by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Lifestyle Writer
Pocono Family, March/April 2016
So you’d like to further your education, but with a job and a family, you don’t know where you’d find time for the commute and classes let alone to study? Even if you could, there are the ever-increasing costs for classes and books to squeeze into your budget. Fortunately, today there are many ways to overcome these obstacles and earn a college degree fast, or at least faster.
If you’re undecided about your career goals, get started by reading one of these books: What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles; or Who Do You Think You Are? by Keith Harary and Eileen Donahue. You can also check with a local institution for the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator test to discover your interests and strengths.
Next, list your educational goals and discuss the importance of them with your family to gain their support.
Finally, visit nearby colleges or visit their websites. Find out which offer the courses, degree, and options for earning credits that suit your needs.
Non-traditional college credit: a good option to earn your college degree fast
Today, more and more accredited colleges offer a variety of options for earning nontraditional course credit, which make it easier to earn a college degree fast. Look into this option first to save time and money.
At some colleges, you can earn Self-Acquired Competency (SAC) credits. These may have different names at various institutions. But such credits are available for a wide range of skills and life experiences. This requires compiling a portfolio for faculty evaluation. Your portfolio will include on-the-job training, work and volunteer experience, workshops, seminars, and more. If you served in the military, you may be eligible for Military Service Credit for the education you gained through schools, experience, or service.
You can also earn credits by examination. Some of these include:
- Credits for College-Level Examination Programs (CLEP)
- Advanced Placement Examinations (AP)
- Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES)
Credit by examination can also save time and money if you have knowledge in a particular area or if you study and test well. But be sure to check with your institution before enrolling since credit may not be awarded following admission.
Another possibility to earn a college degree fast is if you’ve completed any noncollegiate or in-company sponsored programs or courses. Find out if those programs or courses are any of the thousands reviewed by the American Council on Education (ACE). If so, ask your academic institution if they award credits based on ACE recommendations.
Correspondence and online courses: more options to earn a college degree fast
Independent study programs offer a couple options. Online courses can be taken in the convenience of your home. These usually require attendance (at your computer) at specific times. Correspondence courses are a good option also because there are no schedules. They usually allow six to eighteen months for completion with extensions up to one year. On the other hand, you could speed through these courses to earn a college degree fast. Evening and weekend courses, as well as accelerated programs, also offer some flexibility.
How to pay for tuition and books
There are many options for financing your education. The Federal Pell Grant is awarded based on financial need. The maximum award amount for the 2017-2018 school year will be $5,920.
Several other options include:
- The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- The Federal Work Study program
- The Federal Perkins Loan
- Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan
- Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
Many scholarships are also available. For example, if you’re a single mother, you might qualify for grants and scholarships available to single parents. Ask your academic institution what it offers. A wide variety of other scholarships is available as well. Check with your institution, a scholarship guide, or an online scholarship search.
Ask your employer if it offers reimbursement for college courses. If the classes pertain to your job, your employer may cover the costs.
Finally, don’t forget the HOPE Scholarship, a tax credit available for eligible taxpayers, totaling $1,500. There’s also the Lifetime Learning tax credit. Certain requirements and restrictions apply.
Coordinating multiple responsibilities
Like most women, you probably wear many hats. But with a little planning and finesse, you can develop workable solutions that’ll free-up time for your studies.
Start by making a list of all your responsibilities, then cross off anything unnecessary. Where else can you save time? You can do house cleaning every ten to fourteen days rather than weekly. Skip cleaning anything that isn’t in dire need until the next time. Straighten up only the main rooms on a daily basis. Others can wait.
Make a pact to limit volunteering your time until you’ve reached your educational goals. If ‘no’ isn’t in your vocabulary, create reminder cards. Then put them near the phone and in your purse, so you’ll be prepared to say ‘no’ at all times.
Assign your children some additional chores.
Discuss the importance of furthering your education with your partner. Ask which responsibilities he’s willing to take over until you’ve accomplished your goals.
Trade babysitting with a friend, neighbor, or relative for some quiet study time.
Set a schedule with your partner for watching the kids so you can study at the library.
Ask your employer if you can take shorter lunch breaks and leave earlier. Another possibility is for your employer to allow you longer work days but fewer for an extra day of study each week.
Colleges that offer independent study
Before enrolling, make sure credits are transferable and the institution is fully accredited.
- Indiana University’s School of Continuing Studies, Independent Study Program.
- Eastern Michigan University, Distance Education Program.
- Ohio University Lifelong Learning Programs, External Student Program.
- University of Colorado at Boulder Independent Learning Program.
- Upper Iowa University, External Degree Program.
- The University of Texas at Austin Continuing and Extended Education, Distance Education Center.
Resources for financial assistance
- Visit Fast Web for information on colleges and a scholarship search at http://www.fastweb.com
- For federal grants and loans request your Student Guide by calling (800) 433-3243 or visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/resources
- Visit the U.S. Department of Education for information on tax credits at https://studentaid.ed.gov/types/tax-benefits
Kimberly Blaker is a women’s lifestyle content writer and available for hire.