Ability to Benefit

How to Get Help Paying for College without a High School Diploma 

If you do not have a high school diploma or GED, you may be able to get financial aid to help pay for college through Ability to Benefit.  

Financial aid can help you pay for tuition, books, fees, and other educational expenses for college-level classes. 

What is Ability to Benefit?  

Ability to Benefit is a federal financial aid rule that allows students without a high school diploma (or an equivalent like a GED or home school diploma) to qualify for financial aid if you prove you have the “ability to benefit” from a college education.   

Who is eligible for Ability to Benefit?  

You may be eligible if you:  

  • Do not have a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a GED diploma or HiSET diploma). 
  • Are 17 or older. (If you are 17-18, you must be formally released from high school before enrolling.) 
  • Are eligible for Adult Basic Education (ABE). 
  • Are recommended by a trained ABE or college campus contact to participate. 
  • Participate in an eligible career pathway program.  
  • Meet any other program academic requirements (such as math and/or writing) or other prerequisites determined by a faculty member in the selected career pathway program. 

How do I prove I have the ability to benefit from a college education?  

You can prove you have the ability to benefit from college in one of two ways: 

Option 1: Pass an approved test or participate in Guided Self-placement (GSP)
This option involves taking an exam or meeting with an academic counselor to participate in Guided Self-placement (depending on the college, the exam could be the Accuplacer). If you have been approved for Ability to Benefit Option 1 at another college, let us know. 
Option 2: Complete six college-level credits.  

How do I apply for Ability to Benefit?  

Meet with an Ability to Benefit navigator on your campus. 

Fill out the FAFSA.
Visit your school’s financial aid web page for step-by-step instructions.