Attending massage therapy school can be a rewarding, life-changing experience. A massage therapy education provides a foundation for learning what the massage profession has to offer and can introduce individuals to other healing arts.
If funding your massage education is a concern, options are available. Massage school can be funded in a number of ways, including scholarships, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, grants, federal financial aid, private loans and 529 college savings plans. Scholarships may be available from the school you plan to attend or from other sources. There are several websites that provide scholarship searches, such as fastweb.com and scholarships.com.
Federal Pell Grants
The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. Pell Grants are considered to be the foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other federal sources might be added. A Pell Grant for the 2015-16 award year (July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016) can be a maximum of $5,775, dependent on the student's need, the cost of attendance and whether a student attends the full academic year. Students automatically apply for a Federal Pell Grant when they complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.ed.gov.
Students should apply for federal financial aid before applying for private student loans, also called alternative loans. Federal government loan programs are designed to help eligible students finance the cost of their education. Stafford Loans are loans directly made to the student, are not credit-based and typically have lower interest rates compared to private loans or credit cards. Federal education loan programs do not require you to start repayment until after graduation, or if you fall below half-time status, and have a six-month grace period before you start repayment. Federal loans have several repayment options for the borrower to choose from that are more flexible than what most private loans offer.
Stafford Loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. With a subsidized loan, the government pays the interest while you're in school. With an unsubsidized loan, you pay all the interest, which will accrue and be added to the principle balance of your loan while you are in school at least half time. To receive a subsidized Stafford Loan, you must be able to demonstrate financial need.
Stafford Loans have annual loan limits, based on a student's dependency status and grade level.
The loan is limited to the following amounts for an independent student or a dependent student whose parents are unable to obtain a Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS):
- First academic year (9 months) = up to $3,500 in subsidized or unsubsidized loans, plus $6,000 in additional unsubsidized loans
- Second academic year (9 months) = up to $4,500 in subsidized or unsubsidized loans, plus $6,000 in additional unsubsidized loans
The loan is limited to the following amounts for a dependent student whose parents are able to obtain a PLUS loan:
- First academic year (9 months) = up to $3,500 in subsidized or unsubsidized loans, plus $2,000 in additional unsubsidized loans
- Second academic year (9 months) = up to $4,500 in subsidized or unsubsidized loans, plus $2,000 in additional unsubsidized loans
Stafford Loans currently have fixed interest rates of 4.29 percent to 5.84 percent, depending on when the student starts school and which loans he receives. PLUS loans let parents borrow money to cover any costs not already covered by their dependent student's financial aid package. PLUS loans currently have a fixed interest rate of 6.84 percent. Repayment begins 60 days after the funds are fully disbursed, with repayment terms up to 10 years. The parents, not the student, are responsible for the repayment of the PLUS loan.
Fill Out the FAFSA
To determine your eligibility for any federal financial aid funds, which differ from school to school, complete the FAFSA form at fafsa.ed.gov. Most questions about the FAFSA are answered in the instructions on the FAFSA website, with finaid.org as an additional resource. The FAFSA form requires tax information from the last completed tax year. The 2015-2016 FAFSA will use 2014 tax information and allows applicants to transfer their tax information directly from the Internal Revenue Service database. Parents of dependents are required to complete a portion of the application with their required information.
The FAFSA allows you to enter a school code or multiple school codes for those schools you would like to determine your eligibility. Completing the FAFSA to check your eligibility does not obligate you to accept financial aid. A school determining student eligibility creates an award letter to show all the federal financial aid the student is eligible for at his or her institution. As with any financial aid, the student can accept all, part or none of the available funds.