Is Going Back to School Right for You?

We discuss college enrollments trends and what needs to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to return to school or not.

There is a growing trend to return to school. Some of the increase can be attributed to population growth, but there is also a rise in the rate of enrollment. The National Center for Educational Statistics, or the NCES, says that 1989-2009 experienced a 38% increase.There are many reasons attributing to the enrollment increase including the recession, an increase in minority and older students, and an increase in public acceptance of online education. Studying past economic cycles shows that college enrollment increases during years of recessions. The NCES states that the average increase during recessions is 3.7 times that of other economic periods.During recessions the job market is more competitive and many people find themselves out of work. More people competing for jobs also mean that employers can pay their employees less.

Enrollment for minorities is increasing. The NCES states “From 1976 to 2009, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 3 percent to 12 percent, the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 7 percent, and the percentage of Black students rose from 9 percent to 14 percent.” The NCES shows that enrollment for the “under 25” crowd was up 27% from 1999-2009, while enrollment increased 43% for the “25 and older” crowd. The NCES expects the older student enrollment trend to continue; projecting a 9% increase in enrollment for students under 25 and a 23% increase for students 25 and older from 2009-2019.
The growing acceptance of online education is also a major factor in the increasing college enrollment rates. Online classes allow greater flexibility for adults with many other responsibilities. Online schools also increase accessibility for rural locations when traditional schools are not within reasonable driving distance.
Deciding to return to college can be an overwhelming decision. The following are some questions to take into consideration when deciding if it’s right for you. Why are you considering going back to school? Will your determination provide the motivation to see it through?
  1. What are your specific goals for going back to school?
  2. Can you afford the costs? What are your financial aid options; scholarships, grants, and other payment options?
  3. Can you qualify for any tuition reimbursement programs at work?
  4. Can you afford not gaining a college degree? In 2007 The National Center for Education Statistics showed a median salary increase of $22,000 for a 25-year-old male with a bachelor’s degree as opposed to one with only a high-school diploma.
  5. Do you have the time for class and schoolwork? Can you handle the extra stress?
  6. Is the right school within reach? Is the school you need available to you?
  7. Do you have the support you need? Are there people in your life who will support you? Do you need childcare?

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