Going to trade school sounds like a great idea until you see the price tag attached to it. “How much?” you ask, a little taken aback by the cost of tuition.
The reality is that not only is trade school tuition cheaper than traditional university tuition, but many options for financial aid also exist. 
Nowadays, many employers expect job candidates to have the kind of postsecondary training that trade school equips students with. HVAC and refrigeration systems have become increasingly complex, and employers want to make sure the people they hire are trained in the latest HVAC/R technologies and understand the trade’s underlying scientific principles.
So you shouldn’t let tuition scare you out of attending. It’s more affordable than you think, and it makes you more marketable in the future.
You can apply for funding from many institutions and organizations. Loans, scholarships and grants can help cover some or all of your educational expenses.
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Navigating how these different types of financial aid work and which ones would be your best option takes some work. We’ve outlined it all in this handy guide for you.
Loans must be repaid, usually with interest. You can get money from two different sources: public lenders and private lenders.
Public loans are offered through the federal or state government. Private loans are given by banks and other financial institutions.
The majority of public student loans come from the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program. The approval process is pretty simple, and most applicants get approved easily.
You just have to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, demonstrate financial need and not have any outstanding government debt. You must be working toward a degree or certificate and maintain some level of academic progress.
The interest rates of federal loans are typically fixed and can be subsidized. You can also choose from different repayment plans.
To qualify for private loans, you must typically submit information like your credit score and income level. You might also need a cosigner.
Not everybody gets approved for a private student loan because the criteria are stricter. Interest rates are set by the market and are normally higher than those of public loans.
You may not have the option to choose between different repayment plans with a private lender. Popular private student loans include the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan and the Sallie Mae Career Training Smart Option.
Scholarships are usually awarded to particularly accomplished students.
Each scholarship-granting organization has specific criteria that an applicant must meet. This may include pursuing a specific career, having excellent grades or belonging to a minority.
What makes a scholarship so appealing? You don’t have to repay the money that you get through a scholarship.
We offer a number of scholarships for students enrolled at RSI. For instance, we have scholarships specifically for female students and students of Native heritage.
Women in the Skilled Trades Scholarships
Eligibility: Female students of RSI who have demonstrated financial need as determined by the financial aid application process may be eligible.
How to Apply: Complete a Scholarship Request Form.
Award: A one-time award not exceeding $3,000 will be distributed incrementally over the second half of the student’s academic year.
RSI Tribal Scholarship
Eligibility: Students of Native American, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian descent who are already scheduled to start training may apply.
How to Apply: Submit appropriate documents to verify heritage with application prior to starting classes.
Award: $2,000 will be awarded incrementally throughout the second half of the student’s first academic year.
Amity Native American Scholarship
Eligibility: Members of Amity Circle Tree Ranch of Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native descent who are scheduled to start training at RSI may apply.
How to Apply: Turn in the application with proof of descent before beginning classes.
RSI students can also apply for several need-based scholarships. Any students with a creative streak have the chance to win our Video Scholarship Contest that we developed in partnership with PlumbersStock.
Simply create a “how-to-guide” home improvement video that shows off your HVAC skills for a chance to win the $2,000 scholarship. Two runners up will receive $500 each.
Last year’s deadline was March 31. Check the website for the 2019 submission cutoff.
Imagine America High School Program
Eligibility: High school seniors with a 2.5 or higher GPA, demonstrated financial need and proof of community service may apply.
How to Apply: Apply online by December 31 of the year you graduate from high school.
Award: $1,000 tuition discount
STEG Foundation Scholarship Program
Eligibility: RSI students who have a demonstrated financial need after applying for FAFSA and other aid, maintained Satisfactory Academic Progress with 90 percent attendance and a “B” average may apply for this scholarship.
How to Apply: Complete a Scholarship Request Form.
Award: Tuition assistance based on need after financial aid assessment
Various trade organizations provide HVAC scholarships. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, for instance, offers scholarships for vocational school students attending a plumbing or HVAC training program.
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Scholarship
Eligibility: Students of HVAC and plumbing programs may qualify for this scholarship.
How to Apply: Submit applications and required materials by May 1.
Award: A total of $25,000 is awarded to students annually.
Women in HVACR Scholarship
Eligibility: Female high school seniors with a minimum 2.0 GPA planning on attending an HVAC training program may apply.
How to Apply: Submit the application with a 500-word essay by June 1.
Award: Four scholarships of $2,000 each are awarded each year.
Some scholarships are made available in a certain region in order to match qualified workers with hiring employers. Vocational school attendees in Arizona can get a scholarship from the Association for Career Technical Education of Arizona (ACTEAZ).
Eligibility: ACTEAZ members recommended for the scholarship who are enrolled at a recognized trade school meet the eligibility requirements. Those who have received the scholarship before can’t apply again.
How to Apply: Become a member of ACTEAZ and apply.
Award: Between $500 and $2,500 are awarded, depending on available funds and the number of scholarship winners.
Soroptimist International Phoenix Live Your Dream Award
Eligibility: Female vocational school students who are the main source of financial support for themselves and their families and have a Social Security or Tax Identification Number are eligible to apply.
How to Apply: Apply online. The deadline for the 2017-2018 Live Your Dream Scholarship was November 15, 2017. Check the website for next year’s deadline.
Award: Between $1,000 and $10,000
Business and Industry Scholarships
Businesses can be another source of refrigeration training funding. One example is the company Thermaxx Jackets, which awards a scholarship to trade school students who want to work in HVAC/R.
Thermaxx Jackets Scholarship
Eligibility: This scholarship opportunity is available to full-time trade school students with at least a 2.5 GPA.
