Are you thinking of returning to school to pick up new money-making skills? Before you do, investigate the likely pay (and availability) of the jobs you're aiming for. Your education will be worth its cost only if you'll earn more, after tax, than you paid for the course—including the interest due on any student loans.
When you borrow, there are two rules of thumb, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Cappex.com, a college scholarship search site. The total amount of your loan, for all school years, should not exceed the first-year salary you expect from your new job. And you should be able to repay that loan, in full, within 10 years. "Don't go into retirement carrying a student loan," Kantrowitz says. "If you think you'll probably work for fewer than 10 years, borrow less."
Here are seven cost-cutting tips:
1. Think about how much more education you actually need. Four-year degree programs are expensive and might not pay off for people starting in late middle age. Perhaps you can fulfill your ambitions in two years with an associate degree.
2. Your best choice might be a public community college. These schools offer a wide variety of vocational programs at modest cost.
3. Beware the expensive for-profit schools that advertise aggressively, promise you jobs and encourage you to borrow. Often they're just diploma mills, providing inferior or inappropriate training. Search online for complaints about any school you're considering.