Would You Go Back To School if You Qualified for a Grant?
What's a Grant?
Someone gives you free money. That's a grant. Going back to school on a government grant means that friendly caring folks in Washington, DC drop money into your checking account for you to pay your tuition bills. The funds come from somewhere, but all that matters is that you don't have to pay it back. Our government wants people to enroll in college.
Studies show that The United States lags behind many other nations in many areas of expertise. Buildings packed with bureaucrats plan to change that. In order for us to catch up with the rest of the world, we need more well-educated college graduates in a wide variety of topics.
How about a STEM Grant?
STEM stands for Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology. This covers just about every profession that is currently hiring, except perhaps lifeguard and MSNBC talk show host.
Achieving a college degree in a STEM field of study makes you much more employable. To that end, government grants are constantly available to those who qualify. Don't plan on showing up without putting in quite a bit of effort: such degrees must be earned. For example, the state of Georgia funds a grant program called "Georgia Innovation Fund" which facilitates the development and implementation of STEM-related curricula. The political big thinkers in Georgia surmise that encouraging educators and students to pursue STEM topics will create a better educated workforce. A stronger economy with high-paying jobs should result.
How would a better ediucated workforce improve an economy? Two general improvements are expected. Employers are always attracted to regions of the country inhabited by smart people. A new factory, development center, or corporate headquarters cannot flourish without qualified labor. They can't outsource everything. Certainly, tax breaks and infrastructure factor into decisions to locate business centers, but qualified workers matter as well.
Along with creating qualified employees, a highly educated workforce also spawns entrepreneurs. These ambitious graduates see opportunities to provide goods and services outside of the traditional weekly paycheck paradigm.
Do you need financial need?
Some grants are written to serve potential students who demonste immediate financial need and some are not. The Vernier Corporation specializes in scientific equipment and software for education. They recently announced a series of $10,000 grants for students who want to study technical topics but need a financial boost in order to pay for their education. They created a series of 30 grants for deserving students. 10K might not pay for a complete 4-year college degree, but it will get you back to school with a strong start.
Is There a Down-Side to being granted a grant?
Some experts suggest that 'free' money has little value compared to that which is earned. Such grants may color the attitudes and even the perceived effort of the recipients. In oher words, if you didn't work for it, you may not appreciate it as much. When you sign the tuition check to pay with money earned from 9-5 effort, perhaps you'll expect a bigger bang for your bucks.
On the other hand, if you can't pay for it, you'll never get there anyway. There's a difference between can't and won't. College has become sufficiently expensive on so many levels that sometimes only a grant will get you on campus. What you do once you're finally in the classroom is completely up to you.
Don't Study Because of the Grant
The worst mistake made by grantees might be pursuing a degree in a subject holding little interest for them. If a grant offers to pay for Computer Engineering and you hate math, stay home. That's no reason to go back to school. STEM topics are held out as a panacea all too often by enrollment advisers and career counselors. You're better off paying for your education in your field of interest rather than accepting free money to take courses that bore or frustrate you. The goal of college is to get a job, not take up a seat until the money exhausts.
Not sure? Take an aptitude test or an online course. Find out where your interests lie.
On what will you spend your grant?
Once you find yourself granted a grant, plan to spend it. Attending college requires stuff. School supplies from Office Depot or a crisp new pair of chinos from Sears or a license plate bracket sporting your school mascot can all be purchased with your grant, unless you read the fine print.