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Financing Your Second Bachelor’s Degree: All You Need To Know

How to Get Financial Aid for Your Second Bachelor’s Degree
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated August 3, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Going back to school to earn a second bachelor’s degree could help you gain additional qualifications or pivot to a new career. But as a returning student, your options for financial aid for a second bachelor’s degree may be more limited than they were the first time around.  Federal student loans come with borrowing limits, for example, and some federal grants are not available to second-degree students. If you’re looking for ways to finance a second bachelor’s degree, here’s what you need to know. 

What Are the Benefits of a Second Bachelor’s Degree? 

While some students pursue a master’s or a Ph.D. after gaining a bachelor’s degree, others go back to school for a second bachelor’s. Pursuing a second bachelor’s could help you make a career change or advance in your current field. Going back to school could also be worthwhile if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time. If you studied computer science a decade ago, for instance, you might return to school to gain more current knowledge. Certain graduate programs also require a bachelor’s in a specific field of study. You might need to earn that degree again in order to gain admission to a master’s, a doctorate, or another advanced program. Finally, some people choose to get a second bachelor’s for their own personal enrichment. If there’s a field of study you’d love to learn more about, you might find it fulfilling to earn a degree in it. 

How to Sponsor Your Second Bachelor’s 

The cost of college is increasing year after year, so you’ll need to think about how to pay for your second bachelor’s. Although you might still be able to access needs-based financial aid for a second bachelor’s, your options will likely be more limited than they were when you earned your first bachelor’s degree.It’s still a good idea to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), however, to put yourself in the running for financial aid for second bachelor’s degree. 

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans don’t have an age limit, but some types do have borrowing limits. Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, specifically, have lifetime limits. 
  • Borrowing limits for dependent students: $31,000, with no more than $23,000 of this amount in subsidized loans.
  • Borrowing limits for independent students: $57,500 for undergraduates, with no more than $23,000 of this amount in subsidized loans.
If you’re over the age of 24, you’ll be considered an independent student and will apply for financial aid on your own. If you’re under 24, you’ll provide both your and your parents’ information when you apply for financial aid through the FAFSA. If you’ve maxed out your eligibility for Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans and still have a gap in funding, a private student loan from a bank, online lender, or credit union could help cover costs. Recommended: Private vs Federal Loans: The Complete Guide

Stafford Loans

The term “Stafford Loan” may refer to a subsidized or unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan that was made to students attending schools that previously participated in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.No new loans have been made under the FFEL Program since July 1, 2010. However, it seems that many people and schools also informally use the term “Stafford Loans” or “Direct Stafford Loans” to refer to Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. If a school today says that it offers “Stafford Loans” or “Direct Stafford Loans” to its students, this means Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Perkins Loans

Loans made through the Federal Perkins Loan Program, often called Perkins Loans, are low-interest federal student loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Under federal law, the authority for schools to make new Perkins Loans ended on Sept. 30, 2017, and final disbursements were permitted through June 30, 2018. As a result, students can no longer receive Perkins Loans. A borrower who received a Perkins Loan can learn more about managing the repayment of the loan by contacting either the school that made the loan or the school’s loan servicer.

Grants and Scholarships 

As a second-degree student, you can also pursue grants and explore scholarships to pay for school. Unfortunately, you won’t be eligible for a Pell Grant or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, as both are earmarked for first-time students. (In some cases, students of post baccalaureate teacher certification programs can get a Pell Grant, too.)However, you might qualify for a Teach Grant, which provides up to $4,000 a year to students planning to teach in low-income schools. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) also offers Smart Scholarship awards to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students who agree to work in the DoD after they graduate. Plus, you can search for private scholarships through scholarship search engines such as and Fastweb. Scholarships are awarded for a wide variety of reasons, including your field of study, extracurricular involvement, and academic achievement. 

Work-Study Programs 

Second-degree students are also eligible for work-study, which is a federal program that provides on- and off-campus jobs to students with financial need. Your eligibility for work-study will be determined by the information you provide on the FAFSA. Note that being awarded work-study doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job. You’ll still need to search through your options and apply. Work-study jobs pay at least minimum wage, though some pay more. And it’s important to stay on top of your credit hours to ensure you are eligible for all programs and aid.

Student Loan Options With Lantern 

If you’re interested in pursuing a second bachelor’s and have maxed out your eligibility for federal aid, a private student loan could help you fund your degree. Some people also refinance their student loans to private loans in search of better interest rates and terms. However, by doing so, people lose eligibility for government forgiveness and income-based repayment programs.Lantern helps people compare student loan refinancing options with one easy form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I still get financial aid if I have a bachelor’s degree?
What kind of aid am I eligible for as a second-degree student?
Am I eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant for my second Bachelor’s?
Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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