Can You Afford to Go Back to College?

Updated on April 20, 2018
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Sadie Holloway writes about enjoying the good life while living on a modest income. She loves finding creative ways to save money.

The cost of a college degree will be one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your life. But going back to school could be a worthwhile expense if you are thinking about a career change. Here are some ways to help you save money on your mid-career college education.

Going to college is a smart way to boost your career potential

But can you afford to do it?

Whether you're paying all of your tuition fees or you’re taking out student loans to get your degree, saving money on the cost of going back to school should be at the top of everyone’s agenda! From slashing the cost of groceries to opting out of unnecessary fees and add-ons, the tips in this article will show you how to get the best value out of your post-secondary education. Remember, every penny adds up!

The first step in cutting college costs is to scrutinize your student fees. How much of those student fees are optional? How much of the add-on programs, services, fees and membership dues are you actually going to use? Some common extracurricular fees and expenses can include:

  • Recreational fees
  • Special interest club fees and membership dues
  • Student union membership fees
  • Bus passes
  • Parking fees
  • Recycling fees and environmental levies
  • Deposits on equipment, tools and specialized workshop supplies
  • Studio and lab fees

Look at your list of extra college fees and find out which ones you can opt out of if you're not going to be using them. Another way to save money at school is to stay organized and avoid paying unnecessary fines and overdue fees. Pay your tuition fees on time to avoid being hit with an interest charge. Get your books back to the library on time. Penalties, fines and interest fees here and there can make the cost of going to college much higher than it needs to be.

Consider buying used textbooks to save money on the cost of college.
Consider buying used textbooks to save money on the cost of college.

What are some other ways to save money on the cost of college?

1. Buy second-hand textbooks. One way to cut back on the cost of going to college is to buy used textbooks. You can save hundreds of dollars on the cost of school books by taking the time to do some online research. Used books can be sourced from Craigslist or Kijiji. Amazon also sells used books online, and depending on what shape they are in, you could be knocking a few hundred dollars off your back to school budget. And just because you bought your books second-hand, doesn’t mean you should treat them roughly. Keep them in the best shape possible and at the end of the year, you may be able to sell them to another student who needs to scale back the cost of going to school.

2. Take advantage of as many on campus resources as you can. After all, you're already paying for these school services in your student fees. Computer labs, gym equipment,and a variety of arts and culture programs are often available for free on campus, or at the very least, for a nominal fee. Does your college campus have a lively arts and culture scene? Instead of going to feature films and movies, take in a screening of a student art film. Instead of going to a pricey Broadway show, visit the fine arts department and find out about upcoming theater productions and concerts. Tickets for these shows are often free for college students.

Taking in a student theater production on campus is a fun and affordable way to experience local arts and culture.
Taking in a student theater production on campus is a fun and affordable way to experience local arts and culture.

3. Try telecommuting to save money at college. Consider taking one or two online or correspondence courses each semester in addition to the college classes you take in person. Just like telecommuters who save money on transit and transportation costs, you can reduce the number of times you commute to and from school. And that will add up to save you money on the cost of college. You'll also be helping out the environment by driving to school less often!

4. Seek expert advice to help lower tuition fees and save money. Visit the financial aid office and find out what services they have to help students manage their expenses and keep the cost of going to college manageable. Colleges and universities don’t want to see students graduating with piles of debt. They don’t want to see students struggling to keep up with classes because they’re working several part-time jobs to pay for school. Colleges and universities have a vested interest in making sure you succeed. If you’re struggling with the high cost of going back to school, your financial aid office may be able to refer you to an experienced financial planner or credit counsellor.

5. Take your student card with you wherever you go, on campus or off campus. An easy way to save money at college is to always carry your student ID with you all the time. You'd be surprised at how many businesses, attractions and service providers offer discounts to students. But to get these discounts, you must be able to prove you are a student. Your college ID is valuable! Don't leave home without it! Some discounts for college students can be as high as 40 - 50%, depending on the retailer. That's money in your pocket!

Find out if there are any on campus or local financial institutions (bank, credit unions) that offer free tools and resources to help you manage your money effectively at school. Starting over in a new career field doesn't mean you need to graduate with a pile of debt on your shoulders. The more you learn about how to pay for your secondary education as cheaply as possible, the sooner you’ll start saving money and reaching your financial goals.

Does your student card entitle you to discounts in transit or other vital services? Find out what perks are avialble to you  if you want to save money on the cost college.
Does your student card entitle you to discounts in transit or other vital services? Find out what perks are avialble to you if you want to save money on the cost college.

One of the reasons that many adults put off going back to school to boost their career prospects is the perceived cost of higher education. When you are struggling to make ends meet working at a job that stresses you out and drains your energy, the thought of going back to school can be daunting. But sometimes spending money on retraining or furthering your education is a justifiable expense. Find creative ways to spend money on the little things, so that you can afford to spend money on the big things like tuition.

© 2017 Sadie Holloway

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