Where To Look For Financial Aid for Paralegal Programs
A paralegal job is very much similar to a job of a lawyer except that there are certain aspects of a lawyer's tasks that paralegals are not allowed to do such as court presentations and providing legal counsel to a client. However, among a paralegal's responsibilities are researching for legal citations, helping the lawyer draft contracts, legal arguments, pleadings, and motions, and providing trial assistance.
From now through 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects up to 18% employment growth for paralegals, making it one of the fastest growing fields in the US today.
Because of this, students and career shifters who want to get into a paralegal program besiege the field. What becomes an obstacle is how to pay for the high costs of the program. However, knowing how to source free money for college should not be difficult if you know where to look for it.
For sure, the best alternative is to find paralegal grants or scholarships, which you could avail of though state or federal grants. However, what prospective applicants must take into consideration is that paralegal scholarships are mostly awarded to financially deprived students and given on a first-come, first serve basis.
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Various Types of Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships
Although students' loans are most common, an advantage of acquiring a study grant is that unlike loans, you are not required to pay for it after completing the course. Following are the different kinds of financial aid for paralegal studies.
You should check the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) website (www.fafsa.ed.gov) if you are eligible in any of the federal government-sponsored grants and loans programs.
If you are, then you may complete your application online. Note that the US Department of Education processes FAFSA applications at the beginning of the year, thus, if you intend to submit an application, then ensure to submit yours earlier.
Types of Federal Grants
Pell Grants – One of the most common grants for students studying paralegal studies, a Pell grant may go as high as $5,500 per student depending on one's financial standing, duration of study, costs of attending the paralegal school, and whether student will study on fulltime or part-time basis.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) – Geared for undergraduates who are financially incapable of paying for their college education, the FSEOG program largely bases its decision on recipients whose expected family contributions (EFCs) are lowest. Depending on factors such as time of application, your financial standing, and the requirements of the school you are applying to, among others, you may receive from $100 - $4,000 in educational funding.
Similar to Pell Grants, you do not have to pay back for anything else even after you complete your program.
American Competitiveness Grant (ACG) – Started in 2006, this grant aims to meet the increasing need for science and math education. By encouraging students to continually take up tougher subjects in high school in the hope that it would better prepare them in their college education, this grant is specifically offered for college students who are in their freshman and sophomore years of college. Normally, $750 is allotted for students in their first year, and $1,300 for the succeeding year.
National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART Grant) – Very much like the ACG, this type of grant is specifically to encourage students to take up college majors that are highly in demand in the global workforce now, including information technology, sciences, math, and engineering. Only those who are already in their third and fourth years of study are eligible to apply. Recipients may receive up to $4,000 for each of the remaining two years of study.
Federal Student Loans
Despite some banks having reservations when it comes to granting loans to anyone with low credit ratings, the government offers loans that carry low and affordable interests rates in order to help qualified and deserving students.
Types of Federal Student Loans
Federal Perkins – Priority is given to paralegal students who receive a Federal Pell Grant and who show extreme need for financial support. Likewise, this is only available to students who meet the set academic standards that include attendance and GPA requirements.
Loans can be as high as $5,500 per year for undergraduate students and $8,000 a year for graduate students.
Federal Stafford. Can be government subsidized or unsubsidized. If a student decides to go for unsubsidized loans, the student is responsible for paying the interest immediately either with the help of their parents or spouse.
William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. These are low-interest loans that help students and parents pay for the cost of paralegal education. Despite receiving several loans from different schools, only one loan servicer will handle all accounts.
Fellowships and Scholarships
These types of scholarships are available in most colleges and universities offering paralegal studies and are largely dependent on financial need, academic performance, and program level, among others. Some financial aid do not have to be repaid at all, while others even reimburse whatever amount students have already paid prior to the application.
Consider checking American Association for Paralegal Education (AAFPE) and National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), which are both professional institutions that support to advance the criminal justice division by supporting its professionals in their further studies.
Another form of loan scholarship that enables students to choose between military scholarships and work-study programs. Opting for military scholarships means the government pays for your education and in return, you will have to serve in the military for a certain duration of time until you have repaid your loan. On the other hand, work-study programs mean you will work for the sponsoring program until you complete your paralegal studies.
Therefore, you must be very vigilant when it comes to looking for scholarships and other funding sources because although there are organizations who are willing to sponsor students in their studies, competition is high when it comes to applying for these scholarships.