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Adult Learning: Can I Afford It

By: Sarah O'Hara BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Jan 2020 | comments*Discuss
Learning Education Continuing Education

Many adults would potentially be interested in returning to or continuing their education but worry that they are not in a financial position to do so. However, it’s important to realise that there is financial support in place to help adult learners and that not all courses cost the same. Some are even free.

Types of Adult Learning

There are many opportunities for adult learning, offered by various types of education provider. The main types of training available are:

  • Further education courses: Including A-levels and NVQs
  • Higher education courses: Such as Diplomas and degrees
  • Training for work: For example vocational and sector-specific courses.

Courses may be offered at colleges, university, in the workplace or even by distance learning.

Adult Learning and Affordability

Course fees for adult education vary depending on the level of the course and the type of qualification. Some courses are free.

There are other costs associated with being an adult learner (or learner of any age for that matter) including travel costs, books and equipment.

Help with the Costs of Adult Learning

The main forms of financial help for adult learners are:

  • The Adult Learning Grant: The Adult Learning Grant or ALG is a non-repayable form of help for adults on full-time courses. Eligible learners could receive up to £30 per week to spend on course-related costs. More information is available in our article ‘What is the Adult Learning Grant and am I Eligible?’.

  • Learner Support Funds: Learner Support Funds are available for students who are studying for a Further Education course and who are struggling to meet the financial demands of their course. Learner Support Funds are administered on a discretionary basis by colleges and learning providers.

  • Bursaries: Bursaries are available for some courses. They are non-repayable and often related to a specific business or sector. Examples of these bursaries include Dance and Drama awards, City & Guilds bursaries and teacher training and nursing bursary awards.

  • Career development loans: Career Development Loans are loans administered by banks to help pay for vocational learning. They have to be repaid but only when the course is complete. Career Development Loans are available from between £300 and £8,000.

  • Student loans and related financial support: Adult students studying for higher education courses may be eligible for student loans and grants. Eligibility is linked to income. There is also support for higher education students who have children or dependants.

Free Learning and Other Options

Some adult learning courses are free. These include adult and literacy courses and courses which lead to studying for qualifications such as GCSEs and A-levels. Free tuition is available for people such as those who don’t already have GCSEs, A-levels or equivalent and those claiming unemployment benefits.

Most free courses must be ones which are approved by the Learning and Skills Council.

In order to spread the cost of adult learning it’s worth considering studying part-time. Courses are offered part-time at all levels including further education and higher education.

Distance learning is another option. Distance learning courses are often cheaper, can be carried out at the learner’s own pace and cut out many course-related costs which adults may face such as travel, childcare and time lost at work.

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I am unemployed andgraduate since 2013 struggling to get a job , looking to do a professional course to get a job in my field am I able to get a fundingfor my professional course?
BR - 6-Jun-19 @ 11:21 PM
Hi there. I am am 40 year old male with a 4 month old baby and I would like to do a access course so I can get myself to be able to do a degree. I have little money as me and my partner both work part time, I have no A levels. Most of the course I've looked at cost around £2000, is there any help out there???
lordbunch - 14-Jan-17 @ 9:13 PM
Grumpy - Your Question:
My daughter aged 38 ,is married and has two children aged 6 and 9Currently she is doing childcare for which she has qualifications as well as a degree for hospitalityHousehold income is around £40000pa.She would like to go on a course to teach infantsIs there a way she could apply for financial supportThanks

Our Response:
There is little in the way of funding in post-graduate studies. However, first announced as part of the UK’s Chancellor’s 2014 Autumn Statement, government-backed student loans have been confirmed for Masters degrees beginning on or after 1st August 2016. They will provide up to £10,000 a year for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas.
FundingEducation - 4-Mar-16 @ 11:55 AM
My daughter aged 38 ,is married and has two children aged 6 and 9 Currently she is doing childcare for which she has qualifications as well as a degree for hospitality Household income is around £40000pa. She would like to go on a course to teach infants Is there a way she could apply for financial support Thanks
Grumpy - 3-Mar-16 @ 2:46 PM
I am interested in trying a course in law are there any courses you know of that I can do...i had no chance to do this when I was at school.im much older now but they say your never too late to learn...its been a passion of mine can you help carol
carol - 14-Jan-16 @ 6:17 PM
I'm on ESA but would like to complete a Nail Technician course from home via distance learning. Can I get any help with the course costs? Thanks
Kez - 14-Oct-15 @ 2:00 PM
Could someone navigate or direct me on steps for completing an application for funding for SCOTCACS Diploma in counselling and Groupwork a cognitive behaviour approach. I
mikey - 11-Jun-15 @ 3:11 PM
@seamus - the only alternative is to perhaps do an apprenticeship if you can find one in that subject area. Many older people are undergoing retraining through apprenticeships as they are not age discriminatory. It means you would get paid a small amount while learning and working in your new chosen profession at the same time.
Sarah - 6-Jan-15 @ 10:04 AM
Are there grants available for a 54 year old guy who is looking at a Counselling/Psychology course.Being aware that I am on ESA benefit .I don'tat my time of life want to go throughthe student finance England route.It really is pitiful that people in this country have to go into debt in order to achieve some degree of academic success for future employment.
seamus - 5-Jan-15 @ 11:16 PM
Hi Iam a 38 year old mother of two and Iam a level 3 nursery nurse Iam looking to further my education to do my level 4 training but I don't have the funds to do so Iam also interested in working in a hospital but I would like to know what my next steps are and how I undertake them .
Chloe - 17-Jul-14 @ 11:30 AM
Hi there. I am a 32yr old woman who suffers with multiple sclerosis. I have been in my current job for 11 yrs now. I work within the nhs, and I am looking to undertake a nail technician course but don't have the funds to do so. I work part time and live alone so financially I am only just managing. I wanted to undertake this course as it would be something I could do at home in my own time if the time ever came that I physically could not perform within my current job role. Am I entitled to any financial help and if so how do I apply for this? Thank You
emma - 18-Feb-14 @ 3:46 PM
I am trying to find out if I can obtain a loan for a private tuition course for therapeutic councillor level 4 Diploma can you please advise I need about £5000.
sue - 24-Sep-13 @ 7:43 AM
I have been offered a place at the College but unfortunately I have not got nough money topay or my fee, can you please help.or is the anything I can do to get help or any referral ican get.
Greter - 25-Aug-13 @ 7:14 PM
Hi Im Althea Holmes currently working as a nursery assistant and I have a level 2 qualification as well as a degree in health and social care and I would like to progress onto the level 3 childcare course but I can not afford the total cost of fees and would like to know if I can apply for funding or a grant or some educational funding.
Beautifullymade - 14-May-13 @ 9:50 AM
Hi,was just reading your page because I'am looking for help in getting a grant to go college.I've got serious debt and just feel trapped, I left school without any gcse's and would like to get back into education to better myself in life.I've shyed away from this for a long time,and have now realised that I can not keep doing this. I would like to study maths,english and IT. PLEASE HELP ME.
danski - 2-Sep-12 @ 3:46 AM
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