, but each program is different, Houser said. "They do a lot of build-ups and tear-downs," Houser said, "so when they walk out the door they should be ready (for a career)."
Just what the goal of the fast-paced certification world of trade school is intended to do.