Most baby boomers and some Gen Xers will happily tell you how they worked their way through their higher education to achieve the credentials they needed to build their careers and create a happy, stable lifestyle.
But, these stories occurred more than half a century ago, when the minimum wage was a livable wage and when college tuition was less than a quarter of what students pay today. In 2022, almost half of all students are forced to take out loans to pay for their education, and those loans can take decades to pay off.
Believe it or not, it is possible to work your way through college in 2022, avoiding a large amount of student debt and graduating with the potential for high income and great success. Here are some tips for achieving the boomer college dream as a zoomer.
Find a Well-paying Job
Though your ultimate goal might be to get a college degree, you might start by looking for a good job. Thanks to the Great Resignation, now is an excellent time to find high-paying employment, as the labor shortage is causing employers to become desperate and offer higher salaries, better perks, and more to a wide variety of candidates.
Without a college degree, your options might be somewhat limited, but you should still hunt for a position that will cover your basic cost of living plus some extra for college savings.
Secure Education Benefits
During the application and onboarding process for your job, you should negotiate hard for education benefits. Again, because employers are eager to fill vacancies in their teams, they are more willing to offer desirable compensation packages to new employees.
Education benefits can include a wide variety of perks, but they most often include some amount of tuition assistance. Typically, workers who enjoy education benefits can take courses from specific universities at low or no cost, especially if they participate in online education which will allow them to maintain their current role as they improve their knowledge and skill.
Sometimes, employers require that workers taking advantage of educational benefits only enroll in courses related to their current position or a career path that can apply to their organization. If you are interested in enrolling in a program like a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you might need to be prepared to convince your employer how such an education for you could profit them.
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Enroll in Online Education
Traditional education involves commuting to your college campus on a strict schedule every day, which is time-consuming, expensive, and inconvenient. It is all but impossible to fit a full week of work into the traditional college experience, which means you probably will not be able to work your way through school if you enroll in in-person classes.
Fortunately, online education is more accessible than ever before. Every university offers a wide variety of online courses, even fully online degree programs, so students can complete their coursework anywhere, anytime.
What’s more, the stigma surrounding online education has been all but eliminated thanks to the pandemic, which compelled so many students to transition to fully online schooling in the name of public and personal safety. Employers do not care whether you earn your degree in person or online, so you might as well take advantage of a program that makes it easier to pay for your classes as you complete them.
Few college students can pay for their tuition and fees out of pocket. When you are trying to avoid relying on student loans, you need to convince other people to pay for your education. Your employer might contribute some to your tuition through education benefits, and you might be able to reduce the rest with scholarships.
Every college student must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when they enroll at a university. This form helps the school determine whether a student qualifies for reductions in their education costs through scholarships offered by the school itself.
In addition to any money you receive from your FAFSA, you should use online tools like the CollegeBoard to find additional scholarships that might help you pay for other aspects of your education, such as technology and books.
Some scholarships have a flat award dispersed once, and some scholarships continue dispersing money to winners over the course of their college careers. If you gain access to an ongoing scholarship, you need to be aware of the requirements for receiving the money. For example, you might need to maintain a certain number of credit hours or a certain GPA. You should be careful to follow whatever rules they set, as your scholarships will help you stay in school and avoid student loans.
Working your way through school is extremely difficult in this day and age — but it is not impossible. With the right employee perks, the right scholarships, and the right university resources, you can earn your degree without taking on debt.