“Job training empowers people to realize their dreams and improve their lives.” - Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Have you done a skills appraisal and decided that it’s time to study some more?
There were 140,000 mature students in the UK in 2017. Plenty of people are going back to school to gain new skills, change careers, or get ahead in their current job. But before you go back to your studies, you’ll need to plan everything out, choose where you’re going to study, apply, and work out exactly how you’re going to pay for it.
So how much does it cost to go back to school and what funding is there for mature students?
The Cost of Going Back to School
Continuing education includes training for those who are working and haven’t been to school in a while. Generally, it covers those who start their undergraduate degree course over the age of 21. The definition could also be extended to those who’ve had a gap of over two years in their education. That said, there’s nothing to stop those going back to school.
Continuing education comes at a cost. There’s a lot more financial support available for those who remain in education than for those who go into work and come back to their studies later in life. This is why you need to carefully research how you’re going to pay for your studies.
That said, you’ll pay the same tuition fees as any other student. In the UK, tuition fees for undergraduates are capped at £9,250 per year. 76% of institutions charge the full amount so this is effectively what you can expect to pay for tuition. It costs even more if you’re not a UK or EU student so you might want to avoid any nasty surprises.
There are also other types of training and lifelong learning available for those who don’t fancy going to university. There are also shorter courses at university available. You mightn’t need to study for 3 or 4 years to get ahead in your career. That said, there are also private institutions that can cost even more than a degree! As you’ll have understood, it depends where you go, what you study, and how long you go for.
If you do decide to opt for private institutions, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to benefit from any financial support. Most financial support is for those attending university courses or government-recognised qualifications. It’s generally more costly at private establishments than in schools and unis. Your study plans can quickly fall apart if you haven’t planned financially.
Financial support can help but you’ll need to see if you qualify for it. Make sure you apply for financial aid as soon as you can as certain funding options can take a while to reach your account. Without financial aid, continuing education may be beyond the reach of some. However, most institutions are happy to take your money and don’t care whether it comes directly from you or via financial support.
If you can’t get any financial support, you may need to save before you go back to school. This may mean that you’ll have to put off your studies until you’ve saved enough.
No matter what your financial situation, keep in mind that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Whether it’s through financial support or saving, anyone can go back to school.
Discover the benefits of being a mature student.
Student Finance from the Government
Mature students can apply for student finance and the amount you’ll get will depend on the course you’re studying and your family situation. Families with children can get extra financial support. Just have a look at need-based financial aid and childcare funds.
Similarly, if you're financially responsible for an adult there's funding available. Anyone can apply so you might want to meet with a career counsellor and discuss your options both in terms of studies and financial support.
The main options for financial support are:
- Student finance (student loans)
There are plenty of resources and career services available to help you work out the best options for you. Even if you’re not attending a university course, you can still get scholarships, bursaries, or help with paying tuition and fees or the cost of training courses. Fortunately, the cost of attendance is almost the same at every university in the UK so you'll have a pretty good idea of the tuition fee.
Find out more about your options as a mature student.
If there isn’t any funding available for you, you could always get funding in the form of a loan. While this isn’t advised given how much financial support is available, if you’re doing a private course or training, you mightn’t qualify for student finance or a student loan and need to borrow from private funding options.
Always make sure that you can afford the loan repayment before taking out a loan or seeking financial assistance from a bank or lender and keep in mind that a private loan isn't free money and since you're not guaranteed a job when you finish your course, private loan debt can cripple families financially if you're the sole contributor.
If the training or education is related to your current job and you intend to use it to improve your performance at work, you might want to see if your employer will fund it. This is better than having loans that need to be repaid.
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Funding from Your Employer
Certain companies may offer to fund their employees’ education or training. Of course, this is usually only for training related to your job. That said, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some larger companies are happy to pay for their staff’s training and education if it provides them with better staff.
There may also be smaller companies that adopt this mentality too. In addition to covering the cost of your course, some may even cover living expenses. Check with them to see if they would consider paying for college or university courses but don't expect the answer to be a yes.
Find out what it's like being a mature student.
Funding Your Studies
When there’s no financial support available to you, you’ll have to fund your studies yourself. You might consider working part-time while taking night classes or distance learning.
If you can, try and save before you start studying more and working less. Savings are useful if you want to pay for college or university yourself, don't qualify for grants and scholarships, or don't want the burden of private loans or student loans.
Some people may be able to get financial support from family members or their partner. Whatever your financial situation, it’s important that you remain motivated.
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On Superprof, you can find life coaches, career tutors, and academic support tutors and there are three main types of tutorial available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Each type of tutorial comes with its pros and cons and you'll need to think about your budget and your goals when choosing which one to go for.
Face-to-face tutorials are between you and your tutor. As the only student in the class, you'll benefit from tailored sessions and your tutor's undivided attention. While these are often the most costly type of private tutorial, they're also the most cost-effective thanks to how much time your tutor can spend focusing on you.
Online tutorials are similar to face-to-face tutorials in terms of the tutor-student ratio but your tutor won't be in the room with you. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can now get private tutoring via webcam using video conferencing software such as Skype. While not ideal for hands-on subjects, online tutorials are great for academic subjects and they're often cheaper than the face-to-face tutorials since the tutor doesn't need to factor travel costs into their rates.
Finally, group tutorials, as you may have guessed, are when you're taught alongside other students in a group. With several students footing the bill, these tutorials often work out cheaper per student per hour. While cheaper, it does mean you won't get as much attention from your tutor as they'll need to focus on several students at once. Unfortunately, this all means that they can't tailor their sessions to you as they'll need to take the other students' needs, strengths and weaknesses, and goals into account when planning their lessons.
Think carefully about your goals, budget, and learning style before deciding what type of tutorials and tutor are right for you!
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