FINANCIAL TIPS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION
By Chonce Maddox
You may be one of the large number of adults considering continuing education. Continuing education can be a great way to boost your career, start a new career, or even earn extra money in retirement!
“Nontraditional” students are a fast growing segment of the learners enrolled in educational programs – both degree programs and non-degree programs. Continuing education can take many forms, including certificate programs, work-related training, and professional development. All increase your value to a current or potential employer.
So how do you pay for further education? Are you eligible for financial aid? How can you make sure that the cost of continuing education doesn’t make a shambles of your overall financial footing?
Here are some tips to consider:
First step? Create a financial plan that accounts for tuition, books, child care, transportation, housing, and other expenses. Pay off consumer debt.
Don't deplete emergency or retirement savings.
Reduce costs by gaining credit for prior learning through exams or portfolios, or by transferring credits.
You can also save money by taking prerequisite coursework at a community college before transferring. Just be sure to check with the community college about its credit-transfer agreements with four-year schools.
Now you’re ready to consider your financial options:
FREE ONLINE OPTIONS
Check out free online options. You can find many great schools offering free or quite inexpensive online courses.
EMPLOYER ASSISTANCE AND TAX CREDITS
Consider asking your employer to help with continuing education costs. A majority of public and private employers offer financial assistance for employees’ educational costs, understanding the value to the company for employees to polish or update their skill set.
Your company doesn’t offer such assistance? Sit down with your employer or human resources department and negotiate. If you are a valued employee looking to add skills related to your job, your employer may well see the benefit of helping with tuition reimbursement, scholarships, or other forms of assistance. The Exclusion for Employee Education Benefits (Section 127, IRS Code) allows for income exclusion up to a designated amount in annual education benefits your company provides you.
FEDERAL GRANTS AND LOANS
There are many opportunities for nontraditional students to earn federal aid. Depending on your income and family status, you may actually qualify for more aid than a traditional student may. Be careful not to over-borrow in order to minimize your school debt. Your goal should be to repay the loan within 10 years, or before you retire, depending on which comes first.
Stafford Loans are available in larger amounts for adults who support themselves. You may qualify for this student federal loan as long as you have not already maxed out your loan eligibility, are not in default on any previous student loans, and are at least a halftime student. Check out the difference between a subsidized and an unsubsidized loan.
Also worth checking into are Direct Consolidation Loans from the U.S. Department of Education and FFEL Consolidation Loans from participating lenders such as banks, credit unions, and savings and loans. These types of loans allow borrowers to combine several types of federal student loans with various repayment schedules into one loan.
FEDERAL TAX CREDIT
The Lifetime Learning Credit provides a tax break of up to $2,000 per year for qualified expenses. The credit is per tax return, so if you also have kids in school, your maximum benefit is $2,000 per year. To claim the full credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be $66,000 or less or $132,000 or less if you are married and filing jointly. A tax pro can help you determine whether you are eligible for other back-to-school breaks, such as the American Opportunity Credit and deductions for tuition and expenses.
Hope Scholarship Tax Credit is an education tax benefit that allows taxpayers a credit of up to $2,500 (per student, per year) if they paid qualified tuition and related expenses for the first four years of postsecondary education.
Another option would be penalty-free IRA withdrawals which are limited to net postsecondary expenses for tuition, fees, books, equipment, and room and board.
SCHOLARSHIPS, ASSISTANTSHIPS, INTERNSHIPS, WORK-STUDY
Adult learners in continuing education can apply for a variety of scholarships - some are only offered specifically to older students. There are many free scholarship search services on the Web. Fastweb.com allows you to search scholarships by category, making it easier to identify relevant scholarships for you.
The Federal Work-Study Program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study. The program is administered by schools participating in the Federal Work-Study Program. Check with your school's financial aid office to find out if your school participates.
Assistantships, a paid academic appointment made to a graduate student that involves part-time teaching or research, is another way to help with educational expenses. Additionally, internships and cooperative education provide valuable work experiences while you earn some income.
State Aid. Some states offer special programs specifically for adults.
Veterans' Educational Benefit Programs. Veterans of the Armed Forces, members of the Selective Reserve, and National Guard members may have financial assistance available to them to help meet educational and living expenses.
It’s never too late to continue your education.
All content and photo provided in this blog is supplied by Chonce Maddox and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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