You might be able to lower your tuition costs by taking advantage of tax deductions, completing the FAFSA, checking with your employer about tuition assistance, applying for scholarships and grants, and choosing a less expensive school, whether you’re starting your bachelor’s degree late or returning for a graduate degree.
It can be expensive to earn a degree if you’re considering going back to school as an independent adult to expand your professional options or change careers entirely.
Fortunately, there are a few strategies to reduce the cost of college tuition and other educational expenses, such as using tax benefits, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), looking for financial aid, and more.
Here are some excellent locations to start while you weigh your alternatives.
1. Make use of tax breaks
You might qualify for one or more tax benefits, depending on your circumstances. Here is a brief description of each one:
- American opportunity tax credit: If you haven’t yet gone to college, you can be eligible for a credit of up to $2,500 each year for your first four years of education. That amounts to 100% of your first $2,000 in allowable educational costs for the year, followed by 25% of your subsequent $2,000 in costs. Keep in mind that the credit is only refundable up to $1,000.
- Lifetime learning credit: You can still receive up to $2,000 annually with the lifetime learning credit even if you are no longer eligible for the American opportunity tax credit. That amounts to 20% of the first $10,000 you spend annually on eligible educational costs. Remember that this credit is not transferable.
- Deduction for student loan interest: If you elect to borrow money for school, you may be able to write off up to $2,500 in interest per year. But if you decide to postpone your payments until after you graduate, you won’t be eligible for this tax credit until then.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that each of these tax benefits has its own constraints, including monetary thresholds for income and permissible expenditures. To ascertain your eligibility, speak with a tax expert.
2. Complete the FAFSA
Your application for federal financial aid, such as student loans, grants, and work-study positions, is known as the FAFSA. Additionally, your school uses it to establish your eligibility for aid from the state and the school.
Because of this, it’s essential that you submit the form before the deadline each year; to find out when this is, speak with your financial aid office.
But don’t wait until the last second. Because some types of financial help are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, the earlier you submit your application, the greater your chances are of receiving aid.
The good news is that since you are an independent adult, you won’t need to give your parents any financial information, which should speed up the procedure.
3. Inquire about Tuition Assistance from Your Employer
As an employee perk, several companies provide tuition aid, frequently in the form of a reimbursement. In fact, the IRS permits employers to offer totally tax-free tuition assistance of up to $5,250 annually.
If you want to learn more about the educational perks offered by your workplace, speak with the human resources manager. It’s important to keep in mind that certain businesses may require you to work for the business for a set period of time before you can benefit from the perk, so if you’re planning to go back to school soon, moving employment to a firm that offers it may not be the best move.
Additionally, keep in mind that there are some expenses for which you could not be eligible for reimbursement, including but not limited to:
- Sports, games, or hobby-related courses unless they are necessary for a degree programme or have a clear connection to the employer’s company
4. Submit a grant or scholarship application
To find out if you qualify for any scholarships or grants, check with your school’s financial aid office. Many schools and universities provide aid based on academic achievement or financial need.
You can also look for grants and scholarships offered by private organisations.
5. Opt for a Cheaper School
The sticker price of tuition isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the value you receive for your money, despite the allure of attending a school with a well-known name.
Before selecting a university, do some research to see which ones are the best for your chosen subject of study and whether you can afford a great education. It might even be worthwhile to enrol in a community college for the first few years if you don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree in order to complete your general education requirements.
When completing the FAFSA, be sure to choose several schools so you can readily compare the financial aid award offers from each one and decide which would make attending college the most reasonable.
To increase your financing options, improve your credit.
You’ll need to cover a variety of living costs while you’re enrolled in school in addition to tuition and other educational charges. You might need to use alternative credit choices to stay afloat if you don’t intend to keep working a full-time job while you go to school.
As you start or resume your college career as an adult, keep an eye on your credit to determine how healthy it is overall and to make changes to establish and maintain a solid credit history. You’ll have a better chance of being approved with favourable conditions if you need to rely on a personal loan, 0% intro APR credit card, or another type of credit to get by.