Going Back to College as an Adult

Today’s post is inspired by my husband as well as myself in a way, but mostly just him. It’s back to school season, and not just for the grade schoolers! While I got to sleep in, manage the house and watch the kids yesterday, Mike arose early out of bed to drive to his first of many 7 am classes followed by another two classes.  This is normal in Israel but here I have my doubts. He then drove directly to the train and then to work.

In total, his day lasted 21 hours straight. You see, Mike works a full-time job 2 and a half hours away in Lexington, owns a house, has a wife (me!), two kids and is now a traditional full-time college student (after a 7-year hiatus!). It’s not like he works a dead-end job that pays very little.

It’s just that in his field, in order to really make a decent living, you have to bust your butt and work a ton of overtime that isn’t even necessarily always available. To have a 5-hour round-trip commute to a job you cannot stand can really wear a person down.

So when we discussed me going back to school in the fall, he decided that was something he wanted to do as well. And he isn’t going to school for just any degree. He’s pursuing a degree in something he truly enjoys. That’s the freedom of education! What do you call doing work that you love? Not doing work at all!

This brings me to my thoughts on returning to college as an adult. I myself am also returning (start the 10th), but being in my early twenties, it’s not as far-fetched for me as it is for someone who will be getting a degree when they’re 30 (or older), like Mike. Why go back to college now? Maybe you want a more rewarding, higher paying job to better support your family. Perhaps you feel you can get further in your company if only you had that degree. Maybe you’re looking for something new and to switch fields altogether.

For people without a college degree, finding work, especially if you’re unemployed, is extremely difficult. Almost every job ad out there states they are looking for someone with a Bachelor’s degree so that leaves those without one with basically 3 options: Work a low-end job slowly work your way up the corporate ladder year after year hoping you make a decent living; be one of the lucky few to strike it rich by inventing something or opening your own business (although a degree would significantly help in this instance); OR get a GED, then a college degree and start earning a decent living right away. Having a degree makes you much more marketable than someone without one.

I know it’s pretty daunting to even think about going back to school as an adult. You most likely already devote 40+ hours to a job and don’t think you have the time, especially if you have a family and kids. There are so many options nowadays that I honestly feel like there is no excuse anymore other than you just don’t want to! It sounds mean, but if you want it, you can do it! Colleges now offer night classes, weekend classes, and online classes.

Looking into online colleges, many of them feel like fake colleges with bogus degrees and high tuition costs–I know because I’ve looked into many of them. But at the same time, I see it has changed. Practically all well-reputed school offer their courses online as well today. A couple of years ago, once you inquire online, they start hounding you by phone and email trying to convince you to enroll. It’s so sketchy! Now you can avoid all that because many state colleges are offering legitimate online degrees.

Another common worry with college is when it comes to finances. I know so many people that flat out say they can’t afford it. What people don’t realize is the amount of financial aid available can easily cover all the costs of going to a state college. Between federal and state grants, federal loans that you don’t pay until you graduate and scholarships for being a transfer or non-traditional student, going to college has never been more affordable! If you’re like my husband who chooses a private institution, out of pocket costs do go up–however, you still have affordable options.

Now for some numbers. On top of grants (free money), as of 2016, federal loans will cover up to $57,500 of your whole undergraduate study. Want to go to graduate school? You can get federal loans up to $138,500 or $224,000 for health professionals. Although the numbers sound ridiculously high, it doesn’t mean you’d need to borrow those full amounts or even pay them back right away! These loans don’t go into full repayment until after you graduate and they are at a low, fixed interest rate. If you needed to borrow $15k a year to cover the leftover expenses that grants didn’t cover for a private school, after 4 years, that’s $60k borrowed. When you get back to work, with your new degree, you could be making that in your first or second year of work. The return on investment is incredibly high, don’t you think so?