Much to consider before going back to college

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Adults are going back to college in record numbers. But it is expensive. Many people use loans in hopes of having a larger income after school. That is a risk, but a calculated one.

Juan and Corissa Yanez enjoy a strong marriage with three beautiful children. But Juan Yanez lost his job in 2013, and money was tight.
 
“I tried to be smart with the debt,” he said. “I didn't go out and splurge.”
 
Corissa Yanez held onto her job, and they weathered that storm. But it has them thinking about the future. She plans to go to graduate school to become a pharmacist.
 
“It definitely is a huge step,” she said. “Hoping to make us in a better position in a few years.”
 
Much of her schooling will be online, and the program is out of state. The couple is trying to figure out a way to pay between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. It means they are going to have to take out some student loans.
 
“I think used properly, used efficiently, used in moderation, used thoughtfully, it’s a very good vehicle,” said Professor Dennis Hoffman from Arizona State University's WP Carey School of Business.
 
Hoffman acknowledges student debt is a problem, but he doesn't think it is the boogey man people make it out to be. He said people need to be realistic about what they will earn after graduation.
 
“What is your budget going to look like in those first few years?” Hoffman said. “Can you afford the $500 or $600 payment or whatever it is on the student loan?”
 
Before you even start, experts say you need to get the family on board with your plan. Some students with life experience might be able to test out of some classes with a College Level Examination Program. And reputable universities have adult student services to help.
 
Corissa Yanez sees the cost of education as a short-term problem, outweighed by the future income that will help her family.
 
“Everything’s going to be really positive for us,” she said. “Won't be what we've been through. So, it'll be a positive change, where we're going in the right direction, not having to stress about any financial information and things.”
 
Whether you are a first-time student or are returning to school, you will want to fill out the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA. Many universities have a March deadline if you want to be considered for financial aid next school year.