You’ve decided you need to further your education to stay competitive in your field of employment, or perhaps you are looking to change careers entirely. Maybe you simply want to immerse yourself in a field of study that you find interesting.
No matter the reason for heading back to school as an adult, you will likely face the following question: Can I really afford this?
The cost of returning to school includes more than just tuition. You will need to consider books, transportation, and perhaps even daycare. You may also need to think about loss of income, if you will be working less while you pursue your degree.
When searching for a way to pay for school, one potential asset many people forget about is their old jewelry or luxury timepiece. Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers can help you pursue an advanced degree or certification by turning that forgotten diamond ring or old Rolex watch into the cash you’ll need to pursue your educational goals.
But there are many other ways to pay for going back to school. In the following article we’ll look at how to both lower costs, and pay for college as a non-traditional student.
Back to School Scholarships and Grants
The first avenue to explore when looking for funds to go back to school is scholarships and grants. Very few scholarships and grants have age restrictions, which comes as a welcome surprise to many non-traditional students. These sources are perhaps the very best kind of financial assistance because you don’t need to pay back any scholarship or grant money as long as you meet all of your obligations. The internet is a great resource for finding scholarships, and using websites like Fastweb and Scholarship.com will allow you to search scholarships based on your personal profile.
The first step in applying is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, which is necessary for all federal grants, loans, and subsidized work-study jobs. There is no age limitation on federal student aid, so assistance is available to the non-traditional student. And many colleges and community colleges require students to fill out the FAFSA form in order to be eligible for grants or scholarships offered by the colleges themselves. First time non-traditional students are frequently recipients of the need-based Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.
Back to School Loans
The information on your FAFSA form helps determine your eligibility for all federal loans. These loans, like the Direct Stafford Loan and Direct PLUS Loan, are underwritten based on your financial situation and the cost of the program you will be attending. Your school must participate in Federal Student Aid programs for you to be eligible as well. These federal loans are open to college students of all ages, and are usually offered at more favorable terms than private loans.
As an adult, you can borrow more than the traditional, dependent student—up to $20,500 per year for graduate school and $12,500 for an undergraduate program. But be aware of your age: you might not have decades to pay off the loans. If you borrow the maximum for two years as a graduate student, your monthly payments will be about $475 based on a ten-year repayment plan.
And don’t forget about state aid. Even if you don’t qualify for federal student aid, you may qualify for assistance in certain state programs. Your state education department will know what aid is available and tell you how to apply. Most state programs will require that you submit the FAFSA form to be considered. Be sure to consult with your school’s financial aid office. They can help you find funding programs appropriate to your particular situation.
Returning Education: Free and Low Cost Programs
Depending on the industry you work in and your current job situation, you may qualify for free job training. One Stop Career Centers, operated by the Department of Labor, offer free and low cost courses in everything from computer programming to substance abuse counseling.
Many states have job training programs that run through their community college system. Michigan has special re-training programs for auto workers, and California offers low-cost programs in green energy fields like solar panel installation. And even if your state doesn’t offer a low cost program in your field of study, your local community college is likely to be a bargain. The average community college charges around $2,000 a year for full time students, and part time programs can be much less.
Ask your employer about tuition help. Many will cover some portion of their employee’s educational cost in the form of tuition reimbursement, and some provide 100% reimbursement for college programs that directly enhance an employee’s job skills.
You generally will not have to repay tuition reimbursement unless you violate the restrictions your employer may have placed on the funds. For instance, some employers will require that you maintain a certain GPA (Grade Point Average), or that you agree to stay with the company for a certain amount of time.
If you work for a large company, it may offer courses at its own “Corporate University.” These corporate universities generally do not grant degrees, but many of the classes offered are accredited, meaning that you could get credit for them when you enroll in a degree program. Taking advantage of these classes can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Using Tax Breaks to Help Pay for College
In addition to federal loans and job programs, there are a few ways you can save on your taxes as a non-traditional student. Many states offer college savings plans, usually for parents to save for their child’s education and enjoy a tax benefit, but you can set these plans up for yourself as well. Though contributions are not deductible from your federal taxes, they are usually deductible from your state taxes. And if your child hasn’t used the money you saved for his or her education, you can name yourself as beneficiary and use the money for your own educational goals.
Another tax break is the Lifetime Learning Credit, which can offset up to 20% or your tuition and fees, up to $2,000. This credit is available to graduate as well as undergraduate students, and you can claim it for classes to improve your job skills, even if you’re not pursuing a degree.
If you get tuition assistance from your company, you can exclude up to $5,250 of that money from your taxable income. And if the classes you are taking are work-related, you may be able to deduct some of your expenses.
And lastly, remember again your option of selling old gold and diamond jewelry, or a valuable timepiece, to help finance your returning education. Many people overlook the fact that they could have thousands of dollars in the form of used fine jewelry or an inherited Swiss timepiece–luxury assets which could quickly and easily help you pay for going back to school and obtain that new dream job.
Contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today for a free consultation and cash appraisal of your valuable items.
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