If you’re dreaming of becoming a pilot, but you don’t know how to pay for flight school, this post is for you.
You don’t know how to find $70,000 for flight training, but here’s the thing: believe it or not, you have plenty of options.
Follow along as we share ten strategies you can use today to finance your dreams. Stick around to the end and learn how to score funds that don’t have to be repaid plus get two bonus tips for lowering tuition costs.
1. Low-interest credit card
Many pilots pay for their training by charging tuition costs to a low-interest credit card. It may be easier and faster to open a new credit card than to get a loan.
Reduce finance charges by shopping around. Look for a card with a lower interest rate and no hidden fees.
Some credit card companies offer interest-free promotions for new card holders. You could get up to 18 months of 0% interest on new purchases (like your flight classes).
This is like borrowing money for free – if you can pay it back on time. Even if you plan to pay the whole balance off before the 0% interest period expires, know what the interest rate will be if you carry a balance.
2. Private loan
You can also take out a private loan (or loans) to cover your schooling. Try banks, credit unions, online person-to-person lending sites and even friends or family.
If you accept a loan from friends or family members, put the loan amount and repayment terms in a written contract. This helps to make sure that you both agree on how the money will be paid back.
3. Loan from a pilots’ association or institution
Not every bank or credit union finances flight school. They may turn you down or charge higher interest rates. Make the loan process easier and go through an industry-specific lender.
Two well-known options are the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Pilot Financing Inc. Interest rates are still based on your credit score and debt to income ratio, but they are usually lower than bank loans.
4. Career Training Smart Option Student Loan
Flight programs through accredited schools provide degrees. If you don’t need a degree, you can train at a non-accredited flight academy.
For a flight academy loan, try the federal Career Training Smart Option Student Loan.
This kind of loan is offered to students in a professional training or trade certificate course. Rates are variable, not fixed, so they may change throughout the life of your loan.
5. Finance through your school
Find out if your school offers any loans, grants or scholarships of their own. Internal grants and scholarships have a lower number of applicants than those that are open nation-wide. This means that your odds of getting funds are higher.
You may also be able to set up an installment agreement payment plan with your school. This would let you pay your bill off in chunks rather than one lump sum.
6. Work at your flight school (and potentially score discounted tuition)
Want to get the best deal on flight school? Check out the job postings at your school and start applying.
Not only will you be earning money to put towards your schooling, but you may also get a discount on tuition costs.
7. Federal loans through an accredited collage
One of the perks of an accredited program is a chance to get federal education loans. Federal loans have a fixed interest rate, usually lower than that of a private loan.
The U.S. Department of Education funds two types of federal loans: Perkins Loans and Direct Loans.
Perkins Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students who can show “exceptional financial need.” If you qualify, you could borrow up to $5,500 per year for an undergraduate degree program.
Like Perkins Loans, Subsidized Direct Loan eligibility is based on financial need. These loans are only available at the undergrad level.
Does your income exceed the threshold to qualify for Perkins and Subsidized Direct loans? Don’t worry – there’s another federal loan option. Unsubsidized Direct Loans are open to undergrad, graduate and professional students and they can be received regardless of financial status.
Apply for both Perkins Loans and Direct Loans by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
8. Federal Grants
Loans aren’t the only thing you can apply for by filling out a FAFSA. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can land yourself a Pell Grant which doesn’t have to be repaid.
Pell Grants are available to students with extreme financial need who have not yet have earned a bachelor’s degree.
9. Scholarships and grants
It is tempting to avoid applying for scholarships and grants. There are a lot of hoops to jump through and no guaranteed payout. But remember – by not applying, you are turning down the potential for free money.
If you aren’t sure where to begin your free money search, the FAA’s list of scholarships and grants is a good starting point.
Look on a national, state and local level, plus check for funds that are given to women, minorities or other specific groups if you qualify.
10. Use GI Bill
If you have served in the military, you already know about your GI bill. Now, have you checked whether you are eligible to apply it to flight training?
Under current laws, you must already have a private pilot’s license to use your GI bill for flight training. Still, if you meet the criteria, you can use the GI bill to get more advanced flight qualifications without paying out of pocket.
If your spouse is currently serving in the military and doesn’t plan to use the GI bill, try getting the benefits transferred to you. An active-duty spouse can sometimes gift educational benefits to their children or spouse.
Bonus Tips for lowering tuition costs
What is the goal of your flight training? If you plan to become a commercial pilot, you may be interested in airline sponsored pilot training through programs like ATP Flight School. With an airline sponsorship, once your training is complete, you make a commitment to be a pilot for a specific airline. That airline gives you tuition reimbursement.
A final way to decrease your flight school costs is to join the Air Force Auxiliary’s Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Watch the Civil Air Patrol’s 75th Anniversary tribute video to find out more about the program.
The CAP doesn’t normally offer primary flight training, but many members are certified flight instructors (CFIs). These CFI may give lower rates to other members. If you already have a license and want to increase your ratings, CAP lets you log hours in their aircraft at a low cost.
If you are serious about becoming a pilot, you need to be just as serious about finding the best ways to pay for your schooling.
Start with the free-to-you options like grants and scholarships or using the GI bill if it applies. Then lower your tuition costs by working at your school, getting an airline sponsorship or joining the Civil Air Patrol. Last, if you take out a loan or put your tuition on a credit card, know what you are getting into and have a plan to pay off the loan.
Paying for flight school is 100% possible – simply do the research, create a plan and put it into action.