Many adults have no idea, short of taking out a mortgage, how they are going to pay for college. This is especially true if you have a spouse, kids, a mortgage, car payment and all the bills of life. Most of the time, when adults get to the point of going back to school, they have learned the joys and tribulations of being saddled with auto financing, home financing and credit card dept and are quite frightened at the concept of borrowing money to get educated. Scholarships are great if you can find them and secure them, but they seldom pay for the college books and tuition.
There are a few things that you can think about before deciding how you are going to pay for college, or should I say there are some evaluations that can be done before you decide to take out a student loan. First thing to take into consideration is your record because the Feds do not like loaning student loan money to convicted felons, drug dealers and those types of folks. With that out of the way did you default on a student loan when you were younger and more foolish? If you have, then you will have to get that taken care of either through some sort of consolidation or by paying up what you have neglected in the past.
Next look at your career and where you would like to be in the future 4 to 6 years down the road, taking into consideration your current pay rate and your potential position and pay rate that is reasonably possible after you earn your degree or certificate. When you fill out your FAFSA they will give you an idea of what your monthly payments will be when it is time to pay up, after you graduate, that is. Now this means a bit of research, many of the business magazines and web sites will list what people with certain degrees can expect to make upon graduation. If you really want more data then you can use you can search the US Department of Labor site to find out salaries for particular regions. The chances are good that with the shiny new degree and the handsome new career or position improvements that you will gain. That little low interest student loan payment will be fairly insignificant in the light of the big picture. Look into Employer tuition reimbursement, military and union educational subsidies, and ask your clergy if your denomination or flavor of church offers assistance. If you do not mind an education offered by people in your religious faith, often you can ease your way into a private school at reasonable costs.
Be aware there are subsidized Federal loans and then there are private loans. Usually with the PELL Grant and other similar state grants coupled with student loans will get you through to graduation yet you probably will still need to work too, to make ends meet. The student loan people usually don’t take into consideration how much commercial debt (hospital bills outstanding, credit card bills etc.) you have or how bad your credit may be so they will loan to you with few questions asked. I assume they do this under the assumption that once you get your degree and better position, you will make enough to start throwing a few dollars at those outstanding debts. The private loans, well lets just say they are regular loans, with the term student’ in their title. Those private loans want co-signers, collateral, and other such credit worthy references and records.
I will forgo the lecture on tightening the belt, cutting your discretionary spending and shopping spree’ cash and buying burger’ instead of prime rib,’ when (if) you get the chance to go out. I do want to emphasize one thing about your fun money’ that has really helped me keep my perspective. This one tip on fun money’ is to think of all the sacrifices you are making to go back to school as being well worth the sacrifice considering your earning potential in the near future. Me, though I loath some subjects, I love to learn and I love the learning process, so it is quite easy for me to skip the monster truck show or abandon the latest Steven King movie or even the distance I travel on my vacation so that I can complete this educational undertaking.
Finally, spend a good amount of time determining what kind’ of education you need, want and can reasonably be expected to do. Do you need a full four year degree or will an Associate’s degree suffice? Maybe if you already are a Nurse, you just need some extra courses or to get into a fast-track’ program that can move you up to the next level. If you are an IT guy, maybe you don’t need a CIS/IT degree as much as you need a Windows or Sysco Certification. If you are a successful manager or manager assistant or even a shift supervisor or team leader with a high school diploma or GED, you may find that some classes or a manager’s training, accounting and bookkeeping or other type certification will be a better investment (it will get you further, faster). Talk to the corporate office of your franchise or your district or regional manager about what they suggest. Be careful mentioning this to your immediate supervisor, because they might start thinking that you are bucking for their job, and you will need that job until you get a better one. You may want to take one class at your local University or Community Tech College to see if you will be able to handle the commitment and workload.
To wrap this up:
1) Are you eligible for student loans, grants and scholarships? If you are how much can you expect to get? How much will you need?
2) Look at your job or career and your earning potential; where you are at now and where you would like to be in the near future and the steps you have to take to get from one point to the other point.
3) Know what kind and where your student aid money is coming from and how much your payment will be when you are done.
4) Think of the education you are embarking on as fun,’ this will help with your attitude about putting up with classes, homework and term papers.
5) Know what kind of education you need. Know how it will help, how quickly you can get the degree or certification and if your choice of education will put you in a position to be able to make the payments and still have more money in your pocket.
Good luck with the college search and your coursework. Though I took all these things into consideration myself, I have found over the years that even paying for learning for learning’s sake,’ can often be just as valuable as education of the purpose of career advancement. I will see you in class!