Should you take out a student loan for an apprenticeship?
For recent high school graduates or others exploring higher education, apprenticeship is a viable alternative to the traditional baccalaureate.
Learning can be invaluable to students pursuing certain careers, as it provides a hands-on “learning by doing” experience. Also of note: Apprenticeships are gaining more and more attention as rising college costs and student debt preoccupy the public, and many U.S. businesses face the challenge of finding the skilled workers they need to boost. innovation and remain competitive.
In response, the United States Department of Labor continues to fund the Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap grant program, which began under Donald Trump’s administration and provides nearly $ 100 million for apprenticeships in areas such as as information technology, healthcare and advanced manufacturing.
The program, which includes 28 public-private partnerships in various states, supports job-related education combined with structured on-the-job learning experiences. In many cases, classroom instruction is offered by post-secondary institutions, such as community colleges, meaning that federal student aid funding can be used to support student learning.
[READ: For Affordable Job Training, Consider Modern Apprenticeships.]
This vocational training option, the duration of which varies depending on the specific apprenticeship and industry sector, could help students avoid taking on more student loans than they can afford. In some cases, an apprenticeship could even help participants avoid student loans altogether.
Here are some key steps to take if you are considering an apprenticeship program and thinking about how to pay for it.
Get reliable information
Are you wondering if an apprenticeship is right for you? The Department of Labor provides a unique platform, Apprenticeship.gov, to connect job seekers, job creators, training providers, parents, teachers, and federal and local agencies with information and learning resources.
Other federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also offer apprenticeship programs.
Some states like Kentucky have state-funded scholarships that can be accessed for approved registered apprenticeships, while other states such as Washington and North Carolina have programs that waive some or all of the tuition fees. schooling for learning under certain circumstances.
Check with your state of residence to see what may be available, as programs vary. Some states may require enrollment to take place within a certain amount of time after high school graduation or even before graduation. Other models have grants that cover additional costs, such as registration fees, or operate on a reimbursement basis.
[READ: Ways Cooperative Education Can Reduce Student Loan Borrowing.]
Veterans should explore their options as well. Eligible veterans may be eligible for GI Bill funds to subsidize apprenticeships and skills training under approved programs in certain industries. Since many apprentices receive a salary of 50% or less during their vocational training, this Bill IG benefit provides an allowance for housing, books and supplies to subsidize reduced incomes while the student learns the trade.
Explore the fields of study of apprenticeship
Many well-known American companies are integrating learning as part of their workforce development. Popular fields of study include manufacturing, construction, energy, healthcare, IT, telecommunications, and transportation.
Look at current opportunities to explore specific industries offering programs. Consider the success stories to get a feel for the experiences of those who have completed apprenticeship programs, as some states like Maryland and Kansas post apprenticeship testimonials online.
In today’s job market, one of the most popular industrial sectors offering apprenticeships is computer science, especially software engineering. For example, the Code for America website shares computer-specific learning opportunities, including matching apprentices and mentors to work on the latest challenges in information technology.
[See: Top Colleges, Universities for Internship, Co-Op Programs.]
Finding out how student loans can play a role
Student loans may be needed to cover costs not paid by grants and other sources of funding that you do not have to repay.
The range of options for apprentices will depend on the status of the institution and whether it is deemed eligible for federal student aid. Eligible programs offer enrollees the opportunity to borrow under the federal direct lending program.
It is helpful to know the accreditation status of the apprenticeship program before registering, as this will tell you if it meets the eligibility criteria for federal financial aid. Non-accredited programs are generally not eligible.
Borrowing an amount while in a program should support the goal of completing learning and should not be used for ineligible expenses such as recreation.
When considering funding an apprenticeship program, consider factors specific to your situation, such as any debt you may already have and the availability of financial aid options that do not involve borrowing.
Julie Rogier is the Content Marketing Manager for GreenPath Financial Wellness, a national non-profit organization that provides financial advice and education to empower people to lead financially healthy lives. Rogier manages initiatives such as content marketing programs that support more than 500 partners of GreenPath credit unions, banks and employers. GreenPath has helped millions of people with advice on student loans, debt and credit management, homeownership education, and foreclosure prevention. Rogier holds a BA in Communications and English from Michigan State University and an MBA in Marketing, with Honors, from Oakland University.