Most students in the U.S. do not pay anywhere near the published tuition rates for their college education. According to College Board, the true net, out of pocket cost after scholarships, tax credits and grants is less than 50% of the “official” tuition rate for most attending college.
But if you’ve completed some college and now wants to transfer to another school to get your degree finished, will you qualify for aid that will bring your tuition down? The answer is yes, but it may be more limited than what you could get starting out a two or four-year degree program.
First The Good News
The good news is that a lot of transfer students out there are getting at least some help to finish their degrees. According to the U.S. News & World Report, over 80% of small colleges and 67% of larger schools report that they give merit scholarships to transfer students.
But there are limitations, starting with Federal Pell Grants, the most widely used college aid program. A few years ago, the rules were changed so that now a student can receive a Pell for no more than 12 semesters in total, no matter how many schools he or she attends. The limit used to be 18 semesters, which gave a student a window of up to 8 years of time in school with financial aid. That was a big benefit to anyone who changed majors and had to start over, perhaps even more than once.
Smaller Numbers / Higher Grades
Many schools actually have scholarships set aside specifically for transfer students coming in to them. But they tend to be in a range of about $10,000. total — not bad but not enough to make a huge dent in the average bachelor degree program. And most of these programs are given on the basis of merit, which means that you will probably need to have a grade average well above 3.0 in your old school to qualify (There are exceptions — some schools give scholarships to those with lower grade averages. On the other hand, some want to see an average of 3.5 or above to give this kind of aid).
There’s also a very large scholarship program run by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which works with schools and a raft of corporate sponsors to give over $90 million per year in scholarships specifically to transfer students that can run as high as $30,000. They are offered to students at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Again, however, most are available only to high-performing students with grad averages of 3.5 or higher.
Many of the larger online schools, particularly the for-profit institutions, often do a bit more because the have a stronger focus on adult students. Kaplan University, American Intercontinental University and Kaplan University, for example, all offer scholarships to transfer students.
If you are transferring into a new college or university, make sure to ask your new school’s admission office about financial aid. Some schools will even have an office that’s dedicated to transfers.