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Get On the Couch and Earn Your Degree

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Like many of us, you have considered returning to school many times — and then life got in the way. You have weighed the sacrifices of time and money and couldn’t think of a way to make it all work. And you have new reason to worry about cost, in particular, given the down economy. Heck, with your household budget shrinking before your eyes, how can you consider shelling out the money that it will take to earn a degree, despite the wisdom that future opportunities will make that investment worthwhile? So, you’ve set that goal aside yet again. It may sound ridiculous, but current economic conditions actually indicate that this is an ideal time to go back to school. Consider the following:

A tight economy means you must find a competitive edge.

The economic downturn will require employers to curb costs and tighten spending on their workforce, and that will likely lead to job cuts. Investing in your knowledge base is a smart decision, because it prepares you to increase your contribution and be relied upon more heavily at your current job. Your education credentials will also make you a stronger candidate when you find yourself in the job market. You will also open up new opportunities by connecting to a new network of classmates and professors who also happen to be professionals in your current or desired industry.
Tuition increases are all over the news, but affordable — and quality — education options do exist. Online.
Schools, like other businesses, are facing pressure to raise tuition in response to the increasing costs of doing business. But there are still some affordable options to be found. One of the best deals around is at American Public University — an online school with undergraduate and graduate-level tuition that compares very favorably to most state schools.
Yet tuition is just one component of the overall cost of a degree. For one, costs can vary widely based on whether or not you can transfer previously earned credits or experience into a school — meaning you need fewer classes to earn your degree. Be sure to ask if the school you’re considering has a policy that limits the amount or types of credit you can transfer. Also, consider talking to other students about their experience with transferring credit.

With gas prices at the current levels, you also have to consider how much money it will take to commute to and from school. If you choose to go to school online, you won’t have to factor the cost into the equation!

When it comes to cost, also be sure to look into the tuition dollars and reimbursement programs available through your employer. Programs will vary, and you will want an understanding of what is covered in terms of curriculum as it relates to your job responsibilities as well as caps on costs, the payout timeline and any payback responsibilities you may have upon termination of the employment relationship.

Ultimately, you want to make a smart — not a cheap — decision. It won’t make sense for you to pay less for your degree if the quality of the education is not good. At the end of the day, you are investing time and money to gain knowledge that will help you advance in your career. When it comes to assessing quality, you have help. Regional accrediting bodies assess and monitor the quality of education provided at higher education institutions, so make sure your chosen school meets their criterion and is accredited. You will also want to ask students and alumni about their experiences with the reputation of the degree among employers. (If you don’t know any personally, visit online forums on school groups within social networking communities and/or ask the school’s admissions counselors to speak with someone directly.)

The bottom line is that, in this economy, you need to keep your skills and knowledge current to advance — much less maintain — your career opportunities. Perhaps the greatest cost that you can’t afford is to be left behind while your peers enhance their skills. With today’s affordable and convenient online education options, you can make it work! So, what are you waiting for? Get on the couch, power up your laptop, and take the first step.

By Online Learning Tips Staff

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