Going back to school to get a certificate or degree is a great career—and life—move, but make sure you’ve done your homework first. Consider these important factors:
- Tally up the whole cost. Even if you don’t need to make a move, there are other costs besides tuition. Transportation, potential additional child-care expenses, books and supplies should be included on your list.
- Research which type of diploma best suits your goal. Do you need a degree, or will a certificate bring results? Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce reports that nearly 25 percent of diplomas awarded by colleges and universities are certificates. A certificate can make a job candidate more marketable in certain fields, such as business or technology, and generally can be earned in about one year.
- Will a degree result in increased income that will offset the expense? Do the calculations to determine how long it will take you to break even and whether it’s worth it in the long run.
- Will a degree bring additional job opportunities or enhance your desired career? It’s OK to consider returning to school for other reasons, too. Many adults see completing a high school or college degree as a personal goal, as much as a professional one. Be clear on your reasons for going to school and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
30 to finish: keep it up
Thirty to Finish. If you are going back to school on a full-time basis and your goal is to graduate on time and within budget, it’s important to remember that phrase. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education estimates that every additional year students spend in college costs them at least $50,000 in tuition, fees and lost wages.
Indiana law requires students to complete 30 credit hours each of their four years of college—an average of five classes per semester—to keep their maximum amount of certain types of state financial aid.
Research shows that students also are more likely to complete their degree if they commit to completing 30 credit hours each year. LearnMoreIndiana.org has details.
What’s the one thing adult learners should bring to college?
“An open mind. So many of our adult learners get involved in student organizations. They end up getting funding from our student travel grant program, and they have the opportunity to travel the world …. A lot of times we can help pay for those things. They can have a great experience that doesn’t cost them any more.”
—Kasey Price, assistant vice chancellor for Student Life
and Leadership, IPFW