Is It Really Worth It When You Already Have a Full-Time Career?
Blog Barista: Jessica Davis | Nov 28, 2018 | Career Hacks | Brew time: 6 min
When you think about the return on investment (ROI) of going back to school, with close to half of your working years behind you, you have to ask, is it really worth it? Will the additional income over the next 20 or 25 years be greater than the cost of the degree? And what about the time commitment? If you have a young family and a full-time job, where are you going to find an extra 10 to 20 hours a week? These are all good questions to consider when deciding whether or not going back to school is really worth it. However, I believe the higher education was worth it all, and here’s why:
1. The Value of Education
I went back to school at 42 years old, thinking it was all about earning the credentials. However, I was surprised to find that the curriculum was not only relevant to my career, but immediately applicable, and challenging.
In my career, I manage proposal development for my company. I went back to school for a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Business Management. I learned a great deal about business, marketing, finance and leadership which all directly apply to developing narrative content for proposals. I have a new vernacular that helps me cultivate compelling arguments for selecting my company. Also, with a broader skill set, I am more valuable to my employer.
This “late” education affected my personal life too. For instance, now I invest in the stock market, outside of my employer’s retirement program. Which is something that felt complicated and intimidating to me before.
Finally, going back to school took four long years, many late nights, and a substantial sacrifice of time with family and friends. When you work that hard to earn something, it feels pretty damn good to cross the finish line. It has certainly increased my self-confidence.
Quantifying the value of everything that I just mentioned is difficult. How do you put a price tag on being better, smarter and more confident? Nor, can you anticipate what doors will open as a result of earning your degree. Although I cannot say that earning my degree will increase my pay, I can say that it was undoubtedly worth the investment.
2. There Are Low-Cost Options
I work a stone-throw away from a Big Ten university, from which most of my colleagues are alums. So, of course, that was my first thought, attend the Big Ten school. But, while the larger university is prestigious, it didn’t have an all-online option and it was considerably more expensive. Once I realized that online was a requirement for me, I narrowed my search and found that universities that offered online options were typically less expensive.
I was cautious because you usually get what you pay for in life. But, I did my due diligence in researching accredited universities, reading reviews, and looking at student outcome statistics, etc. I wound up selecting my university for several reasons:
1. It has a campus near my home;
2. It is accredited;
3. It has an all online program designed for working adults;
4. It offers free credit for work experience or test-outs;
5. It has a tuition-guarantee program that locks in rates as long as you remain consistently enrolled; and
6. It is competitively priced.
At the time I enrolled, books and technology were included in tuition, which was very attractive to me. Although some of the policies have changed, my university works hard to keep prices competitive while updating the technology and curricula often. Finally, most of my instructors work in fields related to the subjects they teach, so I always received real-world insight. Some of the instructors even encouraged students to call them directly for help, lending a personal touch to the learning experience.
While the smaller university I attended was the right choice for me, it may not be right for you. To find the best option for you, enumerate and prioritize your requirements, quantify your budget, and then make a list of all the universities that fit the criteria and start calling admissions offices. It pays to do your homework.
3. You Can Ask for Help
If the price tag is still a little too scary, consider asking for help. Many employers have tuition reimbursement programs. And even if they don’t have a stated program, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You might be pleasantly surprised. My employer didn’t have an official program, yet they were very generous which made it possible for me to go back. And, of course, there are student loans and scholarships. You can seek guidance from the university you are considering; you can talk to someone at your bank or credit union for advice; and you can search the internet for scholarships. There are all sorts of organizations that offer scholarships. You just have to be willing to work at finding them and applying.
Of course, you also have to be mindful of scholarship, grant, and loan scams. Once I enrolled and started applying for scholarships, I began receiving too-good-to-be-true phone calls about free grants and what not. Be skeptical and don’t give anyone personal information over the phone. Here’s a site with helpful information about scams: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/avoiding-loan-scams.
4. The Money Saving Perks
There are a variety of tax deductions and credits that help offset the cost of tuition, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit, as well as tuition and fee deductions. An easy way to navigate the options available to you is through TurboTax.
Also, your student status can earn you discounts all over the place. Just carry your student ID and ask if there is a student discount wherever you go. You’d be surprised. Software, mobile devices, theaters, restaurants, you name it, there is probably a student discount for it.
It’s Never Too Late
Aside of potentially higher pay, a degree offers more job satisfaction, deeper understanding of the world around you, and greater confidence which will open doors. There are ways to get your higher education less expensively and you can find many sources of financial help. Defining and prioritizing requirements, setting a budget, researching options, and creating a financing plan that considers tuition reimbursement programs, scholarships, student loan costs, tax breaks and discounts can help you find a way to go back to school on a limited budget. Aside of pay, earning a degree will empower you in more ways than you can imagine.
So, take it from me. It’s never too late to further your education. In just a few short weeks I’ll finally have a beautiful diploma with my name on it and a lot more free time. Therefore, I owe a big thanks to everyone that supported me throughout this journey, and an even bigger thanks to KL&A. I would not been able to do it without your support.
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