In this economy you need an edge. I highly recommend some form of advanced education. You need more than discernment and insight. You need something you can put on your resume. Even if you have an Associates Degree, a Bachelor's is even better. Even if you have a BA, a Master's is even better. Even if you have a Masters, continuing education or training will help not hurt you. Here some specific ways you can save money.
Things You Will NeedA computer is helpful if you're going to go to school. A typewriter is ok, but some schools require you to email in assignments. Buy the best thing you can afford comfortably, not more than what you can afford. High speed internet connection is also a plus.
Step 11) A good old fashioned scholarship is the granddaddy of financial aid. If you are good in sports, or dance, or anything special you may be eligible for a hefty tuition supplement. Some clubs or local organizations offer small scholarships based on essays. Use the internet to search for as many scholarships as you are eligible for. Call your local chamber of commerce too. If you are looking for a specialized degree, sometimes groups involved in that degree cater to that degree.
Step 22) After scholarships based on merit, the next most popular form of financial aid is a "grant." Most people with no education beyond high school can qualify for a "Pell Grant." Call up the school you are interested in and as for the student aid department. The counselor there will help you if you qualify because that brings dollars into their school. Pell grants may be used even for vocational school, such as hair dresser or barber college as well as 4 year Universities.
Go to grants.gov and register to have all available grants emailed to you on a daily basis. Apply for as many as you qualify for. Unlike a student loan, a grant does not need to be re-paid.
Step 33) Join the military, any branch. They provide financial aid for continuing education.
Step 44) One of my friends received free tuition for being the dorm supervisor at the University we were attending. Sure he had to break up some fights, but this is an easy job for an older person returning to college, and you can't top "FREE" tuition. Call up the school you are interested in, and see if there are any openings available.
Step 55) In lieu of starting at a very expensive 4 year college, finish an associates' degree at a community college. Not only will you save thousands of dollars in tuition, but if you chose to stop after 2 years you will have a degree to show for it. Two years at Harvard, may be super impressive, but if you don't finish you don't have the piece of paper you need.
Step 66) Most people don't figure on how expensive text books can be. Save money by scouting around for them used or new on the internet. Go halves with a room mate and share the book. I had a room mate who saved hundreds of dollars by checking out her books from the library !
Step 77) Work at the school you're attending. It will save you commute time if you work where you study and encourage you to stay on campus and find that place called the library. There are all kinds of jobs available from the cafeteria to the landscaping department. Working at school is great place to net work and learn additional computer skills.
Step 88) Tutor another student taking the same class as you. Not only can you make some side cash, but you can realize how much you know. You know something when you understand it well enough to teach someone else.
Step 99) Audit or sit in on a class and observe it for a semester before you pay for it. Most professors won't mind if you ask them nicely. Many wouldn't even notice if it's a huge 400 person introductory level class. When you take the class for credit a semester later, your grade will be higher. If all you want is to learn, you don't ever have to pay for the class or make record of it.
Step 1010) Live at home and commute. Sure it's fun and exciting to think you're "going off to college" AND you still will be. Dorms and dorm food is expensive, and the food isn't even that good. If your parents or spouse give you the option, save money by staying put. Scout around for a room in a house nearby campus as a second alternative. It will probably still be cheaper than a dorm room, and will enable you to make your own food.
Continuing education is a valuable asset. Do what you can, with what you have, start where you are!