Since the beginning of the 2008 recession, many Americans have experienced their own financial setbacks in one form or another. Middle-aged Americans have proven especially vulnerable to the slings and arrows of an uncertain economy. With unemployment on the rise for older Americans, many are having difficulties finding desirable employment.
While many continue to search for new job opportunities, some older adults are making a return to the classroom to brush up their skill sets or embark on new studies. The return of middle-aged Americans to college is fast becoming one way of riding out the recession.
Unemployment numbers may have declined slightly to 7.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but millions of Americans are still having a hard time finding employment. The unemployment situation has particularly hit middle-aged Americans hard. Many adults who have been let go from their previous jobs often face difficulty finding new employment opportunities.
A recent Huffington Post piece also noted that four out of five adults in the U.S. struggle with joblessness and often rely on assistance for at least part of their lives. Older Americans are also likely to struggle supporting a grown child over 18, or a parent age 65 or older, thus adding to their current financial burdens.
Despite high unemployment numbers across the U.S., there have been a few bright spots worth mentioning. Bismarck, ND’s current unemployment rate stands at 2.8 percent, the nation’s lowest for any city. Among large cities, Minneapolis, MN has an unemployment rate of just 5.1 percent.
Many adults who have spent countless months or even years on the job market are now returning to the classroom to better enhance their prospects. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, at least eight million adults were enrolled in college during 2010, with that number projected to rise to ten million by 2020. Many adults are returning to earn second degrees in more lucrative fields, while others work on earning graduate degrees.
Unfortunately, many adults have to juggle their continuing education with the demands of home life and making ends meet. Luckily, some schools, including Penn Foster, are offering convenient online courses that better fit around those busy schedules.
Those who make the decision to go back to school often wonder how they’ll manage to pay for it all, especially in today’s current economic climate. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service offers a couple of tax breaks that can help Americans offset their education expenses.
The first of these tax credits is the American Opportunity Credit, which covers up to $2,500 of undergraduate expenses. According to the IRS, taxpayers receive a tax credit based on 100 percent of the first $2,000 of tuition, fees, books and other materials, plus 25 percent of the next $2,000 of those expenses. The American Opportunity Credit helps lower tax liability and even gives qualifying taxpayers a refund of up to $1,000 if the tax credits exceed their liability.
Those looking forward to graduate school can take advantage of the Lifetime Learning Credit to offset the cost of graduate study. This credit equals 20 percent of up to $10,000 of education expenses, for a maximum credit amount of $2,000.
There are a few caveats, however. Those who are married and decline to file jointly with their spouse are not eligible for either tax credit. Also, qualifying taxpayers can’t claim both credits for the same student for the same year. Nevertheless, these credits have proven a great way to help defray the cost of going back to school.