Going back to school: Can you afford it?

Going back to school: Can you afford it?

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When you feel your career isn't working for you anymore, many job experts say it's time for a change.  But is going back to school an option?  

"Having my high school diploma only, I was really kind of in a box," Returning adult student Terri Thompson said.  "And I was limited to what kind of job opportunities were available even with experience."

That's why Thompson says she decided to go back to school. The single mother enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College, where she went on to graduate with an associate's degree. She says she expects to graduate from Georgia State University with a bachelor's degree in little more than a year.

"I'm studying computer information systems and finance," Thompson said.

And she's not alone.  According to Georgia State vice provost and chief enrollment officer Timothy Renick, more than 100,000 students who were enrolled at GSU this spring were over the age of 25.

Georgia State University is one of several metro Atlanta universities that welcomes non-traditional students. The total number of adults going back to school has only increased in recent years as the employment outlook has taken a turn for the worse.

"The adults that return usually have a goal in mind," Renick said.  "They either have a job-- in which case an advanced degree might give them a raise or give them the opportunity for a promotion-- or they're looking to switch careers.

"You almost feel like you've got that youth back again," Thompson said.  "And, you're like, ‘You know what? I can do this and on top of that I've got real-life experience.'"

As Thompson left her career as a realtor, she says she felt hesitant to take the big plunge. But, she says it surprised her to find a variety of financial aid resources available to help pay for her classes and books. And she says being an example to her 17-year-old daughter Madison has been the greatest reward.

"Now she sees it and she can actually know that she can accomplish whatever is that she puts her mind to. And she can compete her Bachelors, Master's PhD--and that's very exciting for us," Thompson said.

Here are links to some of the programs we mentioned:
Georgia Tech - Online Master's of Science in Computer Science ($7,000)

Technical College System of Georgia

Georgia Adult Education Association

Georgia State University - Veterans Services

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