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Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 12:00 a.m. CDT

<p>(BPT) - For working adults wondering if they should go back to school for a degree &ndash; or to upgrade their bachelor&rsquo;s degree to a master&rsquo;s&mdash;affordability is, today, more important than ever. &ldquo;How can I afford it?&rdquo; is often the first question students ask before they enroll.</p><p>But perhaps a better question would be &ldquo;how can I afford to live without a college degree?&rdquo; According to the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm" rel="nofollow">U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, median weekly earnings go up and unemployment rates go down for each level of higher education achieved. Americans with a bachelor&rsquo;s degree earn, on average, $400 more a week than those with only a high school diploma, and are also less likely to be unemployed.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, pursuing a degree costs money. However, prospective students should be aware of cost-saving avenues they can pursue to keep their expenses down,&rdquo; says Clare Levison, a CPA and author of the book "Frugal Isn&rsquo;t Cheap." &ldquo;In addition to saving money for a college degree, professionals should look for avenues that help them reduce the overall cost of education as well.&rdquo;</p><p>Here are tips Levison says will help keep college costs down and make a degree program a worthwhile endeavor:</p><p>* Look everywhere for support &ndash; Grants, scholarships and even employers' tuition benefits are options everyone should investigate before enrolling in a degree program. Contact the college you&rsquo;re interested in attending to ask about these options. If you are employed, ask your Human Resources department if the company offers an education benefit.</p><p>* Research loan options &ndash; Many students will need to take out loans, but must ask careful questions about how loan debt can affect them before enrolling in a program. Find out the repayment terms; the interest rate; the anticipated monthly payments you&rsquo;ll need to make once you&rsquo;ve earned your degree; if the loan interest or tuition expense can be used as a tax deduction; and ask if an automated payment system is available.</p><p>You may discover that&nbsp;certain organizations&nbsp;will offer help with student loans. This option may appeal to you if&nbsp;you're interested in providing services&nbsp;in exchange for student loan benefits, or in a work-study program.</p><p>*Try out a school before investing fully &ndash; Ask yourself: &ldquo;Will I like the school I picked?&rdquo; <a href="http://west.edu/" rel="nofollow">Western International University</a> (West) lets students test drive its online education program by taking the first two, 3-credit required courses for just $200 each. If you determine you&rsquo;re not ready for the time commitment, or you are not sure about online education, you&rsquo;ve only made a minimal investment and the credits you earn may be accepted for transfer by other colleges or universities. If everything is a perfect fit, you&rsquo;ve also saved some overall tuition cost and the credits apply to your West program of choice.</p><p>* Keep earning money while enrolled &ndash; Online degree programs like the ones offered by Western International University provide students with flexibility. You have the opportunity to continue working if already employed, or start a job and complete coursework around the clock.</p><p>Once a college degree is earned, you may be better able to achieve your professional goals, and will have, according to U.S. labor trends, the potential to earn more over your lifetime.</p><p>To learn more about Western International University visit <a href="http://www.west.edu" rel="nofollow">www.west.edu</a>.</p><p>Provided by: Western International University</p> <img src='http://www.brandpointcontent.com/printsite/ImageWriter.ashx?articleid=19214&memberid=8729' border='0' width='1' height='1' />

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