Affording College in Upstate SC: Tips for Adult Learners

Greenville, South Carolina and much of the surrounding area has seen an incredible economic explosion over the past 10 years. Industries such as manufacturing, technology, and medicine have all experienced massive growth and recruiters are having a hard time filling positions with qualified applicants. This has resulted in what could be considered a mass migration of new young professionals to the area to claim these jobs.

What this amounts to for many locals is a big missed opportunity. Many Upstate adults have come to a point in their career where they realize in order to take the next step, get that big promotion, or make that career change, they need to go back to school. Unfortunately for most, time and money often are points of concern.

Thankfully, the number of resources available to adult learners in the Upstate has only increased along with the demand for qualified workers. As one woman at Greenville Tech told her students a few months ago “If you are paying full price for college, you are doing it wrong.”

The main obstacle facing most adults wanting to return to the classroom is the lack of awareness about their education options, not funds.

As a recruiter for Furman University, it is my goal to reach out to as many of people as possible, spreading the word, not just about the school I represent, but also the vast amount of resources available to adult learners in Upstate South Carolina.

Below, you will find some tips on locating resources you can use to go back to school, continue your education, and earn that promotion you’ve been eyeing for the past several years.

#1 Affording Furman as an Adult Learner

I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin my advice with some info about how affordable and accessible Furman’s program is for working adults. For those of you who may not be familiar with us at Furman, we are consistently ranked one of the top colleges in the South and the #1 Liberal Arts college in South Carolina. Furman Undergraduate Evening Studies (UES) has been around for 60+ years providing an after-hours education option for career motivated individuals to return to school and finish their degree or add a new specialization certificate to their credentials.

The cost of attending Furman as an adult learner is surprisingly affordable compared to attending either as a residential student or even to other similar programs from local providers.

UES Student Tuition:

  • Cost per credit hour: $470

Minimal Fees:

  • Parking: $25 (for 5 years)
  • Application: $35
  • Matriculation Fee: $150

Furman Scholarships

Osher Reentry Scholarship- furman.edu/osher

Furman’s Osher Re-entry Scholarship awards up to $5,000 to ten new students who are planning to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at Furman University. Awards are based on academic promise, financial need, and the achievements of individuals in spite of obstacles (financial, personal, or professional).

Other UES Scholarships are available to returning Furman students such as:

  • Hazel Long Smith ’41 Scholarship
  • Sharon & Leonard Lee Scholarship
  • Jack Dickey Scholarship
  • Grace L. Hill Scholarship

#2 Tapping Into Local Employer Benefits

Many Upstate employers offer some kind of tuition assistance as an employee benefit. These reimbursement programs can provide employees up to $5,250 each year, not counted as taxable income — and the contribution doesn’t have to be marked to a full-degree program.

There are three main ways that students can set up payment through their employer’s tuition reimbursement program.

  • The student can arrange payments between the school and employer directly
  • The student may supply the school with an official document from the employer stating the employer’s intent to pay at a later time, such as the end of the semester or end of the academic year. This would defer the payment of an agreed-upon portion of the tuition until that time.
  • The student may pay the tuition themselves and be reimbursed by the employer later.

Bear in mind that some employers may only allow their tuition benefit for courses that relate to their employee’s current job and requiring an employee to work a certain length of time after their course is finished.

In order to find out what your company offers for tuition reimbursement, contact your local HR representative and ask them to go over your options with you.

#3 Federal Aid Options

One of the first steps to qualifying for aid is filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Grants:  Available to adult students demonstrating financial need. These funds do not have to be repaid.

  • Federal Pell Grant: The amount available for the 2019–20 award year (July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020) is $6,195
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: Provides funds ranging from $100 to $4,000 annually

G.I. Benefits: For those who qualify, the Post 9/11 G.I. Benefit can completely cover an education through Furman’s Evening Studies program by paying up to $17,500 per year in tuition. Not only that, qualifying veterans have the option of collecting over $12,000 per year as a housing allowance and $750 per year as a book stipend.

Loans:  While not always ideal, federal loans are typically available to adult students at lower interest rates and more generous repayment terms than private loans.

Tax Credits: IRS Publication 970 contains info about federal income tax credits for education.

Other Tax Benefits:

  • Deductibility of interest paid on student loan debt
  • Tax-free treatment of canceled student loan debt
  • The deductibility of tuition and fees
  • Contributions to tax-advantaged Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)
  • Participation in a qualified tuition program
  • Ability to cash in savings bonds tax-free if the proceeds are used for education
  • Ability to take penalty-free withdrawals from retirement savings accounts and the deductibility of education expenses from business income.

Visit StudentAid.gov/eligibility for more info

#4 Other Aid for Local Adult Students

Alpha Sigma Lambda Scholarship-alphasigmalambda.org

Awards scholarships to assist adult learners financially while earning an undergraduate degree. Alpha Sigma Lambda recognized the need for Adult learners who are seeking an undergraduate degree are in need of financial assistance.

P.E.O. International- peointernational.org

A philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women; educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans, and stewardship of Cottey College and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations.

United Way Women’s Leadership Scholarship-unitedwaygc.org

Provides support to women looking to grow from basic job skills to higher-paying career opportunities. Information about the scholarship can be gathered from Latorrie Geer at Community Works Carolina by phone: 864-235-6331, or email: lgeer@CWCarolina.org.

Women and Children Succeeding-wacsprogram.org

Supports low income mothers who are returning to school for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by paying for childcare while the mom is in school. The program also offers gas assistance and a closet full of personal hygiene products that is available to the moms. Assistance is also available in paying for summer camps or sports equipment for their children. The program serves Anderson, Oconee, Greenville, and Pickens counties.