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Is Education the Answer in Tough Economic Times?

While it may not be the best of times, the struggling economy offers a wealth of opportunities for a good outcome. Many workers have signed up for part-time college courses to broaden their skills and bolster their credentials. Maybe the time is right to pursue the dream job you put aside years ago in the interests of making money.

Continuing Education Pays Off
An estimated 5.8 million Americans have lost jobs or taken temporary jobs, which have since dried up . Many have taken action to improve their credentials. According to a survey by Monster.com, nearly a third of community colleges interviewed this spring reported a surge in enrollment, with similar trends reported by four-year schools. Students are pursuing associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, as well as signing up for certification programs in skills and technology that increase their value to employers.

The Commerce Department’s Census Bureau says added degrees and credentials pay off. While Americans who hold a high school diploma earn on average $1.2 million during their lives, those who add a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn nearly twice that amount. You could even complete a master’s degree–professionals with graduate-level degrees earn on average $2.5 million during their working lives.

Government Provides Help with College Tuition
The Obama Administration and Congress have attempted to boost educational opportunities and retrain Americans during the downturn through passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The stimulus act allocated $1.25 billion in funds for training laid-off Americans, $1.2 billion for training young workers who have lost jobs, and $500 million to retrain Americans to take new green jobs in sustainable energy fields. The ARRA also increases Pell Grants made available to undergraduate students and provides tax cuts for those who return to school.

Intangible Benefits of Returning to School Now
While you may incur debt in securing loans to pay for continuing education now, if you train for work in fields that hold great hope for increased hiring–healthcare, technology, management–you should be able to repay them once the economy rebounds. You don’t have to worry about layoffs, if you’re in school full-time. The same goes if you can keep your existing job while going to school online or in a part-time program.

No matter what you decide, it’s up to you to do your homework in evaluating your career choice, the education programs that can improve your skills and workplace value, and whether your new field shows promise once the economy is back in the black.

Publish date: July 14, 2009