Six ways to finance your education

six ways to finance your education

Working adults know that changing jobs or moving up the ladder usually requires additional education. It can be a tough decision, especially when you have to balance your current job, family, and other obligations.

While you know education will pay off in the long run, what about the short term? It’s no secret that pursuing an undergraduate degree, an advanced degree, or certificate can be costly; however, you might be surprised by the resources available for adults interested in going back to school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison or elsewhere.

When it comes time to pay for tuition, consider these six strategies:

Ask your employer to help: Some employers offer tuition assistance or scholarships, but they don’t always advertise them. Ask your human resources department if these perks are available to you. Even if they don’t have a formal program, they may set aside additional funds for employee development.

Claim credit: Trim up to $2,000 from your federal tax bill each year you’re in grad school with the Lifetime Learning Credit, which can cover undergraduate, graduate, or skill-development courses. See if you qualify for this credit or the Tuition and Fees Deduction on the Internal Revenue Service’s website.

Scour scholarship databases: Fastweb and Peterson’s have searchable databases brimming with scholarship opportunities for grad students. Increase your chances of success by applying for scholarships tailored to your career path and distinctive aspects of your personal history.

Apply for Child Care Tuition Assistance: Financial assistance for income-eligible student-parents enrolled at UW–Madison is available to help cover child care costs while students are in class or at work.

Choose loans wisely:  The U.S. Department of Education has an office of Federal Student Aid that provides $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds to more than 13 million students. The Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan is the most common loan of many financial aid packages, but it may not cover all of your master’s degree expenses. Another loan option is the Federal GradPLUS loan, which is approved based on your credit.

Private loans can fill the gaps, and some offer a surprisingly good rate. When shopping for private loans it’s important to compare interest rates, repayment terms and lender incentives.

Budget smart: GradReady is a free online financial wellness program that explores paying for college, money management, and real-world finance through module-based learning. Get a jumpstart on planning your budget by creating your free account.

While researching financial resources can be time consuming, you’ll likely thank yourself in the future. Additional schooling is usually worth it, especially when it leads to a new, more fulfilling career that you can proudly say you worked to make a reality.