Continuing Education is a Broad Field
Continuing education involves a wide range of educational activities. It covers efforts to improve professional skills, non-credit college courses for personal enrichment, and adult-centered education for work, career or other development. One may have specific or limited educational goals such as learning how to make video messages on the Internet or to master a particular programming language or method. For every educational goal, students may need to borrow money to pay for classes and materials.
Continuing Education and the Economy
Continuing education is also an important part of the U.S. economy. The nation faces a challenge from technological change and globalization; these trends have brought significant shifts in the categories of jobs and careers needed to sustain national economic growth. For thousands of workers, this involves retraining and gaining new knowledge and skills. Continuing education helps bring many adults into mainstream opportunities in growth sectors. Student loans for continuing education have focused on general education, career development, job training, and vocational education.
Federal Loan Eligibility
Federal loans require a particular level of effort; one must enroll on a part-time basis consisting of at least one-half the course load of a full-time student. The policies behind this rule go to the idea of the limited amount of time for college borrowing, and the normal requirements for a four-year degree. The net result is that students wishing to take a few courses at a time may not qualify for federal loans. Further, some may choose unaccredited schools or programs; this is particularly prevalent in personal enrichment courses and professional development.
Many people pursue continuing education while working full-time or part-time, or on less than a full-time student basis. To qualify for federal loans one must be enrolled on a half schedule or more. When this level of participation is not possible or not preferred, students can cover the costs of education by borrowing from private sources. Many well known lending institutions offer continuing education financing; they fill a gap in the federal loan programs for students taking one or a few courses at a time, or those attending institutions that are not federally approved.
Education for Better Opportunity
Continuing education often focuses on opportunities for higher paying jobs and careers with growth potential. Students may be returning after raising families, attempting to get into a new line of work or career, or trying to enhance existing skills by adding credentials. In some lines of work, such as Project Management, a certificate, when combined with life experience is an entry level credential. Continuing education can meet these and many more goals. The costs can be substantial. Most continuing education lenders require credit checks and base decisions on the results of credit evaluation. Many applicants have greater chances of success with a co-signor. Repayment terms can vary widely, and many lenders offer flexibility and options aimed at easing the burdens of repayment.