Back to school for a career change? Regarding financial assistance, 2 students in the family is better than 1


If a career change requires you to go back to school right around the time another family also headed off to college, timing it so that you are both in school at the same time can increase your financial ability.

For example, in a previous post this month, I linked to an article about my father, who after years of producing TV ads, wants to become an assistant doctor’s – career change requiring him to complete two years of study. While his children are still preschoolers, if one or both happened approaching college age, he might find that syncing up back to school could make education more affordable cost.

Undoubtedly their head out of the workforce at the same time children are in college is a daunting prospect for many families, out of the question for others. But with the recent economic events are affecting job prospects, it might not be as unlikely a scenario as initially perceived would suggest. In fact, with the labor market so unstable, it could end up being the best course of action for some.

Still, if you take this route, know that while described is entirely possible to win, getting it right can be a tricky proposition, according to my conversations with planning college analyst Todd Weaver of Strategies for College, Inc. It is because the financial aid eligibility is determined at “the establishment” basis, and some are more flexible than others. In particular:

oMany colleges factor only student in the financial equation if he or she is pursuing a degree or certificate-based grant program.

osome insist that students meet at least part-time, usually 6 credit hours per semester. (ie one class per semester usually does not cut it.)

osome have “room” teaching, but others will also consider applications online.

o “for profit” schools can be less generous with scholarships, and lean more toward student loans.

Todd also confirmed my suspicion that if you save up enough money to support you at a time out of work, which could jeopardize the financial skills that would apply so late in the admission process college process financial aid awards have mainly been used up. But nothing is carved in stone, and you might be surprised at what you are entitled to. So what to do if this opportunity looks like it might apply to you?

oVisit Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator on Strategies for College site to run the numbers and get a glimpse of how your family’s financial aid situation could play out in several “what if” scenarios.

oAlways, always, always provide free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), even if you are convinced you are disqualified. As we have seen too often in the past year the situation can change dramatically in the blink of an eye.

Opla far in advance so that you meet financial deadlines with plenty of time to spare.