Finding Money to Go Back to School

A recent layoff might have you thinking about returning to school in hopes of finding a new career and making more money. Or maybe you’re ready to ditch your 9-to-5 so you can pursue work that ignites your passion. Whatever your reason for going back to school, you are not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment of students age 25 and older rose 42% between 2000 and 2010. Much of this is due to increased unemployment as a result of corporate layoffs.

However, the cost of education grew as well. In the 2007—2008 academic year, the average total price comprising tuition, fees, books, materials, and living expenses for one year of a master’s degree program was $34,600, up from $32,000 in the 2003—2004 school year.

Participants of the recent black enterprise/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation symposium, “Today’s Business Crisis: Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce,” in Charlotte, North Carolina, maintained that institutions, government, and business must work together to make post-secondary education affordable. Ronald L. Carter, Ph.D., president of Johnson C. Smith University, maintains that colleges and universities “must embrace nontraditional students”–those 25 years and older. The HBCU has created flexible academic offerings and tuition options as part of its Metropolitan College adult degree programs. For more innovative post-secondary initiatives, read our report on

Fortunately, there is aid available to just about anyone who wants to go back to college. Read on and discover how you can finance your career-change education.

Devise a budget.
One of the biggest mistakes adult students make when returning to school is not preparing. “A lot of times, adult students seem to make the decision to go–and then just go,” says Cynde Quinn, director of college finance at EdAssist, a division of Bright Horizons, which provides work/life and tuition advisory services to employers, as well as on-site childcare. Instead, Quinn advises that adults create a budget first and then spend at least a year researching schools and financial options.

“They need to do a budget to find out what type of capital they have available per month. Chances are, they’re going to have some out-of-pocket expenses,” says Quinn. Besides tuition, adult students must plan for commuting costs, books, and living expenses.

Quinn says, “Before we get to what type of loan to apply for and what type of resources one needs to pursue, adult students have to determine what resources and expenses they have now.”

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