Getting a college education can significantly increase your earning power and can open up a world of job opportunities that are available only to college graduates. However, going to college can also be a very expensive proposition, especially a four-year program at a private college. If you are an adult and you are considering going back to further your education, it is very important to think about whether going back to college will make a good investment or not.
How to Decide if Going Back to College is Worth It
There are a few key factors to think about when making the choice about whether going back to college is a good choice as an adult or not. For example, you will want to consider:
- Whether you plan to work for long enough to make the investment worthwhile.
If you are going to retire in just a few short years, then going back to college probably isn’t the best choice unless you are going back simply to broaden your mind and you can afford the significant expense. You should think about how much you are likely to make per year after college and figure out how many years, approximately, it will take you to make up the cost of the education. For example, if going back to college would increase your income by $5,000 per year and college cost $20,000, you would need to work for at least four years before you broke even.
If you plan to stop working or reduce your hours, then you will also need to take the loss of your income during your school years into account.
To help make this calculation come out in your favor, look into scholarships and grants that may help you to reduce the cost of your education.
- Whether your college program will actually increase your income or make you more employable
Going to Harvard and getting a degree in business is a pretty good investment and one that is likely to open up a lot of opportunities for you. However, going to a school with a poor reputation or no reputation and/or getting a degree in something that doesn’t directly produce any marketable skills, such as majoring in ancient middle eastern philosophy of theatre and art, might not be such a great decision. Think about whether you will actually be able to get a better job, or advance more in your career, based on completing your college program.
- Whether you can afford the cost of college without seriously jeopardizing your financial security
Going way into debt or putting a hold on retirement savings can both have serious long-term financial implications. If you will need to do either of these things to go back to college, you may wish to explore other alternatives such as finding a cheaper college or saving up for a few years until you can better afford to go to school. You may also wish to think about easing in by taking classes at night or online while you are working so that you can slowly build up to getting a degree without jumping in and putting yourself into financial danger.
- Whether you have alternative ways to advance your career
Consider speaking to your current employer about whether they may offer programs that can help you to advance or learn new skills. You may be able to attend free training at your workplace that can have similar benefits to your career that a college degree would have.
Making the Choice
Ultimately, only you can decide if the sacrifice of money and time is worth it to get a college degree. If you get into a good school, can go without financial ruin and can graduate and make more money or do something that you love when you are done, then going back to college as an adult may be more than worthwhile.