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Going Back To College As An Adult


going back to school as an adult

Economic uncertainty has been known to drive adults back to school to boost their educational credentials.

So with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, the thought of returning to school may be fresh in the minds of many adults.

If you’re considering going back to school as an adult to earn a higher education degree, you’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons. Let’s explore whether or not going back to school as an adult may be worth it for your situation.

Reasons For Going Back To School

When the economy and job market is in a state of turmoil, it can be difficult to see the silver lining. However, many adults choose to chart a course towards higher education in hopes of creating a better future for their families.

In the fall of 2008, the fallout of the Great Recession was apparent in the sharp rise in college enrollment. The enrollment for the fall of 2008 was 12% higher than the fall of 2007. And the number of students older than age 24 increased by 20%.

The reasons why adults decide to go back to college will vary. But some of the most common reasons include:

  • Seeking educational credentials to stand out in the job market 
  • Looking to spark a career change with the help of education 
  • Hoping to finish the degree they started earlier in life

Although there are countless other reasons why you might want to return to college, an economic hardship might tip the scales.

With an unstable job market leading to uncertain job prospects, potential students might feel that a college degree could be the right way to set themselves apart from the competition. And with the potential for higher wages upon completion, the advantages of heading back to school become easier to see.

Related: Here’s Why You Should Treat College As An Investment

Costs Of Going Back To School

When you’re considering a return to college, it’s important to understand the financial obligations you’re signing up for. This is especially during a period of economic uncertainty. Here are the costs you need to be aware of:

Costs That All Students Face

College tuition and fees can be extremely high, especially for students who are non-resident students or who are attending private universities. But beyond basic tuition costs, you may also need to pay the following:

  • Student fees. These fees allow the college to provide a variety of services.
  • Textbooks. Most classes have required textbooks and their costs can add up quickly. 
  • Technology. Whether you take in-person or online classes, you’ll likely need a computer and other essential tech to keep up with your assignments. 
  • Healthcare. Most colleges require their students to pay for a healthcare policy. 
  • Housing. Depending on where you go to school, room and board can be a major cost. 
  • Interest on student loans. If you are taking out loans to fund your education, the interest accumulation on the loans will be an important factor to consider.

The average annual cost of a college education in the 2017-18 academic year was 23,835 according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These costs can put a big burden on any budget. 

Extra Costs Of Going Back To School As An Adult

As an older student returning to campus, you’ll have other costs to consider. Unlike your younger student counterparts, the chances are that you have other financial obligations that add to the total price of attending college.

Two of the biggest expenses you will face include transportation costs and childcare costs. Plus, the opportunity cost of lost wages that could have been earned if you weren’t attending school.

Take some time to determine how these costs would affect your situation. Depending on where you live, you could be facing extensive childcare costs. Additionally, leaving an especially lucrative career would lead to a bigger hit in terms of lost wages.

How To Prepare For An Adult Return To School

Think that heading back to school is the right move for you? Here’s how to prepare for a return to college as an older student. 

Choose The Right College

The most important factor to the long-term success of your venture into college is to choose the right college for your needs. Take some time to consider your current time commitments and financial responsibilities. Determine whether or not you are willing to make a full-time return to college or need to stretch out the completion of your degree on a part-time basis.

As you consider these strategies, you should look into different schools and programs that suit your needs. Not only should the degree help you move towards your post-educational goals, but also align with your scheduling needs. For example, you may need to consider online school options if you have a particularly busy schedule.

Decide How You’ll Pay For Your Degree

Once you decide on the right college, you’ll need to determine how you will pay for your degree as an adult. The good news is that there are many options to choose from.

First, look to scholarship opportunities. Here’s how to find scholarships that can help you. Also, fill out the FAFSA to determine if you qualify for grants or other financial aid.

If you are planning to work throughout your education, see if your employer offers any educational benefits such as a tuition reimbursement plan. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Lastly, you can utilize student loans as a way to pay for college. If you’re considering student loans, make sure to only take out what you absolutely need to cover your educational costs. And if you already have outstanding student loans, consider whether it’s a good decision for your situation to take on more student debt.

Related: Should You Back To School If You’re Still In Debt?

Is Going Back To School As An Adult Worth It?

As mentioned earlier, the fall enrollment rate during the 2008 Great Recession saw a big uptick. However, the completion rates of college degrees for that 2008 class was only 55%.

Those adult students who completed their degrees may have truly improved their career options and thrived in the job market. But many other students may have just taken on new student debt during this period without getting a degree to show for it.

In the end, whether going back to school as an adult is worth it will come down to your unique situation. Make sure that you’ve compared the costs and potential payoffs of returning to school for you before you make a final decision.

Related: Is College Worth It? How To Determine Your ROI On College

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