So You Think You’re Going Back to School
In today’s rapidly changing environment, it has becoming increasingly important to stay competitive by adding value to your company. Since a greater percentage of the workforce have college degrees, higher education has become less of an option and more of a necessity for many fields.
A major paradigm shift in the workplace is that employers no longer value employees for their longevity at a company but instead value them for their current contribution. Employers want to see your “breadth” and innovation instead of looking for your loyalty and “depth” with them.
This increase in demand for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees has come at a hefty cost to Americans – the average student graduates with upwards of $37,000 in student loans. But in 2015, America reached the largest salary gap between college-educated employees and non-college educated employees. On average, college graduates earned 56% more than high school graduates.
I am a firm believer that you can go back to school without accumulating any student loan debt. You just need to plan ahead. Here’s how to get started.
Make An Informed Decision
Before you enroll, weigh the costs of going back to school. What will tuition, books, commute, and fees cost you? Do you need to invest in a laptop or other software/technology? Will it take time away from your family? How long do you plan on it taking – 2 years, 4 years, or more?
Once you have calculated the costs of returning to school, do some research to get an accurate picture of your “return on investment”. Don’t invest tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of your time to further your education if it’s not going to make you more money or get you ahead in your career.
There are some fields that will reward you for returning to school, and some fields that require a certain level of education. (An example would be a doctor, who would be required to go through medical school in order to qualify for the position.) In these fields, the compensation should match the investment of resources it took to become qualified. (Ex: Doctors make more money than nurses because their position required further education.) If your field of work does not fit this description, then you may not benefit from returning to school.
Choose the Right Degree
You should also be extremely wise in the field you choose to further your study. There are some up-and-coming, “trending” careers that will pay more than other jobs. Select a degree that will hold its value and demand. This will help ensure your chances of being hired and at a competitive salary.
You should also choose a degree that will fit your God-given design and personality best. You’ll save both time and money by studying something that aligns with your purpose and passion. Crown’s Career Direct assessment can help you discover your unique purpose and what career path or course of study fits best.
If you have weighed the costs and decided that returning to school is the most advantageous move for you, then you need to start saving!
You should have the costs already calculated. Now set that as a savings goal so you can completely avoid debt. This will take patience and diligence, but it can be done. Find joy in cutting down on all expenses and saving every dollar you can. Remember that all the time you invest to save now will yield you a great reward in the future.
Consider saving into a 529 account. You can invest money in this account and any earnings you withdraw to pay for your higher education costs are tax exempt.
If you’re looking at earning your Bachelor’s degree, there are a number of ways to expedite the process and save on costs.
Apply for grants, scholarships, and fellowships. Do some research and look for any money-saving opportunities by applying for grants, scholarships, or fellowships. Depending on your age, you may qualify for discounted or even free tuition!
Enroll in MOOCS (Massively Open Online Courses). These courses are gaining serious popularity because you can go through an entire class or specialization from some of the top universities around the world. Websites like EdX and Coursera offer outstanding courses at a variety of costs.
Check with your employer. Employers can offer tax-free education assistance, so it’s worth asking about. However, keep in mind that you may be required to earn a certain grade or stay with the company a certain amount of time if they offer financial assistance.
Fast track. The faster you can complete your course, the more money you can save. There are many fast-track programs offered at various universities for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Stay disciplined. Changing majors or stopping in the middle of your education can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Once you have decided to go back to school, created your plan, and saved adequately, stay the course.
I hope this helps you make a wise and informed decision about furthering your education! How have you saved money on college costs? Share your ideas with us!