New College Scholarships for Laid-Off Workers

The unemployed can take classes free at a growing number of community colleges.

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A small but growing number of government agencies and colleges are rushing to help laid-off workers afford retraining and college courses by offering free or discounted tuition.

Most of the new scholarships for the jobless are being given by community colleges. Many cover only a few specific job-related programs. And, generally, the financial aid doesn't cover extra costs of college, including fees, textbooks, or transportation. What's more, many are being offered for a limited time, so interested students should call their community colleges as soon as possible.

The tuition grants are a godsend for people like Frank DeCristina, 52, of Bloomington, Minn., who lost a job supervising computer assembly recently. If it weren't for the two free business courses at a nearby community college, he would have been "pretty depressed ... The job market's pretty bleak." His management and salesmanship classes gave him new hope and inspired him to widen his choices by writing a business plan.

Free tuition: In Illinois, Oakton Community College will waive tuition for up to 12 credit hours of courses in five in-demand careers. The No Worker Left Behind program in Michigan provides up to two years' worth of free tuition for unemployed and underemployed workers.

New Jersey community colleges will let unemployed workers enroll free in courses with empty seats. In Pennsylvania, Bucks County Community College is offering up to 30 free credits. The Community College of Allegheny County is offering free tuition for 10 career certification programs. The Northampton Community College is offering one semester's worth of free tuition.

Partial scholarships and grants: Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minnesota will waive half its tuition for the recently unemployed.

Besides these new school-based scholarships, unemployed workers can apply for special governmental programs, such as those for workers laid off because of imports. They can also try for the standard grants, scholarships, and student loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. More information is available at career or unemployment centers and college financial aid offices.