If you’re thinking of breaking into a new career or learning a new skill, going back to school as an adult can be a key step.

We all know that college is expensive and you may have racked up some student loan debt during your first time in school. But. things are different now. Maybe you have a family or house payment. You might be more established and not interested in taking out any student loan debt again.

Here’s what you can do to save money on going back to school as an adult.

Federal Grants

The first thing you do is apply for financial aid. This is one of the easiest ways to save money on going back to school as an adult, and your college will probably recommend it.

Apply even if you think you won’t qualify in order to weigh your options. You may be able to get some government grants to help supplement your costs.

I loved getting grants when I was earning my bachelor’s degree because it’s money you don’t have to pay back. Your state may even offer a grant too. Go to Fafsa.ed.gov to fill out your FAFSA before the deadline and see if you qualify for financial aid.

Community College

Community college is a great option because it’s local and tuition is much cheaper than universities and trade schools. Plus they offer a variety of classes. Regardless of the field that you’re interested in, your community college should offer an associate’s degree or certificate program.

If they don’t, most allow you take classes at a different community college and still receive the resident discounted rate. At my local college, credits are just $130 each for county residents which isn’t bad.

Get on a Payment Plan

Most colleges offer a payment plan so you can break up the cost of tuition over time. These plans may come with a one-time fee of around $50, but it’s worth it if you don’t have to take out a loan and pay interest.

Even though I only took out $20,000 of student loans during my undergrad years, I was on the hook to pay quite a bit of interest over my 10-year term.

I ended up being able to pay my loans off in just under 3 years, but it took a lot of work and sacrifice. If I had to do it all over again, I would have just tried to pay my way through school and take advantage of payment plans.

Take Night Classes

Taking night classes will help you avoid having to take out a loan for school because you can work during the day and cash flow your school. This will not only help you save money on going back to school as an adult, but it will also help you keep up with your payment plan.

Sometimes it’s hard for students to balance work, family, and classes, especially if they are taking day classes.

Night school is great for flexible returning students who still need to maintain a job and take care of their family while they advance their careers. Night classes are pretty popular so make sure you register early each semester to secure your spot.

Get Scholarships to Save Money on Going Back to School as an Adult

Returning students can still take advantage of scholarships. Ask your college about scholarship opportunities, and research other private organizations that offer funding.

Some scholarships are more general while others pertain to specific majors and classes. Be sure to read scholarship requirements and deadlines carefully to increase your chances of being considered.

Sometimes, you just need to write an essay and submit and application form. This may only take an hour or two of your time but it can be so worth it if you’re looking to save money on going back to school as an adult.

One year, I was looking to save money on going studying abroad, and I applied for a scholarship by submitting an essay. It only took me about 90 minutes to write and I scored a $2,000 scholarship. Not a bad use of time.

See If Your Employer Will Cover Tuition

This is another option to help you save money on going back to school as an adult. If you’re going back to school to learn a new skill that pertains to your current job, your employer may be able to reimburse you for the tuition.

Ask if this is an option along with what the terms are. Some employers may require you to finish your program by a particular date or ask that you stay at the company for at least 1-3 years after you finish school.

Even if you have a part-time job, it’s worth asking if your employer will help with tuition. I know some companies like Starbucks and Best Buy offer tuition assistance to employees.

Summary

Don’t let finances discourage you when considering going back to school. There are quite a few ways to save money on the cost of college.

If it does still seem expensive, try to save up a semester or two in advance and consider all your payment plan options.

When it comes to taking out student loans, the choice is up to you. They may be necessary depending on the cost of your program. If you have to take out a small loan, make sure you start with federal loans and be mindful of what the terms are.

Still, you can often pay for a certificate or associates degree in a new field in cash. That way, you won’t have to worry about making loan payments when you start working or looking for jobs.

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