Financial Tips for Going Back to School

If you’re considering going back to college to boost your credentials, you’re probably on the lookout for money-saving strategies. Here are five dollar-stretching tips to keep you at the top of your class.

Fill out FAFSA

If you’re looking to continue your education, your first stop should be the Free Application for Federal Student Aid website. FAFSA requires your income, housing and tax information, so be sure to have last year’s tax return ready when you apply. Plus, most colleges and universities require that you complete the FAFSA to become eligible for other funding opportunities, including grants, scholarships, federal loans and federally subsidized work-study jobs.

Get grants and scholarships

While most grants and scholarships are directed at younger students, there are plenty of opportunities for older, non-traditional students as well. According to Forbes contributor David Randall, websites like and FastWeb can help you find scholarships based on your demographic characteristics, like age and location. You can also receive grants based on financial need, such as the Federal Pell Grant, along with merit-based grants.

Take advantage of employer benefits

Before taking on debt from federal or private student loans, check to see if your current employer offers educational benefits. Alexa Mason, a contributor to The College Investor, explains that some companies may help you cover the cost of your education — especially if your degree will advance your current career. Employers can pay up to $5,250 per year for your classes — and it won’t count as income for you, as long as it’s a benefit that’s offered to all employees. Further, if you’ve served on active duty in the military for more than 90 days since Sept. 10, 2001, you qualify for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Depending on how long you served, the military may cover your tuition and fees, while providing a stipend for your books, supplies and housing.

Look into low-cost programs

Depending on your career goals, current skills and employment status, you might qualify for free or low-cost courses. These programs run the gamut from counseling to computer programming. Furthermore, some states provide free or low-cost programs based on industry demands. For instance, Florida has a free program to help train registered nurses, while North Carolina offers its residents an education in pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields. With so many potential opportunities, be sure to check your state’s offerings.

Know your tax benefits

Older students can take advantage of some notable tax credits and deductions. The Lifetime Learning Credit is geared towards adults attending school part-time. John W. Roth, a senior tax analyst, explains that it boasts a credit equal to 20 percent of qualified education expenses up to $10,000. In other words, that’s $2,000 taken directly off of your tax liability. Better yet, you don’t even have to enroll in a degree-granting program to use this credit, and you can use it for as many years as you’re studying. Just keep in mind that the credit diminishes as your income rises. Singles who earn an adjusted gross income of $58,000 or more and couples who earn above $116,000 don’t qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Are you looking to head back to campus or earn the degree you’ve always dreamed of having? Talk to your financial advisor to learn more about your options for continuing your education.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply