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Making College Affordable for Adult Learners

Adult graduate student in cap and gown.

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:21pm

As an adult with a mortgage, kids and a career, the last thing you can really think about is adding tuition into the mix. Can you really afford to go back to school? Before you assume that there's no way you can add tuition to your existing bills, consider these creative ways to pay for your degree.

Explore Financial Aid Options
Federal financial aid is as much of a possibility for adult students just as it is younger students. There is no age limit on federal student aid, so that is the first place to apply. As an adult learner, you need to see if you qualify as an "Independent Student," which means you have a slightly different process to file the FAFSA. After all, reporting your parent's income no longer applies. This can be beneficial, because you may get more aid since you can't draw on your parent's assets.

After filing the FAFSA, look for Pell Grants. Pell Grants are primarily available for those seeking an undergraduate degree. Finally, don't forget about federal work-study programs, if they apply to your situation. The financial aid office of your chosen school will be able to direct you to these various programs and offerings.

Look for Scholarships
While many scholarships do target graduating seniors, you'll find there are options out there for adults as well. As an adult, you can focus your search for scholarships a little more clearly. First, look for scholarships through your workplace. Then, consider any professional organizations you are a member of, and see if they have scholarships. Next, contact the school to see what scholarships are available. Finally, if you are a minority or part of an underserved population, look for scholarships for one of those groups.

Employer Reimbursement
Many companies offer employer reimbursement for education costs if further training is applicable to your current position or employer. Even if you do not know of any of these programs, you may be able to approach your employer and explain how further training would benefit your entire organization. With the right presentation, you might find that your employer is more than happy to offer some sort of reimbursement.

Tax Breaks for Adult Learners
Adult learners can receive excellent tax breaks that can make their tuition a bit more affordable. The Lifetime Learning Credit, for example, is a credit you take at tax time that gives you up to $2,000 back for your educational expenses. If you're working on your first undergraduate degree, you may qualify for an additional $2,500 through the American Opportunity Credit.

Understand the Benefits
Even if you strike out on most of these areas, you may still want to consider getting a degree. The increased earning potential that comes with a degree is worth a bit of struggle during the years you are in school. According to U.S. News and World Report, a college degree can earn you about $20,000 more a year compared to those who did not receive a degree. On average, someone with a bachelor's degree will earn about $51,000 a year, whereas someone who has an advanced professional degree will earn around $100,000. Education is an investment that can pay off.

University of the Cumberlands understands going back to school is a big task. That’s why we offer affordable online degrees as well as guidance through our Financial Aid Office. You concentrate on your education and let us help guide you to achieve your dream. If you’re interested in finding out how you can afford college visit us online, email our Financial Aid Office at finplan@ucumberlands.edu or call us toll free at (800) 343-1609 ext. 4220.