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4 Reasons to Attend College During a Recession

A recession is a temporary slump in a nation’s gross national product. According to Goldman Sachs, the largest investment bank on Wall Street, the U.S. economy will have undergone a recession by the close of 2008. Yale University economist Robert Shiller agrees, predicting a steady drop in home prices over the next few years. Besides declining home sales, the 2008 nose-dive could also bring job losses and falling values for stocks and bonds. Fortunately, this financial cloud has a silver lining. A recession gives you a good excuse to enroll in school. Not only can you duck a possible layoff, but returning to college can help you gain useful new skills that could boost both your employability and your paycheck.

Reason #1: Career Advancement
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that well-learned workers generally gross more annual pay than less-educated employees. While people who only have high-school diplomas earn an average yearly salary of around $31,000, for example, employees with doctoral degrees garner a mean annual pay of about $75,000.

When researching possible degree paths, seek out programs that can improve your skills in your chosen field. If you work in middle management, for example, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) program could help you catapult into a senior management position. Paralegals or legal secretaries might look into advanced law degree programs, including human rights law, commercial law, and international property law. A medical assistant could upgrade his or her paycheck by gaining certification as a registered nurse (RN). But remember, advanced training doesn’t just increase your salary; it can also lead to more job responsibility, increased workplace challenges, and higher career satisfaction.

Reason #2: Find Your Calling
Many people enjoy their jobs, but not everyone has a career that makes them feel personally fulfilled. Still, some lucky individuals have managed to find careers with wonderful emotional rewards, from public schoolteachers to veterinarians to marriage counselors. If you want to obtain a more meaningful job, here are some tips to get you started:

Reason #3: Thriving Industries Still Abound
When a recession hits, slow-growing industries may be first in line to cut back on their employees. Instead of waiting for the axe to fall, you might be better off training for an industry with high growth prospects, such as health care or network systems. Here are some of the fastest-growing industries in America and the degree level you should achieve to enter each field:

Reason #4: It’s More Affordable than You Might Think
By planning carefully, you can finish your college education without plunging into serious debt. First, you should contact a financial counselor at your chosen university. Counselors can help you find department-based scholarships, research grants, and teaching assistantships. Next, you can scour the Internet for civic scholarships and corporate grants. Use research databases like Fastweb and the Financial Aid Resources scholarship page to speed up the search process. In addition, you should file your Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form online, which lets you borrow funds based on your financial status. Subsidized Stafford loans should give you the best deal, since the government usually pays interest on subsidized Stafford loans while you attend school.

Lastly, don’t overlook your workplace as a source for educational funding. According to U.S. News, around half of private corporations offer college assistance. Ask your workplace’s human resources department about tuition reimbursement plans. If your employer only offers tuition assistance to full-time employees, you might consider attending online courses in order to keep your day job.

Make Sure College Is the Right Choice for You
Before sending out university applications, remember that college typically entails a huge commitment on many levels. You can test your level of preparedness for college by asking yourself a few important questions, including:

Instead of viewing an economic recession as an obstacle, try to see it as an opportunity. By the time the economic recession has boiled over, you may already be working an exciting, lucrative new job.

Publish date: January 30, 2008