Back to School: How To Pay For College As An Adult

Back to School: How To Pay For College As An Adult
David Randall, 08.25.09, 06:00 PM EDT

Adults can qualify for certain grants and job retraining programs.

If you're like many adults who have lost their jobs or are worried that they might, going back to college to boost your credentials may sound appealing. But there's also the worry that comes with it: Can you really afford this?

There's more than just tuition to think about. "The major concern is the current loss of income and increased expenses, even knowing that the amount of time and money being spent is an investment in the future," said Gloria Birnkrant, a certified public accountant in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Fortunately, there are ways returning students can pay for college without draining their retirement accounts or assuming overwhelming college loans. One fact to keep in mind: The average community college charges just $2,000 a year for full-time students, according to the College Board. Part-time programs can be much less. These programs are open to students who are working toward a first degree as well as those who already have a bachelor's and want to learn a new trade.

Here are some tips for going back to school without ruining your finances.

Free and low-cost programs
Depending on where you live, your current job situation and what industry you work (or worked) in, you might qualify for free job training. The Department of Labor operates One Stop Career Centers nationwide. At these centers (and online at this Web site, the agency offers free and low-cost courses for careers ranging from substance abuse counseling to computer programming.

Several states have their own job training programs, run independently or through community colleges. Michigan has special re-training programs just for auto workers. California offers low-cost programs that are open to everyone in areas like solar panel installation. Florida offers a free program to help students become registered nurses. And North Carolina offers training for workers to go into the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries.
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