Sometimes a person who has earned a bachelor's degree decides to return to school to further her career or to re-train for a new career. Although you won't qualify for certain grants if you already have a bachelor's degree, you could still qualify for federal financial aid in the form of loans. It's vital to understand the differences among these forms of financial aid so that you can gauge the long-term payments you will need to make in the future.
Pell Grants are not granted to individuals who have already earned a Bachelor's degree. To be eligible for a Pell Grant, you must be an undergraduate student without a Bachelor's degree, a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and have a high school diploma, GED, or demonstrated ability to benefit from the program into which you are entering. Pell Grants may be awarded more than once to an individual, up to 18 semesters. Grants are a form of financial aid that do not need to be repaid.
Federal Perkins Loans
No eligibility limitations exist for Federal Perkins Loans for those who already hold a bachelor's degree. Candidates must attend a school that participates in the Federal Perkins Loans program, and may be enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate or professional degree program. To obtain a Federal Perkins Loan, you must demonstrate financial need through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These loans must be repaid in full to the school after graduating or leaving the program.
Stafford Loans are available for those who are enrolling in an educational program after earning a degree, as well as those who don't have a degree. The only stipulation for Stafford Loans is that you must be enrolled in a program on at least a half-time basis. You may obtain either a subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford Loan. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest that accrues on the subsidized loans while enrolled in school, whereas you must pay interest on the unsubsidized loan throughout the life of the loan. You must complete the FAFSA to obtain a Stafford Loan.
PLUS Loans have no stipulations barring those who already hold a bachelor's degree. Parent PLUS Loans don't require demonstrated financial need, and the loan is the legal responsibility of the student's parent or legal guardian. Grad PLUS Loans are for those who wish to enroll in a graduate program. Both PLUS loans are highly dependent on credit rating and credit history. They are federally backed and guaranteed by the government, and offered at low interest rates.