Adults who decide to return to school to continue their education have the same college costs to meet as more traditional students, and will need to cover the costs of tuition, living and text books. They are entitled to the same access to loans, grants and scholarships as any other student, depending on their finances.
The first step for any student is to complete the FAFSA application form and submit it. The prospective student should then liaise directly with the college financial aid office to see if any direct grants or scholarships are available. Single parent students returning to school will often be entitled to some kind of financial aid grant, and most usually the federal Pell grant which is awarded by the FAFSA to those with the most financial need.
Individual states also offer State grants and financial assistance to those students who need it, which may or may not apply to adults returning to school. If taking loans to fund college is a necessity then the best loans available to students are the federal direct loans. These are now only administered through the direct loan program and are no longer available through private institutional lenders.
Federal loans take the form of Stafford loans. These are non credit checked loans which are government guaranteed, and offer fixed rate finance. Those with the greatest financial need will be eligible for the Stafford subsidized loan on which the government pays the interest until six months after graduation.
The Stafford unsubsidized loan accrues interest on a daily basis from the date of disbursement. The student has the option to pay the interest monthly whilst attending college, or to have it deferred until repayment of the loan begins six months after graduation. Obviously if the student is in a position to pay the interest whilst at college, this should be a priority to prevent the interest accumulating.
Unless the student qualifies for financial aid then the cost of funding college is rarely met through federal loans alone, and private student loans become necessary to make up the shortfall. These are more costly than federal loans and are subject to variable interest rates. As they are private loans they are subject to credit checks, so the adult student should ensure that they have a good credit score before applying for a private student loan. Those with bad or low credit will require a co-signer to act as guarantor for the loan, which is a huge commitment for anyone to take on considering the risks involved. It should be noted that neither federal nor private student loans are at any point dischargeable.
If a private loan is necessitated it is imperative to research the best deals, paying particular attention to any related fees or early payment penalties. There is additional information here concerning private student loans: http://www.helium.com/items/1731634-shopping-for-alternative-student-loans
It would be nice in theory if the adult returning to school had enough saved to pay for the cost of a college education, but it is an expensive road to pursue. The best advice is that as private student loans are likely to be a necessity for most adults except those in great financial need that attention is paid to obtaining a high credit score, thus making loans available at preferential interest rates.