Returning to school full-time as an adult is expensive. First, you have to quit your job and give up that steady paycheck. Next, you have to pay thousands of dollars in tuition for that crisp piece of paper that says you’re now qualified for a new career. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting and usually a good step towards a prosperous financial future.
This is exactly what my husband did — he quit his job and returned to school full-time for a 16-month program. I’ll be honest, I was a little apprehensive about what this absence from the workforce would mean for our finances.
I’m a huge planner when it comes to my money, so I did what I do best: I planned out what our budgets would look like over the next 16 months. I forecasted how losing one income would affect our month-to-month budgeting, how paying tuition would sap our savings and I even factored in the cost of textbooks. But I didn’t manage to include all of the costs. Four costs blindsided me when my husband returned to school, and I’m sharing them with you so you can be more prepared than I was if you or your partner returns to school as an adult.
A Professional Wardrobe
Before enrolling in school full time, my husband worked in a professional setting that could best be described as casual. Jeans and T-shirts were the norm at his workplace, so a wardrobe upgrade was in order for his new school program. While I was prepared to hand over cash for a few new shirts and a new pair of pants, I didn’t realize just how few professional outfits my husband had. So, on top of those shirts and pants came a jacket, a pair of shoes, several pairs of slacks and dress shirts. We shopped the sales and economized where possible, but this ended up costing us an additional $500 out of pocket.
Increased Monthly Costs
For some, returning to school full time might mean that commuting costs decrease, but for my family, it meant my husband’s commute to school was approximately double what it was before — which meant a lot of extra gas and car maintenance. We were able to mitigate this cost by arranging to carpool with fellow students, but I still needed to add about $50 per month to our transportation budget, which works out to about $800 over the next 16 months.
Giving up a full-time job to attend school isn’t just about saying goodbye to a steady paycheck — you’ll also lose all of the benefits that come with that job. In our case, that meant saying goodbye to my husband’s affordable health insurance plan. I was able to obtain coverage for us through my employer, but it came at the cost of about $1,820 per year, or $2,730 for the year and a half that my husband would be in school.
While I had extensively researched the average cost of tuition per semester for my husband’s degree program, I’d forgotten that most schools add a host of other service fees to a full-time student’s tuition plan. Things like student fees, yearbook fees, classroom fees, wellness facility fees and even something called a renovation fee added up to almost $1,000 per semester. My husband was able to opt out of the dental and health insurance programs, saving a few hundred dollars per semester, but he’ll still end up paying almost $2,250 in additional fees over the four-semester program.
More on Paying for School: Ideal Salary Needed to Afford College in Your State — Without Loans
Upgrading your education as an adult is a bit of a balancing act. You have to balance taking time away from your career, with the cost of tuition and the potential benefit of increasing your income over the long run. If you’re considering returning to school as an adult, don’t forget about these four important extra expenditures. Otherwise, you could end up like me, unexpectedly paying out an extra $6,280 in unexpected costs.
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