Financial Aid Options for Divorced Adult Students

After divorce, you’ll have a lot of concerns. One of the most pressing will be how you’ll take care of yourself.

You and your ex will be running two households with the same financial resources you used to run one. The Government Accountability Office reports that while a man may take a 23% income hit after divorce, a woman’s household income may fall by 41%. 

If you haven’t been working and are facing divorce, you may have to return to the workforce. One way to get the skills you need is to go back to school. Getting additional education and training after a divorce can make you more employable, which in turn can help you become self-sufficient. To do so, you may find yourself filling out a financial aid application or two.

Filling out these financial aid forms can benefit both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

How can I afford to go back to school?

After divorce, it can be hard to make ends meet. You may have stayed home and cared for your family. You may not have worked outside the home for quite some time or only worked part-time. Even if you have a degree and marketable skills, you may need to update your skills and resumé to help yourself fit the current job market.

Whether you’re going back to college for a degree, a certificate, or just to brush up on specific skills, it can be expensive. You may wonder how you’d be able to afford this on a significantly lower income than before.

Fortunately, college financial aid options exist for adults who want to return to school to boost their job marketability after divorce.

Employer programs

Many adults looking to return to school already have jobs. Employers know that well-trained and educated employees are critical assets, and as such, many offer educational benefits to their employees. For example, some companies will pay or reimburse you for tuition or offer other student loan payment assistance. 

Consider looking at any programs your current employer pays for or assists with. Local companies in your area may also offer grant or scholarship money to fulfill their own specific employment needs. 

Federal loans vs. private loans

Student loans are funds you borrow from the federal government or private entities to help pay for your living and college expenses while you’re in school. But unlike grants and college scholarships, this money must be repaid … with interest.

Federal student loans can offer more benefits and flexibility in terms of payment deferment, repayment options, and loan forgiveness programs. To initiate a federal student loan application, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Alternatively, you might seek a private student loan. Private student loans offered by a bank or other lending institution often offer better interest rates and higher lending limits for individuals with good credit

Scholarships and grants

Unlike student loans, scholarships and grants are given based on eligibility or need. They do not need to be repaid. 

Many different types of grants and scholarships are available to adults returning to school. Some are offered by the federal government, such as Pell Grants. There are others offered by specific states, industries, and universities themselves. Scholarships and grants are also available for particular demographics through individual organizations and corporations. 

If you’re considering applying for financial aid, a Federal Pell Grant should be one of your first considerations. Any existing or prospective student who can meet the program requirements and prove financial need is eligible. Today, approximately 5,400 schools have been approved for Pell Grant funding. 

Spousal support

Spousal support, sometimes called alimony, is another option that may be available to you. It is sometimes awarded in divorce to help one spouse go back to school and get back to work.

Temporary spousal support, or rehabilitative support, is short-term support that can be awarded to help one spouse get the education or training they need to re-enter the workforce. If you and your spouse can work together cooperatively, you may also be able to negotiate your tuition as part of your divorce settlement agreement.

Read: How to Talk to Your Ex about Spousal and Child Support


FAQ about adult educational aid

Am I too old to get federal student aid?

No. Financial aid isn’t just for high school kids. Regardless of your age, you can apply for student aid if you’re pursuing higher education. There is no age limit for need-based federal student aid. Anyone seeking financial aid through the federal government needs to complete the FAFSA form, taking care not to miss any important deadlines. 

Can I ask my ex for tuition assistance if we’re already divorced?

Once your divorce judgment is final, any changes will have to be made as modifications to the original settlement agreement. In some cases, depending on the modification provisions of your agreement, you may be able to modify your spousal support to provide assistance with your college education if you can show a significant change in your circumstances and financial need.

Can I use student loan money to pay childcare costs?

While there are no separate federal student loan provisions for single parents, you can use student loan money for dependent care expenses if you advise your financial aid office of your need. 

There may be other options for childcare, such as daycare facilities on campus for adult students. Other private student loan or scholarship options may provide funding for childcare. 

Where can I get information about scholarships?

Databases such as FederalStudentAid, CareerOneStop, and offer scholarship resources and options to look for a scholarship, grant, or training program that fulfills your particular need. You may also speak with the financial aid officer at the school you are considering to understand your financial aid eligibility and what other aid may be available to you. 

At Hello Divorce, we are dedicated to helping and supporting anyone who is going through a divorce. You deserve to understand and be educated about the process so you can feel empowered and not at the mercy of the legal system. We offer many online divorce plans and professional services. We also offer a vast online library of resources to help you understand the divorce process and your options. 

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.