Pay For College

Once you decide to go back to school to get a certificate or degree, you will need to plan how to pay for it.

There are many options available to help you. While figuring out how to pay for college can feel overwhelming, being informed and prepared will assist you in the process. Use these resources and tips to get ready.

Research Your Federal Financial Aid Options.

Federal financial aid comes in the form of grants, work-study, and loans. Grants are funds that do not have to be repaid. Work-study are funds earned through a student-friendly job on or near campus while attending school. Loans are borrowed funds that must be repaid with interest.

Federal and many State financial aid programs rely on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility. This form is the starting and ending point for many of the programs you may qualify for. It is both how you apply for financial aid and how the college knows you are eligible for aid. The FAFSA is available online at or in paper form by calling 1-800-433-3243.

Federal Pell Grants

This grant provides varying amounts (maximum is $5,775) based on your demonstrated financial need. Close to 60% of adults attending college in Tennessee are Pell eligible. The Department of Education calculates your Pell eligibility based on several factors, including your financial need, the cost of attendance, and how many courses you will take.


  • Must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Undergraduates who have not earned a bachelors or professional degree

*Students are ineligible if they have defaulted on a loan, not registered for selective service, or incarcerated. You may not receive Federal Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time.

Discover resources here in Tennessee that will help you pay for college.

TN HOPE Scholarship for Non-traditional Students

TN Hope provides $1750 per semester to attend a four year school. In order to be eligible for HOPE funds, you must file your FAFSA by September 1 for fall term, and by February 1 for spring and summer terms.

Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA)

Established as a non-repayable financial aid program which may provide up to $4,000 per year to financially-needy residents of Tennessee. You must file the FAFSA in order to apply for this award. Please note awards are given on a first-come, first served basis, and due to limited funding students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 to receive priority consideration.

Tennessee Reconnect Grant

The Tennessee Reconnect Grant is a last-dollar grant that pays the remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after other state and federal financial aid have been applied.

The Tennessee Reconnect Grant is available for eligible adults who want to pursue associate degrees, technical degrees, or technical diplomas at a Tennessee community college or technical college.

The Tennessee Reconnect Grant can also be used at an eligible public or private college or university towards an eligible associate degree, but it is not a last-dollar grant.

Reconnect at a TCAT

The TCAT Reconnect Grant can help you pay towards a diploma or certificate at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCATs). TCATs are located throughout the state of Tennessee, and provide a wide range of technical and occupational training programs, providing quality technical education to connect students with high quality careers.

Reconnect for an Associate Degree

The Reconnect Grant may also be used at Tennessee community colleges and some four-year institutions to pay for tuition while earning a two-year associate degree. This grant pays the remaining balance after other state financial aid and Pell Grants have been applied towards tuition and mandatory fees at the community college. At a four year institution, the Tennessee Reconnect Grant will not be last-dollar, meaning it will not cover all tuition and fees. The amount of funding you may receive will be based on the average amount of tuition and fees at a community college.

Find a Reconnect eligible college or university.

Use Tennessee College Pays to find information on financial aid available in Tennessee. The site includes links to scholarship applications and lists requirements.

If you have questions, contact the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) help desk toll free at 1.800.342.1663.

Check with your school to learn about institutional scholarships.

Find out if your institution offers institutional scholarships and if you qualify for any of them.

If you are a Veteran or Service Member, learn about the benefits and grants available to you.

Veterans and service members have many options available to help them pay for college. To learn about these options, visit Education Benefits for Veterans and Active Duty Military.

Find out if your employer will help support your education.

Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs, flextime, and college savings plans, among other resources. If applicable, check with your current employer to see if you may receive any such education benefits or support in scheduling work around your classes.