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5 Ways to Pay for School

by Ashley Feinstein Gerstle, Contributing Writer

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Congratulations, you’ve decided to go back to school! Your next thought: How am I going to pay for this? While getting a degree can be very expensive due to rising tuition costs and the time you will be taking away from work, there are steps you can take to mitigate these costs.


Before we can work through the various ways to pay for school and decrease out of pocket expenses, it’s important to come up with a plan. Take inventory of what going back to school will actually cost you. First, how long will the program take? What are tuition costs each year as well as school-related expenses such as textbooks, supplies, room and board, and your day-to-day living expenses? While these numbers will change as you have more information about the specific program and classes you’ll be taking, it’s extremely helpful to get an idea of the overall cost of going back to school by adding up the various expenses. Now let’s look at how you’ll pay for them.

1. Minimize Your Expenses
Once you’ve tallied up an estimate of the total cost, we can work to whittle that number down. Where can you save on the various expenses associated with going back to school? Brian Morris from Hobbes Enterprises says textbooks are a great place to start. “Students can save up to 90 percent and an average of 50 percent on textbooks and access codes when they buy them online instead of at the bookstore,” Morris says. “That’s a significant savings when you consider the average student pays nearly $5,000 for textbooks over the course of earning a four-year degree.” You can also look to decrease your living expenses. Tania Brown, U.S. Army Veteran and Financial Planner with Financial Finesse recommends using tools like Liveability.com to find the most affordable places to live (http://www.cbsnews.com/media/the-15-most-affordable-places-to-live-in-america/) so any funds you get to support yourself while you’re in school can stretch as far as possible. As a student, you may get various other perks that will reduce your cost of living, including gym memberships, student discounts and subsidized housing. Overall, creating and sticking to a budget can greatly reduce the price you will pay to go back to school.


Once you’ve determined the cost of getting the degree and how you will mitigate expenses, it’s time to figure out where you will get the money to pay for it. This most likely will be a combination of savings, earnings from working while you are in school, military benefits, student loans and financial aid.

2. Determine Your Military Benefits
This is a good place to start. One of the reasons Brown joined the military was because of the military education benefits. For those interested in an undergraduate degree, Brown recommends that students take advantage of the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) career counseling services to explore career options to help you decide on your major in college. “Choosing your major early may prevent you from taking unnecessary college classes,” Brown advises. She also recommends using resources like the New GI Bill Calculator (http://www.newgibill.org/calculate-your-benefits/) to get an estimate of possible benefits available to you.


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