While receiving unemployment won't affect your ability to receive school financial aid, unemployment insurance eligibility laws restrict school attendance while receiving benefits. Before you enroll in school, verify with your unemployment office that going to school won't disqualify you from the unemployment insurance program. Ensure that your school's financial aid office is aware of your unemployed status so that it will consider you for all available financial aid programs.
Contact your local unemployment office and explain that you are interested in returning to school. Each state has its own policies regarding the participation of unemployment benefit recipients in training or education programs. By talking to an unemployment official about your plans and following their instructions, you will avoid the possibility of having your benefits cut or suspended. The unemployment official can also tell you about any tuition grants that you may be eligible for because of your unemployment.
Apply to the school that you want to attend. Contact the financial aid office and ask about their application process. If the school participates in federal financial aid programs, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Some schools require you to complete additional financial aid applications. Because you are unemployed, ask the school if you need to fill out a "special circumstances" form, particularly if your unemployment is fairly recent and your income from the previous year was much higher than your current income.
Complete the FAFSA. State your income as reported on your most recent income tax return, which includes income from unemployment benefits. You should also indicate on the FAFSA that you are a "dislocated worker".
Fill out and submit any additional financial aid documents required by your school.
Follow up with your unemployment office. In some cases, the unemployment office may want to review your course schedule to ensure that attending classes won't interfere with your job search efforts. Confirm with the unemployment office staff that your school attendance won't affect your unemployment benefits.
Apply for financial aid as soon as you can. Many schools have a limited amount of financial aid that they can award to students each year, and students who apply early have the best chance of receiving aid.
Federal law requires that unemployment insurance recipients actively look for work. Ensure that you keep track of your work search efforts while you receive benefits. Before changing your course load or schedule, contact your unemployment office to find out if making the change could affect your benefits.
- Opportunity.gov: Questions & Answers for Unemployed Americans interested in Education and Training Opportunities
- Tribuna Connecticut; Why the Unemployed are Going Back to School; February 2011
- Unemployment Insurance Minnesota: FAQs -- Eligibility Requirements
- Nolo; Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?; Lisa Guerin
- Federal Student Aid; Federal Aid First; June 2010
- IRS.gov; Unemployment Compensation; March 2011