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Should You Go Back to School During a Recession?

Should You Go Back to School During a Recession?

Jacob Milner | Monster Contributing Writer

Two Laid-Off Workers Rethink Careers, Rediscover Passions by Heading Back to Class

On the heels of more than 10 years as a professional journalist, Heather Lalley has found herself back in class.

After taking a buyout from The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, then moving to Chicago to work as a freelance writer for a year, Lalley decided it was time to go back to school — this time to become a classically trained baker.

In April 2009, Lalley, 33, took a major step toward pursuing the career she has always dreamed about by enrolling in a two-year bread-making and pastry program at the Washburne Culinary Institute.

“Freelancing was not something I saw myself doing for the long term,” says Lalley, who has baked bread on her own for years. “When I started thinking about what else I wanted to do, I settled on baking and realized that in order to do that, I’d need to go back to school.”

Recession Prompting Career Reconsiderations

In the current recession economy, millions of laid-off workers nationwide are also rethinking their career choices, leading many to go back to school.

Why? To acquire a new skill set, for one, as well as to constructively wait out the economic downturn. The challenges? Coming to terms with the reality of changing careers and recognizing that starting anew can, at times, feel pretty overwhelming.

“It’s never too late to learn something new,” says Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. “Besides, for many people, going back to school is a chance to pursue the career they always hoped they had tried for in the first place.”

Numbers reflect this trend. According to a March 2009 survey conducted by the League for Innovation in the Community College and the Campus Computing Project, 28 percent of the 120 responding community colleges reported enrollment increases of more than 10 percent from January 2008 to January 2009. Anecdotal evidence from four-year schools reveals similar trends.

Mitch Weisburgh, vice president of Academic Business Advisors, a consulting firm specializing in the higher-education market, says that in general, higher- and continuing-education enrollments skyrocket during a sagging economy.

“When people get laid off, the first thing they think about is acquiring additional skills, and the first place they want to go is back to school,” he says. “For many people, the current climate presents them with no options but to figure out what’s next, expand their horizons and start over on something entirely new.”

Coming Up with the Tuition

The government is offering support for workers who want to retrain. The $787 billion stimulus bill signed in February 2009 by President Obama includes $1.7 billion for adult employment services, including training.

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