Written by: Rebecca Campbell, MA
Have you ever wanted to further your education, but you were concerned about barriers you may face especially now that you have a new baby? The good news is there are options available to tailor your education directly to your needs and schedule. You can participate in online learning, find accelerated learning programs, and even find financing options that will not leave you with mounds of debt as soon as you graduate!
Finding the Right Fit for you
The first step is to identify your needs and goals. Ask yourself: What career will you be interested in after you graduate from your program? What barriers do you have (transportation, childcare, limited time, etc.)? Are you unsure about what type of job you would like to pursue? These are all questions that can be asked in an effort to find the correct program. Two great places to start are with WorkForce WV or Jobs & Hope. The two organizations have testing and supports available that will help you identify your skills, how you can use those skills, and provide support to get you involved with the right program to meet your goals. Both organizations have vast resources available to them to assist in overcoming barriers, linking you with individuals who can help, and walking you all the way through to acceptance into the program you are striving to enroll. The Education/Employment program through IMPACT WV can assist you in reaching your education and employment goals through collaboration with the programs listed, as well as assistance with career skills, finances, and addressing barriers. www.wvimpact.org or firstname.lastname@example.org
Funding Your Education
One of the most commonly asked questions that is asked about returning to education is about finances. Not only, “How can I afford to return to school?” but, also, “What if I have previously defaulted on student loans?” Defaulting on student loans may seem like a complete dead end to your future education goals, but it is not! If you have defaulted on student loans in the past, you will need to contact your lending agency and set up a payment arrangement. Most companies will work with you to develop a plan to fit your budget because ultimately, they just want to get their money back. Federal student loans are very flexible with budgets, while private student loans can be more stringent. Once you have paid on time consistently for a few months, your loans will come out of default and you will be in the clear. If you need help with what to say or more information, contact the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), they have scripts available and supports to help you. The CFPB can be contacted through their website at www.consumerfinance.gov or their customer services line at 1 (855) 411-2372.
If possible, student loans should be your last option when returning to school due to the high interest rates and repayments upon graduation. The great thing about West Virginia, is there are many grant and scholarship programs available that can pay some or all of your tuition and fees. Once again, this is a good time to get WorkForce WV and Jobs & Hope involved in your education plan. Both organizations are aware of the grant and scholarship programs in West Virginia including programs geared towards enrolling women in rural areas in high need programs, like the medical field. You can find all of the programs available by completing a google search, but I strongly recommend getting in contact with WorkForce WV and Jobs & Hope because they can also help you work through the application process.
No matter what your goals are related to your education and employment, there are programs and assistance available to help you be successful and obtain gainful employment. By reaching out to resources and supports your path to meeting your goals can be a much less stressful experience.
If you are unsure what field you would like work in, narrow your options by contacting individuals working in the fields you are considering to ask questions about what the career is really like. People love to share their work experiences! You can also ask if there are positions available for you to volunteer or job shadow to give you an idea about what a typical day entails.
Campbell graduated with a BS in psychology and a MA in Human Services Counseling. She has thirteen years’ experience working in the social services field providing various levels of case management and counseling as needed, in areas including, but not limited to housing, mental health, substance use, basic needs, medical treatment, transportation, all services to provide and increase in quality of life.