Many people want to go back to college to finish a degree, pursue a new career or get a better job. However, it can seem like an impossible task when you have a limited budget. These tips can help.
1. Consider Online Programs
Online programs have multiple benefits for people returning to college. Because you don’t have to live on or commute to campus and can take most classes on your schedule, it is easier to work while taking online classes. Additionally, you often save money on fees and parking. If you don’t have a computer, there are online colleges that offer laptops that can help you get started without having to purchase one.
2. Attend Community College
Community colleges are less expensive than four-year schools and many have transfer agreements or offer four-year degrees on campus. Community colleges also offer two-year degrees and certificate programs in a variety of fields that may help you get a job fast. Some of the community colleges also offer free tuition, which you can avail. If you plan to transfer to another school, make sure the credits at the community college you are considering will transfer to the new school before you enroll.
3. Pursue a Tuition Discount
Look for jobs at schools you want to attend that match your skillset. Many schools offer employees a tuition discount. Getting a job at a school could provide you with income to cover your expenses and save you money by getting you a cheaper tuition rate.
4. Reduce Your Expenses
Reducing both your education-related and other expenses can free up some money for college tuition. Rent textbooks instead of purchasing them and if you have to buy one, buy used. Don’t buy anything that you don’t need. Eat more meals at home instead of going out to restaurants or purchasing the school meal plan.
5. Build Up Your Savings
Even if your course load is relatively light, it may be difficult to continue working as much as you do now when you return to school. This could mean you will have less income for a while. Prepare for this by building up your savings before you start school. Consider taking on a second job or picking up a side gig to boost your income during this time.
6. Apply for Financial Aid
You don’t have to be a certain age to qualify for financial aid. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Even if you don’t want to take out student loans or you already used up your allotment, you may qualify for grants, work-study jobs, or scholarships.
7. Avoid Unnecessary Debt
If you find ways to finance your expenses without taking on debt, don’t apply for student loans just because you can. You have to pay the money back eventually and most student loans can not be discharged through bankruptcy.
Going back to school on a budget isn’t easy, but it can be done. A combination of reducing your expenses, boosting your income, and choosing a course of study that allows you to continue working can help you afford your tuition without going too far into debt.