Older students continue to represent a growing demographic at colleges, as more people are deciding to advance their education after being away from school for many years. Rapid technological growth has created the need for new skills and employees want to remain competitive. The number of Canadians over the age of 25, who re-entered the educational system more than tripled from 1976 to 1996, and the numbers continue to grow.
Non-traditional students, as older students are termed, are interested in advanced degrees, certifications, or training which will increase their marketability and help them find work in a new field, remain employed in a competitive job environment, or lead to higher pay.
Balancing the cost of going back to school with the potential benefits is challenging. Returning to school can mean a substantial commitment in time, energy, and money. Feeling confident that it will pay off is important to adults making the decision to go back to school.
So, is going back to school worth it? It certainly can be, and here are a few ways to make your decision easier:
Begin with Your Goal in Mind
Why are you going back to school? Are you looking for career advancement in a job which you can feasibly see yourself working in for a considerable length of time? Be realistic. Some fields are changing rapidly and may look totally different five or ten years down the line. Will the program you’re considering help you stay competitive in your profession?
Or are you looking to switch careers completely? This will entail a totally different approach and the costs and time needed so it’s important to research this option thoroughly.
Determine the Costs
The only way to know if it makes financial sense to return to school is to weigh the benefits against the costs. There are ways to keep your education costs down which will in turn increase your return on investment.
Choose the most affordable professional school, college, or university and consider an online program. Studying online is usually the most cost-effective option and offers the added benefit of being convenient and easy to fit into your schedule.
Find Ways to Fund Your Classes
Some companies pay all or part of education costs as a benefit to their employees. Talk to your human resources department to find out if your employer offers this perk. Even if your company doesn’t, speak to your supervisor to see if this is a possibility. If you are a long-time, valued employee, they may work with you. After all, your improved skills will be a benefit to them as well.
Research your options for financial aid, grants, and scholarships. While some programs are limited to students pursuing a bachelor’s degree, not all are. There are also special grants and scholarships for older students. Visit your school’s financial aid department and use your library or internet to research these possibilities. Websites such as Fastweb.com and Scholarships.com can help you find scholarships in your field and which also match your unique situation.
If you still come up short, you can consider borrowing money to pay for your schooling. There are two important considerations: make sure your loan payments fit into your budget and keep your loan small if your retirement is less than 10 years away.
So, is it worth it?
Continuing your education can improve your opportunities for career advancement or promotion or it can be a great way to begin a career transition. It can also provide you with the knowledge and skills to run your own small business, whether as a way to earn extra money or as a totally new path.
But, the rewards are not all financial. If you regret entering the workforce before you completed college, it is never to late to return and finish your degree. If you set an example for your children by demonstrating the importance of education, they are more likely to attend college.
Interested in Learning Online?
If you’re interested in finding out more about continuing your studies with NAU Canada Online, whether it’s at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, give us a call at 855.210.5641 to schedule a consultation.
We’ll happily answer any questions you have about the process from the types of programs we offer to your options for financial assistance.