What Would it Cost to Go Back to School?  

What Would it Cost to Go Back to School?  

How do you decide if going back to school is right for you? A new associate degree, bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD might help you increase earning potential or land a new job, but they can also be expensive and time consuming. Like any major investment, going back to school is a decision that requires a lot of thoughtful consideration.


Average Costs

The costs for graduate degree programs varies widely throughout American universities. In terms of average figures, you can anticipate tuition to fall around $30,000 to $40,000 annually plus books and ancillary needs. That’s according to Peterson’s, an educational service company.

Average annual tuition for bachelor’s degree programs can range from $9,700 to $35,000, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Associate degrees have a wide cost window too. Average tuition costs can be as low as $3,500 annually at public schools and up to $14,500 at private schools, according to Student Debt Relief.


Average Returns

If you consider new degrees to be a long-term investment, then calculating your ROI depends on several factors – notably, how much the degree cost and how quickly you can put it to use. For example, a two-year associates program costs a lot less and can be utilized sooner than an eight-year PhD.

In terms of straight average salaries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports those with a doctorate can expect to earn about $98,000, people with a master’s earn about $78,000, bachelor’s earn about $65,000, and those with an associate degree earn about $46,000. When calculating your potential ROI, remember to note your anticipated cost, length of time before you’ll begin to receive gains, and how many years you expect to be working before retirement.



Grants and scholarships should be your starting point for college financing. Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education (CHE) is a great place to look because it has numerous offerings like the Adult Student Grant, the Workforce Ready Grant, the “You Can. Go Back.” program, and other financial aid options. There are also federal student aid and grant programs worth evaluating.

If you decide to look for a student loan, keep an eye on the interest rates. Federal student loan interest rates are about 2.75% for undergraduates and 4.30% for graduate programs, as of September 2020. Fixed private loans can range from 3.82% to 14.50%.


Choosing a Program

Two of the most important things to think about when evaluating different degree programs are logistics (as in proximity and convenience) and quality.

Finding the time to add schoolwork to your already busy life can get complicated fast, so it’s good to make sure your chosen school can accommodate your schedule and circumstances. Also, people learn differently, and education is now more adaptive than ever. Online programs, for example, can be a great option for working professionals and parents.

Secondly, make sure you’re investing in a high-quality degree. Take a look at graduation rates because they can tell you a lot about how students value the program. Also consider the average debt rates upon completion and job placement figures (if applicable).


Industry Relevance

Make sure your new degree will be applicable to things your career objectives will need, such as licenses, certifications, etc. Check with your relevant industry and/or state licensing boards beforehand to confirm that your chosen program will be accepted.


Will You Be the Oldest Student in Class?

Nope. The percentage of adult learners in various degree programs is only projected to increase over the next decade. In fact, many two- and four-year colleges are actively revamping their marketing and recruitment efforts to better target adult demographics.


Much to Think About

Education gives us a lot to think about, but don’t let the prospect of returning to school intimidate you. If you make a careful analysis of your unique situation, it’s likely the appropriate educational pathway for your objectives will become clear. The decision to earn a new degree could be a great investment for your career and, one day, one you might be very glad you made.

Category Features, Finance