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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

Many state budgets include similar funding. Through its No Worker Left Behind program, Michigan, which posted the country’s highest jobless rate — 15.2 percent — in June 2009, offers unemployed and underemployed adults up to $5,000 per year for two years of retraining at a community college. Full-time college students and recent high school graduates are excluded.

Still, the overwhelming majority of returning students are paying their own way. Such was the case for Charles Villano III of Mission Beach, California. In July 2008, after a year of unemployment, Villano decided to go back to school for a graduate certificate in marketing to add to his MBA in finance.

Villano, 37, who previously worked as a manger in the pharmaceutical industry, said some of the cost of his continuing education was defrayed by the fact that he went back to his MBA alma mater, the University of San Diego. As a returning student, courses cost $1,100 per unit, as opposed to $3,300 for new students. Still, Villano had to borrow money from his parents.

“Whatever it ultimately costs me, the return trip is worthwhile, because I’m learning what I want to learn on my own terms,” he says. “At a time like this, with the economy doing badly just about everywhere, any money you can reinvest in your own skill development is going to be money well-spent.”

Budding baker Lalley agrees. Lalley, who aspires to open her own bakery when she graduates, found some scholarships at, a Monster company, and applied for others through national nonprofit food organizations such as the James Beard Foundation.

She also planned to work out a quid-pro-quo arrangement through which she could receive reduced tuition for doing some marketing for the cooking school itself.

“If you have a useful skill that can work to your advantage as you seek training for a second career, use it,” says Lalley, who blogs about her experiences at “Just because your old job isn’t necessarily relevant to the new one doesn’t mean you can’t leverage that experience to get ahead.”

Work-to-School Transition Tips

It’s not easy making the transition from full-time worker to full-time student. Here are some tips from Lalley and Villano:
Establish a Goal: Ask yourself what you want to do next. Research the degrees or certificates that will make achieving that goal easier.

Look for Creative Ways to Pay: Paying for retraining can be challenging, but not impossible. Check out scholarships, but also see if you can leverage a skill the school needs into reduced tuition.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You: Yes, it’s scary to start over and go back to school. But don’t let fear force you into giving up and doing something you don’t want to do.

Keep Networking: You never know when a contact (or a contact’s contact) might lead to a job interview and, eventually, a job. Cultivate both online and offline professional networks while in school.

This article originally appeared on Monster Career Advice.

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