Savings Tips for Returning to School
College tuition can be one of those expenses that weighs over your head, no matter what age you are. School is expensive, and it is an unfortunate fact of life for anybody looking to obtain a degree. It can be an especially difficult goal to save for if you are returning to school later in life. If you left college to take care of family, to work, to save money or you just took the time off, getting back into the learning mentality can be a difficult and rough transition. If you are returning to school after time off, try some of these savings tips to make the financial transition a little bit easier.
Start Saving Early
This goes for going to college or to a university at any age, but especially if you are heading back to school later in life. If you know down the road that you plan to return to finish a degree or to obtain an additional degree, start saving as soon as you can. Even if the headway you give yourself is only a few months or a year, making a conscious effort to put money aside for school will make a difference. Just a few months of saving could cover a semester of books, and a year or more could make a significant difference in how much of a student loan you may need to take out for your tuition costs.
Look for Tuition or Program Discounts
Depending on your age when returning to school, various colleges and universities may offer tuition discounts or free tuition, altogether. Do some research into the state university policies regarding older students. If the school you're looking into doesn't offer a specific program, make the effort to speak with someone in admissions and the financial aid office. Every program or scholarship available may not be advertised, but if you are able to talk to somebody in person, you might have a higher chance of finding some exceptions or getting verbal agreements for tuition discounts.
Look for Scholarships
In a similar vein, find out what kind of scholarships you can apply for given your current situation. Are there scholarships provided by the university, the state or federal scholarships that will help you save? Do your research here as well, as there may be at least a couple scholarships specific to your living, work or age situations that will allow you to save big bucks on tuition. Scholarships often require a lot of work for the application, which can be off-putting if you already work or are a caretaker and are already spending your minimal time applying to school, but putting in the work can pay off if you receive scholarships that help you save a lot of money for your degree.
Talk to Your Employer
Your current work situation can influence your school costs. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs up to a certain percentage if the program you're in specifically relates to your job, and some employers may offer this regardless of the degree. Similarly, if there are certifications or degrees that pertain to your job and allow you to get promoted or to take on bigger projects, talk through options with your human resources department. Some employers have contingencies about how much you must be working in order to receive tuition reimbursement, so be mindful of that before fully leaning into any money you can receive through your workplace.
Check Out Your Local Community College
Community colleges are a vastly underrated resource for people looking to go back to school, or even for people looking to go to school for the first time. There is often a stigma that community college degrees are lesser, but they offer flexibility to your schooling that can be perfect for returning to school after years of being away. Depending on what area you're looking to study or what program catches your interest, community colleges can be the perfect solution to saving money on schooling. The tuition per credit or per class is often much cheaper at community colleges than bigger universities, and they also offer flexibility as to how many classes you want to take. Usually, community colleges don't have credit requirements, so you are able to take one class at a time, or several, depending on your financial situation or how much money you want to save. There may also be tuition discounts for much older students at community colleges or you may be able to fast-track your program or degree based on work experience.