Fast forward to 2013. It’s now common to see students in their 30s and 40s going back to school in the middle of their working lives as part of a career change.
Maybe you’ve thought about going back to school yourself, either to advance in your current field or to study a new one. But a lot has changed since you first set foot in a college classroom all those years ago. The most relevant for you: Tuition has skyrocketed during the past two decades, much faster than the overall rate of inflation.
The effect of excessive student loans has been so severe on recent grads that some are even putting off their dreams of having kids or buying a house so they can service their loans.
Going back to school is a worthy goal, but doing so shouldn’t cause you financial hardship. There are a few things you can do as part of your college search that will help you avoid extreme debt.
1. Visit Fastweb.com. This site is a treasure trove of information for everything you ever wanted to know about applying to college. You can learn about early applications, filling out the FAFSA, and how best to prepare for tests or interviews. Best of all, they match you with scholarships from their database that best fit your situation. You have to fill out your profile with information like your major and colleges of interest, which they then use to find the most relevant scholarships.
2. If you plan to keep your job, check to see if you’re eligible for tuition assistance. Many employers offer at least a partial tuition benefit to encourage loyalty. This is especially relevant for those who want to stay on the same career track.
3. Look at any professional organizations you’re a member of. Do they offer scholarships to people going back to school? How about your church?
4. For graduate students, meet with your dean or department head to see if there are any research or teaching assistant jobs available. This is probably the most overlooked source of money for graduate education. It may involve some ongoing work on your part, but you’ll likely gain valuable experience and contacts in your field along with the dough.
Remember, a college education is an investment. Consider all the costs involved and how much more your new degree will likely earn you in the workplace. My hope is that these tips will help you offset part of your expenses along the way.
Have you found money from these or other sources for returning to school?
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