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Set Your Sights on Higher Education

Don't let finances block the way for you, your children or your grandchildren

AARP empowers you to pursue your goals and dreams - Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep

Find a Cheaper Route

Attending a local college and living at home could save thousands of dollars a year.

Luciano-Ross and her two adult children attend schools close to home and still live under the same Waterbury roof (along with husband, Johnny, and youngest daughter, Katherine, 8), thus sparing the family the fat bills that would normally have come with dorm housing and a college meal plan.

Having three members of the family in three colleges at the same time often seems like a TV sitcom, says Saida. "There were times we'd all be studying in some corner of the house, one of us in the library, the other in the basement," she says. "I would sometimes do my reading in the car in the garage."

Two-year community colleges, like the one Roberto attends, offer another budget-conscious option. They typically cost much less than four-year colleges, and you can attend from home.

Choose a Hot Career Path

If you're going back to school to boost your income, consider aiming for a career path that offers the most opportunity. Some fast-growing careers that require a four-year or advanced degree include elementary- and secondary-school teachers, accountants, lawyers, doctors and computer analysts. Several professions — such as nurses, computer support specialists, preschool teachers, and insurance and real estate agents — require only a two-year associate degree. The online Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook — which covers growth in the field, potential income and nature of the work — is a great place to explore career fields. It is available in English and Spanish.

Whatever the choice, Veronica remembers her maternal grandmother's words: "She used to say to me, 'Education is always the number one priority!' " says Veronica. "I still hear her words in every classroom, during every test and during any obstacle that life throws my way."

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