Monday, July 22, 2013

The Real Cost of Returning to School

School has always been expensive but in current times the cost of college tuition seems to go up substantially year on year.  In fact in the past 10 years the cost of studying a professional program has increased by 60%!  Add to this the fact that there are no guarantees there will be a job at the end of all your hard work and you are left with a big question. 

Does it make financial sense to go back to School?

Luckily there are a few key questions that you can consider which will help you in making this important decision.

Why do you want to go back to school?

It is important to remember that money is not necessarily your only or indeed driving reason for returning to school. 

Make a list of all the reasons you would like to return…maybe you feel bored within your current profession and are looking for a more fulfilling profession...maybe you have grown and developed new skills within your current job and are now at a point where you are ready to take the next step but you need a professional qualification…or maybe you are just simply looking to earn more. 

Whatever the reason having a clearer understanding of why you want to return to school can help you make the final decision if returning to school is right for you.

How much debt are you willing to get into?

This is all about return on your investment.  You will need to consider:

·         What will you be studying?  Remember that the return on your investment will be different depending on what you study – some professions like engineering are likely to give you a higher return on your investment than nursing.

·         How much will the program of study cost?

·         What are the hidden costs?  Don’t forget to detail costs such as living expenses; travel; interest on loans.  And remember while you are at school you may not be able to contribute to your retirement fund or and savings funds you might have set up.

·         How many years will you be studying?  In simple terms the longer you study the less time you are able to earn.  You can cut costs by choosing a shorter program or studying part-time.

·         What is your salary going to be?  Do your research.  A rule of thumb used by many is to never take on more debt than the basic starting salary you expect to earn.

·         What are the job prospects? You want to get a job at the end of all this so do some research into current trends.

Once you have answers to the questions above you will be in a better position to know whether your increased earning potential at the end of study will balance out the cost.

It is very important to consider how much debt you are willing to get into and how long you want to be paying it back.  You don’t want to start studying only to find the financial burden is too great, be forced to drop out, and be left with no qualification and a lot of debt.

Are there ways you can cut the cost?

It is worth researching potential ways to reduce the cost.

Perhaps you could choose a shorter program of study cutting your time studying from 2 to 1 year?  Or maybe there is an option to study part time which will allow you to continue to earn some money? 

It is also worth looking into scholarships and discounts for alumni.

Ask a lot of questions to see if there is an option that could save you money and reduce your debt.

Good luck!

Dawn Antestenis currently works for Fresh Start Women's Foundation managing their websites and social media. Dawn has a Masters in English Literature and qualifications in Multimedia Technology and Non-Profit Management with experience working for non-profits for over 10 years.

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