Go back to school with as little debt as possible

Are you feeling ready to expand your career? Or maybe switch careers altogether? After you’ve been in the working world a while, it’s common to want more from your professional life. A lot of people turn to graduate school to get there, but sometimes this plan is accompanied by a four-letter word: debt.

Student loan debt in the United States has grown by over 100% in the past decade and currently totals more than $1.7 trillion.1 Nearly half of that amount is owed by graduate students, even though only twenty-five percent take out loans for advanced degrees.2 In other words, when people go to graduate school, they often take on more debt than undergraduates.

But you don’t have to accrue a six-figure debt to continue your education. There are ways to get an advanced degree — and boost your skills for the job marketplace — without hurting your financial future.

Invest early and often

If continuing education might be in your future, a great first step is to start investing your money early in your professional career. Building a balanced portfolio with both your short- and long-term goals in mind means you’ll be more likely to have the resources you’ll need later in life.

Pace yourself with part-time

People typically think of graduate study as a full-time, two-year experience. But there are many other ways to structure it, including returning to school part-time. With a reduced course load, you’re able to work, making it more likely that you can pay-as-you-go through school. Plus, you can look for work, like being a research assistant, that enriches your studies.

Ask about employer reimbursement

Speaking of work, as you put together your graduate study plan, talk with your company’s Human Resources department about tuition reimbursement options. If you are studying something related to your current job, many Fortune 500 companies offer up to $5,000 to cover the costs of continuing education.3

Get tax credit for advanced study

When you enroll in advanced education classes, you may qualify for a Lifetime Learning Credit up to $2,000 per year. There are some restrictions to this credit, but if you qualify, you can apply for it every year, for multiple years.4

Find the (overlooked) money

Have you heard of the ACHE Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship?5 Every year it awards $5,000 to a minority student working toward an advanced degree in healthcare management. You don’t find opportunities like this without looking for them. Research scholarships and grants from many sources, including your school, career field, professional organizations and state and local opportunities. Ask the people in your social media networks if they know of funding possibilities.

Pay for school with whole life premiums

A whole life insurance policy is an overlooked way of funding your continuing education. Not only can whole life support your loved ones and bring you confidence, but your policy’s cash value accrues as you pay the monthly premiums.6 You can then use this asset to help pay for substantial expenses, like going back to school.

Many people protect their income with disability income insurance, which helps replace income lost while you’re too sick or injured to work. But if you’ve taken loans to finance your education, you don’t need to protect your income alone. You also need to protect your ability to repay your debt. Look for an insurance carrier that offers the option to add student loan protection coverage in the event of a disability.

Get clear on the numbers

With these ideas in mind, now is the time to determine how much your continuing education program will cost. Also, be sure to have a strong understanding of your monthly expenses, including rent, food and more. Once the money goal comes into focus, talk with a financial professional about how to graduate with an advanced degree — and with as little debt as possible.

Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2021. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY

 2021-125733 Exp. 8/2023

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1 U.S. Student Debt Has Increased By More Than 100% Over Past 10 Years, CNBC, Dec. 22, 2020

2 Graduate Students Owe Around 50% of All Student Debt, CNBC, July 16, 2021

3 Will Employers Pay for Graduate School? Graduateschoolhub.com, August 4, 2020

4 Tax Credit for Higher Education, H and R Block,

5 ACHE Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship

6 Some whole life polices do not have cash values in the first two years of the policy and don’t pay a dividend until the policy’s third year. The cash value depends upon the type of product, the face amount, the time in force and length and amount of premium payments. Talk to your financial representative and refer to your individual whole life policy illustration for more information