Discount Your Diploma With These 7 Money-Saving Tips
It’s a big decision to go back to school as an adult. Whether you’re pursuing your first degree or your sixth, you’ve put a lot of time and consideration into the choice, and you’re taking the plunge.
Once you accept your place at a college or university, though, the feeling of excitement and pride can very quickly turn toward one of trepidation: How will I manage to afford this degree? As an adult, you probably have many more real-world financial concerns than your teenaged co-ed counterparts.
Don’t let your status deter you from pursuing your education, though. There are plenty of ways to save on your degree — here are seven of them.
1. Formulate a Plan ASAP
If you have children, you might have already started saving for them to attend college. You should finance your own education with the same careful planning. As soon as you have the inkling to return to school, start setting aside money to make it a reality. Putting away $250 each month, for example, will fatten your savings account by $3,000 per year. Do that for more than three years, and you’ll have more than $10,000 to spend on your schooling.
2. See If Your Age Qualifies You for a Discount
There’s no age limit when it comes to learning, and universities have begun to realize this and incentivize older students’ return to school. Check with your state’s department of education to see if there are any discounts for students your age.
This can be an especially fruitful tactic if you’re aged 60 or older. In California, for example, all state universities have free tuition for students over 60. In Texas, the cost of tuition is discounted for those 55 and older. Again, every state’s policies vary, so find out if your age qualifies you for a cheaper return to education.
3. Ask Your Employer
The benefits package that comes with your current position may just include educational discounts. Ask your company’s HR department if there’s a program for employees who want to return to school. Some will pay for your continued education without question, while others will if you maintain a particular GPA or study something related to your current position.
Make sure you read the fine print when accepting this type of offer from your current position, though. If you hope to leave your job once you have a new degree, you may have to pay your tuition back, as some educational assistance funding requires you to stay with your company for a certain number of years after they pay for your classes.
4. Understand Your Loan Options
We already mentioned saving money and setting that aside for your education. However, for some students, that won’t be enough to cover all of their tuition, and you might not currently be in a position to start building up your savings. Not to worry, though: Student loans are a great way to make up the difference.
It’s up to you to figure out how much money you need before comparing your saving and student-loan options. If you find you’ll need assistance to pay for all or part of your tuition, the government can provide scholarships, grants and loans. If you own property, you can also take out a home equity loan, which uses your dwelling as collateral for your funding. There’s no one-size-fits-all loan option, though, so do your research and speak to a financial adviser if necessary.
5. Explore Scholarship Options, Too
Going back to school as an adult is a pretty extraordinary undertaking. As such, many organizations offer scholarships to exceptional students-to-be. You’ll definitely have to do some searching, but you will be able to find some nonprofits, groups and institutions that want to reward adults for returning to school. Some universities offer their own scholarships, too, so be sure to investigate your potential schools for those rewards before you apply.
6. Fast-Track Your Training
If you’re returning to higher education, chances are you’ve been working since the last time you were in class. You may not have the traditional prerequisite courses on your transcripts, but some universities will accept your real-world experience instead.
It’s up to you to advocate for your skills, which can toe a fine line between impressing university staff and bragging to them. Learn the art of self-promotion, whether it means listing the accomplishments that distinguish you from other applicants or having someone write a recommendation for you to vouch for the skills you possess.
7. Consider Community College
Finally, if you’re looking to slash costs, community college could be the answer to your continuing education-based prayers. Tuition is usually much more cost-effective, and class schedules include both daytime and evening classes to cater to students of all ages. Even if you want a university diploma, a community college training can help you make things more affordable: Get your prerequisites done for a cheaper price, then transfer to a more expensive institution to finish.
By putting the above seven tips into practice, you can assuage your educational spending fears. In other words, you’ll only have your classes and your grades to worry about and, considering the fact you’re here planning your return to school so carefully, we know it’s just the beginning of a successful educational career for you.