Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Nov 25, 2009

Pell Grants for Unemployed Americans

Unemployment can feel like a maze with no exit as you try to choose which direction you should follow in your job search -- commiting to one path at the expense of others.

Stay in your current field?  But isn't this the chance you have been waiting for - to start again?
Get new skills and training?  With what money?  And if you sit out the job hunt in a classroom, aren't you spending more than you are earning?  And missing out on benefits?

There are trade-offs, to be sure, but not the Catch-22 you are imagining -- especially now that the Federal Pell Grant program has opened up to unemployed workers.  Grant awards will not buy you an advanced degree, but they may make the difference in whether you up your game with new skills or pursue a new course of employment where jobs may actually be in demand.

You are eligible if...
...you are unemployed.  Not "on unemployment," just unemployed.  Obama does indeed want Moms to go back to school, just like the ads say.
...you are not currently in default on a federal student loan
...you have a GED or high school diploma but do not already have a Bachelor's degree
...you are enrolling in a program that leads to an undergraduate degree or certificate
...you are a citizen or eligible non-citizen

Grant funds can be used for
Tuition and fees
Books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses
Living expenses such as room and board
An allowance for costs expected to be incurred for dependent care for a student with dependents
Up to $5300 may be granted per year, for up to 16 semesters.
Pell Grants are grants, not loans.  They do not have to be repaid.  Even if you were wrong about wanting to be an occupational therapist.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) site is dense, but easy to navigate.  We recommend paging through the screens in the order they are offered in the navigation bar, and don't click off-page until you have read all of the main page information.  If you need to, make a note of pages you want to come back to, but clicking around in sites like these is how one gets lost.  Federal paperwork is always best approached in a linear fashion.

You can also begin at http://www.opportunity.gov/, which streamlines Pell info for unemployed students.

Yoour state may have additional training programs funded to feed understaffed jobs in demand.  Ask at your local career center.

Related posts:
Your Career Center Orientation

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