At the 2023 Convention of International Chapter, members of convention voted to support a resolution to establish a committee that will determine the feasibility of a program specifically focused on financial support for women attending trade schools. Their votes reflected the increased student interest in enrolling in a vocational or technical program versus a more lengthy and expensive college degree program. This committee will report back at the 2025 Convention of International Chapter.

Trade schools are often referred to as vocational or technical schools and, upon course completion, award a certificate, diploma or associate degree, depending on the program. These programs prepare the student for a specific technical or skills-based job. Obtaining an industry-recognized credential can lead to gaining employment in a relatively short period of time. Vocational and technical programs are often a first step in a career path that may lead to other degree programs later.

Several of our P.E.O. projects already offer support to women seeking a vocational or technical credential in various fields. Here is what the P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, the P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education and the P.E.O. STAR Scholarship trustees reported as their experience with scholarships, grants and loans to women looking for this type of educational expense support.

The P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund (ELF) is available to applicants pursuing a broad range of educational goals. Historically, more than 95% of successful ELF applicants are seeking a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. However, the number of applicants enrolled in a program that awards an associate degree, certification, endorsement or license has doubled in recent years: from 4.6% in 2019-2020 to 9.2% in 2023-2024.

Most ELF applicants seeking a trade school-like program intend to work in nursing or health occupations. However, some ELF recipients at this level have careers such as commercial pilot, music producer, beef cattle industry manager or horse trainer in mind.ELF eligibility requirements are almost the same for every applicant, regardless of the degree or program. Every applicant must demonstrate financial need and have a qualified cosigner. Her school or program must be accredited. She must demonstrate the academic ability to successfully complete her degree or program. The difference is the limit on the amount of debt an applicant can have, which depends on the degree she is seeking and increases as she has completed more years of

Maximum loan amounts awarded differ based on the degree or program in which an applicant is enrolled. Bottom line: if an applicant meets each published eligibility requirement, chances are high that her application will be approved. ELF’s reach is wide and can meet women’s financial need no matter what type of higher education they are pursuing.

The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education (PCE) has been helping women who wish to study in vocational programs since its inception in 1973. There is no typical PCE recipient. These students are diverse in their ages, backgrounds, courses of study and their paths to success. While careers in the medical field continue to lead the way as the most popular among applicants, PCE grants are available to women pursuing any area of study as long as they meet the eligibility criteria and are enrolled in an accredited program.

Research in the post-pandemic era shows that PCE has been able to award grants to students pursuing over 180 different occupational or trade careers. Since April 2021, PCE recipients pursuing technical or vocational programs have received over $3.5 million dollars to support their studies while earning certifications or associate degrees. This represents 41% of all grants awarded by PCE. Compare this to 31% of recipients who received grants for bachelor degrees and 28% of recipients receiving grants for master’s level degrees. Vocational education is on the rise, and PCE is positioned to assist students who are choosing this avenue to provide financial stability for their families through educational opportunities.

Unlike many of the other projects’ recipients, P.E.O. STAR Scholarship (STAR) awardees are only starting their educational journey. Their dreams, goals and the many options available to them are in their infancy. STAR applicants are in their final year of high school and plan to attend an accredited postsecondary educational institution in either the United States or Canada, full or part time in the fall of the academic year following high school graduation. Examples of the various accredited postsecondary educational institutions STAR recipients attend include college, university, trade and technology school, business school, military college and religious college.

The student may choose to use her STAR Scholarship funds for items other than tuition. Fees, books, required course supplies or other college expenses are acceptable expenditures but may be required to be reportable income for tax purposes. This use of funds could be particularly useful for those attending a trade school.

Previous articles in The P.E.O. Record have highlighted the wide range of studies these young women pursue. Arts and humanities, business, interdisciplinary studies, public and social services, STEM, social sciences, trades and personal services are some of the fields of study the STARs of tomorrow are studying today.

Trade schools offer an increasingly critical means of achieving training for a variety of technical or skills based jobs. ELF, PCE and STAR have a well-established history of supporting women who choose this educational path and, as more women seek alternatives to traditional four-year degree programs by choosing a vocational or technical course of study, these projects are positioned to continue their support.

Article Info


P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education and STAR Scholarship Boards of Trustees with Kathryn S. Ebert, Second Vice President and Kathryn Bayne, Recording Secretary, International Chapter


Educational Loan Fund, P.E.O. Projects, Program for Continuing Education, STAR Scholarship

Article Type

Special Feature

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