Adult life can be so busy which makes it tough to find the time and motivation to go back to school. Returning to school can be a great way to develop new skills and even break into a new career field so you can increase your income.
If you want to go back to school, one of the first obstacles can be funding your higher education. This hurdle really hits home right now because my husband and I have been talking about him going back to school and we’d rather him do it sooner than later.
Financial aid isn’t really an option for us and he still has about $12,000 in student loan debt from his bachelor’s degree so taking out more student loans is not a preference either.
Thankfully, there are a few other options to consider for people wondering how to afford to go back to school. If you or someone in your household is considering going back to school and you want to avoid student loans, here are some ways to make returning to school more affordable.
I wish I would have applied to more scholarships during my undergrad education. I did receive a few, but I have friends who paid for their entire degrees with scholarships.
There is definitely plenty of money out there whether you’re going back to a university or a local college. While some scholarships are based on academics and geared toward new students and college freshman, there are still plenty of options for returning college students.
Also, consider searching for private scholarships that are funded through local organizations. When I was attending community college, I actually won a scholarship for mothers that was funded by a local group. Check out these scholarship opportunities for returning students.
Look For Free or Discounted Tuition Options
Believe it or not, there are quite a few free or discounted tuition options you can take advantage of if you’re wondering how to afford to go back to school. You just need to look and be flexible.
See if you can find discounted online classes from an accredited university. Uber driver’s who reach pro status actually get take ASU online classes for free. This includes degree and certificate programs.
If you are 55 or older, you can attend all of Texas’ colleges and universities for a reduced rate. California has around 23 state universities that offer free tuition as part of their Over 60 Program.
Don’t forget, you can also work at a college or university to get a tuition discount. This is what one of my friends did to get through grad school without having to fork over a ton of money.
Ask Your Employer to Help
If you’re going back to school to advance your existing career and pick up a new skill, your employer may be willing to help cover a portion of your tuition. Some jobs will even cover the entire amount or reimburse you. This is how my cousin got a Master’s of Public Administration degree for free.
Keep in mind that some employers may have rules and guidelines to follow in order to receive tuition assistance. For example, you may have to complete a program by a certain date. You may also have to commit to staying at your job for a specific time frame after you finish school as well.
Still, there are plenty of other jobs that offer tuition assistance even if you work part-time and aren’t committed to staying with the company forever. Some of those employers include Starbucks, UPS, Bank of America, Verizon Wireless, and Best Buy.
Apply For Financial Aid
Just because myself or my husband won’t get much in financial aid money doesn’t mean you should completely write this option off. I recommend each person apply for financial aid when considering college no matter what they believe.
You just never know if you’ll qualify for grant money, a work-study, a book voucher or another opportunity. Go to FAFSA.ed.gov to fill out a FAFSA.
Get on a Payment Plan
This is an option that we are most likely going to consider. My husband needs to take about 7 classes and we can’t pay for them all up front. We are planning to have him attend a local college so we can get discounted tuition.
From there, we will likely get on a payment plan and spread out classes. This will allow us to cash flow the payments without draining our finances too much.
Work and Side Hustle
Don’t quit your job to go back to school if you’re wondering how you will afford it. Instead, consider working through school and choosing a class schedule that accommodates your current needs.
If you have a two income household and can live on one person’s income that’s also a great option. My husband will be working part-time and side hustling to help pay for school.
The money I earn from my business will help pay most of the bills and keep us afloat. Since he’s a rideshare driver on the side, he can earn extra money whenever he wants so it’s super flexible. This along with the payment plan will help us cash flow the price of the classes and other materials for school.
Consider doing some extra work on the weekends or on your off day to help pay for college. It may seem like a rough schedule but it will help motivate you to finish up your classes quickly and you’ll be happy you didn’t have to take out loans.
Make Some Cuts
Review your budget to see where you can cut some expense to help you accord the cost of going back to school. Get an idea of how much money you’ll need each month than start making cuts.
I recommend focusing on some big and some small expenses so you’re not putting all your eggs into one basket. You don’t want to cut all your big expenses and feel deprived for two years. Still, you also don’t want to cut the small latte purchases and get nowhere financially.
Set a goal for how much money you want to free up and go from there. For example, if 1 credit hour at your community college cost $130, you may want top see if you can cut your monthly expenses by $200 to help you cover about 1.5 credits with the cash you have.
Try to reduce your phone bill by $15, cut your grocery spending by $50, lower your car insurance to save $20, cut your gym membership, and just keep adding up savings as you guy. You likely won’t miss $20 here and there but it all adds up.
Going back to school can be a great thing, but it can also weigh heavy on your family and your personal finances. Try doing a combination of these things to help you afford to go back to school if it’s something you desire.
Focus on the ROI you’ll get and have a plan for how you’ll use your skills and credentials to land higher paying work.