5 Ways to Afford Your Return to School
by UTEP Connect
Congrats! Making the decision to return to school – whether to complete your degree or add to it – is an exciting one. It’s a unique opportunity to pick up where you left off, or start a new phase of your journey with a certificate, online degree, or master’s program. One of the most crucial ways you can set yourself up for success is making sure to plan how you’ll fund your path forward.
Good news: There are plenty of opportunities that exist for new and returning students, as long as you know where to look. As you begin your search, consider the five options below:
1. SPEAK WITH YOUR EMPLOYER
Many organizations have a tuition benefit to help their employees grow within the company. Do your research and make a compelling argument for how a bachelor’s degree, graduate degree, or a certificate can help you hone or refine your skillset.
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to mention that your organization could be eligible for a tax break of up to $5,250 a year on your education-related expenses, too.
2. ADVANCE THROUGH YOUR MILITARY EXPERIENCE
If you’ve served in the military, you may be eligible for undergraduate and/or graduate education benefits under the GI Bill. While the exact benefits will vary based on your service and the level of degree you’re pursuing, it’s worth exploring if you’re eligible.
Pro-tip: The Military Student Success Center (MSSC) at UTEP can help you find access to available resources.
3. EXPLORE OPTIONS FOR FINANCIAL AID
If you’re considering taking on loans to complete or continue your education, make sure to borrow wisely. File a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and do your research on Perkins, Stafford, and Graduate PLUS loans – each comes with unique interest rates, fees, and maximums to consider before committing.
Pro-tip: File a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early and you may be eligible for additional aid.
4. SEEK SCHOLARSHIPS & FELLOWSHIPS
Undergraduate and graduate programs often have scholarships and fellowships to award based on merit. Make sure to check online databases (like scholarships.com and fastweb.com) with the Office of Scholarships to see what may be available. Then, work with an enrollment counselor to see what may be available based on your program and eligibility.
Pro-tip: Here’s a great list of scholarships for adults returning to higher education.
5. DON’T FORGET YOUR TAX CREDIT
Don’t leave money on the table during tax season – the Lifetime Learning Credit could help you to the tune of $2,000 in tax relief. Though it won’t be money upfront, it could help offset some of your education expenses to help make a degree more attainable.
Pro-tip: Learn more about the Lifetime Learning Credit – and if you’re eligible– here.