Paying for Continuing Education

There are several possible ways to finance your continued learning:

  • Submit a FAFSA to see if you qualify for federal student aid such as a Pell grant or Stafford loan.
  • Check with your college's financial aid department to see if any scholarships are available to nontraditional students.
  • Find out if your employer reimburses continuing education costs. Many do.
  • If you've been laid off, you may be able to collect unemployment benefits and severance payments at the same time if you're taking educational classes. Guidelines vary per state.
  • Inquire with your local college to see if they offer free tuition to senior citizens.

Why is Continuing Education Important?

We've all heard that time is money. This oft-quoted saying can also apply to your education. The more time you put into pursuing additional education, the more money you're likely to make. Census surveys show that those with college degrees make around $45,400 a year while people with only high school diplomas make about $25,900 annually [source: U.S. Census Bureau].

Pursuing a degree can pay off. But what if you already have one? In any career, you want to make yourself as highly valued as possible. Continuing education can allow you to add new skills to your resume -- making you more desirable to potential employers or just your current one. In a tough job market, in particular, increased levels of expertise can help you stand out among other job-seekers. And should you want or need to change careers, additional education is almost always necessary.

Just be aware that continuing your education may add to your financial burden in the short term. If economic times are hard or your current employment status is precarious, carefully weigh the pros and cons of continuing education before making any sizable financial investment in it.

Perhaps your desire to continue your education isn't motivated by money or professional ambitions. Maybe you want to pick up a new pastime or hone an existing hobby. Or, possibly, you're seeking to satisfy your intellectual curiosity or meet a personal goal. A 95-year-old Kansas woman graduated from college along with her granddaughter in an effort to complete an education she began more than 30 years prior [source: ABC News]. She went on to receive a master's degree at the age of 98 [source: Huffington Post].

Movie director Steven Spielberg was certainly well along in his career when he received his degree in 2002 [source: The Telegraph]. The film icon had three Academy Awards under his belt when he decided to complete his education.

These two scholars, and millions more across the country, prove that the motivations and rewards of continuing education are as varied as the people who pursue it.

Keep reading for lots more information on continuing education.