Are you thinking about going back to school as an adult but worried about juggling school alongside work, children, family life and, of course, bills? The average cost of tuition for the 2016-2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents at public colleges. It’s no secret that college isn’t cheap, but going back into the lecture hall as an adult is an attainable goal; in fact, nearly 33% of college students are over the age of 25.
We know that finances are a huge deciding factor on whether you follow your dreams of college, so here are some ways you can make the process more affordable.
Before enrolling in classes, set some educational and financial goals. Are you entering a four year undergrad or a graduate program? Will you be able to earn money while enrolled or will you rely on your savings? Spend some time shopping around different programs, financial aid options and, if necessary, living arrangements. You should also explore how going back to school could impact your future financial success—will a new degree help with your income or will the student loans not be worth it? You can speak with a career counselor, industry experts, and even do some of your own research on industry demands.
Look Into Grants and Scholarships
Since you won’t need to pay them back, financing your education with both grants and financial aid are great options. Both usually have deadlines and application requirements, so you should investigate these options before you choose your class schedule. Start this process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which is necessary for both federal grants and loans. There are also many sites that offer guidance on finding scholarships for non-traditional students. Applicants who apply with a narrow, specific plan may find it easier to get grants and scholarships as well.
Get a Tax Break
You may be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit, which reduces your overall tax liability. Full-time students who are seeking their first undergraduate degree may be eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Adults that are going back to school may also be eligible for deductions on books, supplies, and child care. If you are considering graduate school, pick up a copy of “Graduate School with Help from Uncle Sam,” which can guide you through all the potential tax breaks.
Think Outside of the Box
Do you know if your current employer offers educational aid? Some larger companies offer financial assistance for further schooling or training. Your employer could pay up to $5,250 a year for classes without it counting as additional income to you. If you aren’t sure what your company offers, speak with human resources.
Montana students could be eligible to receive a savings match of $1,500 or more from the MESA program and the updated G.I. Bill may give you the opportunity to receive educational benefits in exchange for military service. This is helpful to those who wish to become pilots, medical professionals and technology specialists.
Going to back to school as an adult may seem scary, but using these financial tips can help with the burden. Continuing your education may pay off big in the long run, and it’s likely that you could be eligible for help along the way.