We've covered stories of people who've gone to college without student loans. And we've covered stories of people buried in student loan debt. But one of the ways we don't really talk about too often is the slow road through college – basically people who are working full time and trying to get their college degree as well. Is it possible to work and go to school? Can you really do it?
Of course you can – it's the opposite of starting early, and more people go down this road than you would believe!
A Story Of Working And Going To College
The fact is, in many career paths, a degree is required for advancement beyond a certain level. And it's this motivation that typically inspires people to go back to school while working full time.
Let's look at the story of Gloria, who is a full time supervisor at a Fortune 100 company. She started as an entry level clerk after high school, and never went to college. However, she slowly promoted her way up to hourly supervisor, and eventually a key carrying supervisor. During this time, she also got married and had a couple of kids. As her kids started going to school full time, she had more time for herself beyond work and family, and she was wanting to get promoted – but needed a college degree.
To make it happen, she started a program at a for-profit college that allowed her to take one class per month by going two nights per week. It was a three year program, but she could go as fast or slow as she wanted. She could also combine the program with other classes, such as community college classes, if she wanted.
In the end, it took her almost 4 years to get her degree, but she was able to do it while working and NOT getting into debt. She paid as she went, and used a great employer benefit to help – tuition reimbursement. Today, she's been promoted to a salaried manager and was able to do it on her terms, on the slow road.
How To Be Financially Smart Working And Going To College
The key to making the slow road through college work for you financially is to make sure you're avoiding student loan debt as much as possible. Many <large> companies offer tuition reimbursement programs that can help you pay for school, sometimes even if you work just part time.
In Gloria's story, her company offered her $5,250 per year until all of her education expenses were reimbursed. If she left before it was paid off, she would just lose the difference. In her case, she took out student loans for the immediate payment, and used the annual tuition reimbursement payments to pay down her student loan debt.
However, in many cases, you could be made whole each year without even having to carry student loans. At our local State college, they offer a working business program that has 3 night classes per week. The cost is just $2,400 per semester, so $4,800 per year. It's a three year program, but each year you would be fully reimbursed by your employer.
Another famous example is Starbucks. They have their Starbucks U program that helps pay for education expenses, even if you just work part time.
Finding Tuition Reimbursement Plans
The key is to see if your company offers tuition reimbursement plans that can help you pay for college while working. You need to check with your HR department or ask your manager. Even if your company doesn't have a structured program, if you're looking to advance your career and develop yourself, many companies will consider directly paying for a part of your school.
This is a great way to avoid student loans while also being able to live your life more on your terms. Many people are doing these types of programs every year, it's just a matter of finding a program that works for you and your family, as well as your budget.