Can You Afford a College Degree?

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The following is a guest post by Clare Levison, CPA and Author of Frugal Isn’t
Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, Live Better. It is sponsored by Western International University.

For working adults wondering if they should go back to school for
a degree – or to upgrade their bachelor’s degree to a master’s – affordability
is, today, more important than ever. “How can I afford it?” is often the first question
students ask before they enroll.

But perhaps a better question would be “How can I afford to live
without a college degree?” 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median
weekly earnings go up and unemployment rates go down for each level of higher
education achieved. Americans with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $400 more
a week than those with only a high school diploma, and are also less likely to
be unemployed.

Yes, pursuing a degree costs money. However, prospective students
should be aware of cost-saving avenues they can pursue to keep their expenses
down.  In addition to saving money for a
college degree, professionals should look for avenues that help them reduce the
overall cost of education as well.

Here are a few tips that will help keep college costs down and
make a degree program a worthwhile endeavor:

Look everywhere for support 

Grants, scholarships and even employers’
tuition benefits are options everyone should investigate before enrolling in a
degree program. Contact the college you’re interested in attending to ask about
these options. If you are employed, ask your Human Resources department if the
company offers an education benefit.

Research loan options

Many students will need to take out
loans, but must ask careful questions about how loan debt can affect them before
enrolling in a program. Find out the repayment terms; the interest rate; the
anticipated monthly payments you’ll need to make once you’ve earned your degree;
if the loan interest or tuition expense can be used as a tax deduction; and ask
if an automated payment system is available. You may
discover that certain organizations will offer help with student
loans. This option may appeal to you if you’re interested in providing
services in exchange for student loan benefits, or in a work-study
program.

Try out a school before investing fully 

Ask yourself: “Will I
like the school I picked?” Western
International University
(West) lets students test drive its online
education program by taking the first two, 3-credit required courses for just
$200 each. If you determine you’re not ready for the time commitment, or you
are not sure about online education, you’ve only made a minimal investment and
the credits you earn may be accepted for transfer by other colleges or universities.
If everything is a perfect fit, you’ve also saved some overall tuition cost and
the credits apply to your West program of choice.

Keep earning money while enrolled 

Online degree programs like
the ones offered by Western International University provide students with
flexibility. You have the opportunity to continue
working if already employed, or start a job and complete coursework when
it’s most convenient for you.

Once a college degree is earned, you may be better able to achieve
your professional goals, and will have, according to U.S. labor trends, the
potential to earn more over your lifetime.

To learn more about Western
International University visit www.west.edu.

Clare K. Levison is a certified public accountant
and spokesperson for Western International University. Clare also serves as a
national financial literacy spokesperson for the American Institute of
Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).  She has served as a member of the Virginia
Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) Board of Directors and was
named one of the 2010 Top Five CPAs Under Thirty-Five by the VSCPA.

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