Financial Assistance

Criminal justice is an extremely popular profession to enter. Competition for criminal justice jobs can be very strong. Many law enforcement positions with federal agencies have year-long waiting lists! Education is becoming more important too. A high school diploma or a certification will not always be enough to find a quality job that offers opportunities for advancements. Candidates may need to earn either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in areas like criminal justice, criminology, or forensic science.

However, college is not cheap. It can be downright expensive. The College Board estimates that attending a community college can cost around $2,700 a year. Public universities will charge an average of $7,600 a year for in-state students and $11,990 a year for out-of-state students. Private non-profit universities average around $27,200 a year. Of course, none of those figures includes textbooks, which are also pricey.

You should not let the cost of college deter your career dreams. Students rarely pay the full tuition amount themselves. They use a variety of financial assistance programs to help them cover the costs. You do not have to rely on just one particular form of financial assistance. Schools will allow you to mix and match different types of assistance to cover your tuition.

It is important to begin actively looking for financial assistance sooner rather than later. Scholarships and grants generally do not have to be paid back. It is free money to you. Your goal should be to apply for as many of these as possible. They can significantly lessen the amount of student loans you may need to take out. Here is a look at some different financial assistance types to consider:

  • Scholarships - Thousands of organizations and individuals offer scholarship money to college students. Aid may be awarded on financial hardship, academic achievement, or service-oriented activities. Many states offer scholarship money to students who maintained a certain high school GPA and earned high standardized test scores. High schools and colleges will often have lists of area or regional scholarships. Check with your parents to see if a scholarship program is offered by their places of employment. Research different criminal justice associations and organizations to see if they offer any scholarship money.
  • Private Grants - Many private businesses and non-profit organizations award grant money to help students pay for their college education. Often, candidates need to write an essay or statement describing why they deserve the money. Speaking about your career goals and the strength of various college programs can help you win this money. Some organizations may ask you to volunteer a few hours of your time if you receive the grant.

  • Federal Government Assistance - The federal government offers a variety of financial aid programs . However, you may need to meet a certain financial threshold in order to receive some of the money. Pell Grants do not have to be paid back. Stafford loans, PLUS loans, and consolidated loans will have to be paid back with interest.
  • Student Loans - The federal government and private banks offer student loans. However, the student loan landscape changed significantly in 2010 due to increased involvement by the federal government. Carefully assess your financial situation before you begin looking for loans. Interest rates and terms vary. Make sure you are able to meet those terms. Otherwise, penalties might add up quickly.
  • Tuition Reimbursement - If you are working, check and see if your employer offers a tuition reimbursement benefit. This benefit may help pay a portion or the entire amount of your tuition. To receive the benefit, you will have to maintain a certain GPA and may be required to work for the company for a few years after graduation. You may also have to attend a school that the employer approves. Private and public sector employers may offer this benefit.

Last Updated: 09/18/2014