How to Apply: Students will have to write a 250-word essay explaining why they want to become an HVAC technician and submit the application by the deadline. It was May 31, 2018 for the 2017-2018 scholarship.
The Nexstar Legacy Foundation also gives scholarships to U.S. veterans who want to start a career in plumbing, HVAC or electrical technologies.
Nexstar AC Pro/Troops to Trades Scholarship
Eligibility: Veterans of the United States or Canadian military wishing to pursue a career in the plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical (PHCE) industry or those already employed in the field are eligible to apply.
How to Apply: Turn in the online application by December 14, 2018.
Award: This scholarship covers tuition and expenses directly related to training.
Lots of scholarships are available for minority groups.
Latino Resources offers scholarships to Latino students attending vocational school.
Eligibility: Full-time students permanently residing in Cook County, Illinois, and who are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or DACA approved are eligible to apply. GPA and ACT/SAT scores factor into the scholarship application.
How to Apply: Submit the application, with a 2-3-page essay and other required documents by the deadline. It was May 31, 2018 for the 2018 scholarship.
Award: $500 to $1,000.
The Jeanette Rankin Foundation has scholarships for women who pursue a vocational career.
Eligibility: Low-income female students aged 35 or older enrolled in technical education programs are eligible to apply.
How to Apply: Turn in your application, letters of recommendation, personal statement, transcripts and/or acceptance letter and electronic signature by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 1, 2019.
Vocational school students of Native heritage can obtain a scholarship from the American Indian Education Fund.
Eligibility: Full-time students of Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian descent with a 2.0-3.5 GPA may apply.
How to Apply: The application, essay and other required documents must be mailed and postmarked no later than April 4.
Award: Up to $2,000 per year
Many organizations offer trade school scholarships for veterans, active duty and guard/reserve service members.
American Veterans (AMVETS) provides scholarships for which trade school students with a military background can apply. These scholarships are available to veterans, active duty, guard/reserves and the children or grandchildren of service members or veterans.
AMVETS National Scholarship
Eligibility: Active duty service members or veterans with a high diploma or GED and a demonstrated financial need may apply for scholarships to help with the cost of trade school.
How to Apply: Submit the application with an essay and other necessary documents between January 19 and April 30.
Award: $4,000 ($1,000 distributed annually over four years)
Purple Heart recipients, their spouses or direct lineal descendants qualify for the Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship (MOPH) Program.
MOPH Scholarship Program
Eligibility: In addition to the requirements stated above, applicants must also be members of MOPH, high school or GED program graduates, have at least a 2.75 GPA and be accepted or enrolled as a full-time student at a trade school.
How to Apply: Mail in the application, essay and other required documents. Last year’s scholarship application was due on January 26, 2018. Check the website for the next deadline.
Award: $2,500 distributed over two semesters
Grants are free, no-strings-attached money. Unlike loans, you don’t have to repay them. And unlike most scholarships, you don’t need to demonstrate superior achievements.
Grants for Low-Income Students
Low-income students who want to attend trade school can get grants from federal and state sources. The Federal Pell Grant is probably the best-known option for low-income students.
Other need-based grants are the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and the Federal Work Study Program.
Grants for Ethnic Minority Students
Ethnic minority students include African American, Latino, Native American and Asian students.
Minorities often face financial issues from being economically and socially disadvantaged. Specific grants help them overcome these obstacles. Minority organizations are a good source for grant money.
Grants for Women
Special grants for women are often aimed at boosting women’s participation in fields where they have been traditionally underrepresented. For instance, the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) provides need-based grants to women who pursue continuing education.
Grants for Disabled Students
Disabled students are those who have a physical or mental impairment. This may include students who are legally blind, need a wheelchair or are on the autism spectrum.
Organizations that advocate for people with disabilities are the major source of grants for disabled students.
Grants for Returning Students
If you’re returning to vocational school because you found that college wasn’t the right choice, or you decided to raise a family first, you can qualify for grants that accommodate your situation. Imagine America, for example, awards up to $1,000 to returning adult students.
Imagine America Adult Skills Education Program (ASEP)
Eligibility: Adults aged 19 years or older who are enrolled at RSI, completed their National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) Student Success Assessment and haven’t received an Imagine America Scholarship before are eligible.
How to Apply: Become a member of Imagine America online, create an account and apply for scholarships. The deadline is December 31. We recommend applying three months prior to starting RSI.
Trade organizations also offer grants to students enrolled in trade school programs. Some may require you to join the organization in order to qualify for grant money.
Grants specifically for students who wish to attend vocational school also exist. In Arizona, vocational students may apply for grants from the Rotary Vocational Fund of Arizona.
The Rotary Vocational Fund of Arizona (TRVFA)
Eligibility: Students of Arizona trade schools who are sponsored by the Rotary Club of Arizona, are legal residents of the state and meet financial aid requirements may apply. Independent students must not earn more than $17,820 a year. Dependent students must show that their family income isn’t greater than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
How to Apply: Fill out the online application on the TRVFA website.
Business and Industry Grants
Some companies offer grants to vocational school students, too. For instance, the Dwyer Group awards $1,500 per semester to women enrolled in trade school.
Take the time to figure out for which grant, scholarship and/or loan you are eligible. The potential payoff is certainly worth the effort!
Apply for as many as you can. The more you can reduce your expenses, the more you can focus on your HVAC training without worrying about how to afford it.
Apply for as many funding options as possible. That way, you might be able to significantly reduce your own expenses and really focus on your refrigeration training instead.
Learn more about how to afford refrigeration training:
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