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Non Traditional Ways of Using Ed Award
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Already went to college or have a great financial aid package? Don’t have any student loans? Don’t think you want to pursue a degree? There are many other ways to use your education award. You can use your education award at any Title IV institution. There are a few organizations that aren’t Title IV but accept the award, such as NOLS and Global Service Corps.

 Most schools are Title IV, but you should check before enrolling to make sure they will accept your award. Not sure if your school is Title IV?

Ask the financial aid office if the school is a Title IV institution.

Learn if students who attend the school are eligible to use Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, or Stafford Loans to attend the school. If students are eligible for these loans, it is a Title IV school. These loans are examples of some of the most common types of Title IV assistance.

Call the toll-free number at the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid. That number is 1-800-433-3243. 

Non-tuition Expenses:

 Get a computer, text book, or other course materials

Already have a good financial aid package but still need help paying for text books and supplies? While many schools allow this, it is at the discretion of the financial aid office. You can use your award to pay for expenses within the school's predetermined Cost of Attendance. (Cost of attendance is a financial aid term for the general amount it would cost for a student to attend that school).

Some schools allow an increase of Cost of Attendance in a given year to help pay for supplies and equipment, such as a computer. Your best bet is to ask what the policy is. If you are a full-time student requesting to use the award on a computer, your chances are better than a student taking just one class. If you are a photography major, you have a better chance in asking to use the award to buy a camera than a student studying biology.

Important: When you send Education Award funds to a school, they will arrive in two disbursements. This might affect your ability to purchase school items in a timely manner, so plan ahead!

Living Expenses

Need help paying rent while in school? Not all schools allow this, but it is worth looking into. It is more likely for them to accept the award if you live in student housing, but contact your financial aid office to determine if they will accept the award.

Outdoor Adventure & Leadership

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

NOLS offers a variety of classes around the world in mountaineering, rock climbing, horse packing, skiing/snowboarding, and wilderness medicine. There are also classes to become instructors and special courses for adults. Classes range from NOLS is not a Title VI institution but does accept the education award.

Outward Bound

Unlike NOLS, Outward Bound does not offer certifications, but does have some really cool courses that you can receive college credit through Western State Colorado University. Courses vary from one-week to an entire semester or instructor courses to gain experience in outdoor skills, leadership and group facilitation and embark on a career in experiential education.

Learn more here:

Medical Skills Training:

Wilderness EMT (via Aerie Backcountry Medicine, NOLS)

Wilderness First Responder (via NOLS)

Swiftwater Rescue Technician-Earn college credit for water rescue certifications and kayak safety classes through University of Idaho or and University of Utah.

Learn more here:

Another great training option:

Aerie Backcountry Medicine-Aerie offers a variety of programs across the country and internationally. You can take anything from Wilderness First Aid to a full semester in Wilderness Medicine. You can receive college credit through University of Montana for most courses and use your education award to pay for it. Learn more here:



Colorado Fire Camp

You can use your award to take any of the following classes from Colorado Fire Camp: Fire Instructor I, Fire Officer I, First ResponderS-130/190, Firefighter 2, S-131/133/211, Firefighter 1, S-212, Sawyer/Faller, S-230/231, Crew Boss/Engine Boss, S-234, and Ignition Operations. Refresher classes are also available if you just want a review. It’s a great way to get your red card or brush up on your skills. Learn more about Colorado Fire Camp here:

Kling Mountain Guides

You can use your award to take Kling Mountain Guide classes, if you sign up for the college credit option through San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico. You don’t have to be a student there to enroll. You can learn more here:

Here are some of the classes offered through the college credit program:

• Rock Rescue

• Introduction to Mountaineering

• High Altitude Mountaineering

• Avalanche Clinic Level 1

Avalanche Clinic Level 2

• Sport Climbing

San Juan College also has a lot of great fire science classes. Learn more here:


Trade Schools

Trade school is a great option to become trained in a particular career or a way to learn a new skill. Consider going to culinary school, becoming a massage therapist, or even getting your pilots license!If you would like to go to a trade school, check to see if the school is on the Title IV list. It might take some work to find the ideal school in a desirable location that will accept your education award. Don't forget to check community colleges! These institutions often provide the same focus areas as trade schools but for a fraction of the cost

Non-profit Management Certificates

Non-profit Leadership Alliance -If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can take online non-profit management classes and attend a conference to be certified in non-profit leadership through the Non-profit Leadership Alliance. The NPLA is a national alliance of colleges, universities, and nonprofits whose mission is to educate, prepare, and certify professionals to strengthen and lead nonprofit organizations. Participation in the Nonprofit Leadership program builds on and enhances degrees by providing the skills and knowledge to achieve success as an entry level nonprofit professional. Graduate level classes may also be available, depending on the school. Learn more about this program here:


Non-profit Management Intensive Track at Duke University-Earn a certificate in non-profit management in just 8 days through the Continuing Studies program at Duke University. You don’t need to be a student at Duke to enroll. Register in advance as registration tends to close quickly. Learn more about this program here:

Yoga Teacher Certification

There are generally two ways to do this. You can either go through a community college that offers yoga instructor certification classes or go through a non-profit certification program that accepts financial aid. Community college programs are generally cheaper and may be more familiar with financial aid, but private programs are worth looking into as well. 

Leave No Trace Master Educator

Become certified to become a Leave No Trace Educator through NOLS. This course is only 5

days long and averages about $600-$800 in cost. Read more about the program here:

Global Service Corps

Global Service Corps offers an overseas service experience with optional college credit and the chance to use your education award for program fees, airfare, and related expenses.Whether serving in Tanzania, Cambodia, or Thailand, AmeriCorps alumni can stay involved in issues that are important to them while they make a positive impact on global communities. Global Service Corps community development projects focus on the areas of health, education, and nutrition. Programs are offered throughout the year and range in length from as short as two weeks, to more intensive internships lasting six months or longer. College credits are also available for all programs, though it is not required to earn credit to use the education award. Learn more here:


Overseas Schools

Want to study abroad or go to school in another country? A number of schools overseas and in Mexico and Canada are listed as Title IV and accept the award. If your My AmeriCorps account won't allow you to send funds to the overseas school, you might consider taking out a Stafford or other federal student loan and then repaying the loan with your award.

If an overseas school is NOT listed as Title IV but you would still like to attend using your education award, you might be able to enroll in a school stateside and participate in an exchange program. That way, you are paying your tuition to a school inside the U.S. while attending a school overseas. To make this option work, it will take a bit of research on your part.


Start Your Own Business

Ever thought about starting your own business? Most community colleges have business start-up classes that coach you while you start your business. Some schools even offer business incubator opportunities, which is a place for your business to grow during its beginning stages. There, you will have support, access to resources, and networking opportunities with other new entrepreneurs. Check with your local community college to see what entrepreneurship opportunities they offer. 


Just for Fun:

Enrichment Classes

You can use your award to take a class here and there at a community college or public university, as long as it's Title IV. You can take classes like guitar, swimming, photography, or anything else that's offered. If you take one or two classes per quarter at a community college, you can make your award last for years and gain a great deal of enrichment. The award can also apply to writer's conferences and other activities offered through schools, as long as the tuition is paid to an eligible institution.

Bartending School

Need a way to earn some extra cash while in school? Check with your local community college and see if they have bartending certification classes. Some private bartending schools will accept FAFSA and other financial aid, including your education award.

Sign-language Certification

Want to learn sign language? Take an introductory class or become a certified interpreter. Check with your local community college or university to see if they offer what you are looking for.