8 Cheap Ways to Continue Your Education Without Going Back to School

by Damian Davila on 28 May 2014 0 comments

Guess what costs $29,400?

Nope, it is the not the price of the latest sedan model. As hard it may to be believe it, this is the average student debt for American college graduates in 2012. That number has gone up 63% in less than a decade, and it's likely to increase. With the ever-rising costs of education, you may think that you are out of options to keep on learning or improving your skills. (See also: 13 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain)

But there's some good news. You don't have to give up on continuing your education — you just need to find some affordable alternates. Here are eight cheap ways to keep on learning and improving your skills.

Learn a Foreign Language

Learning to speak a second language may provide financial rewards and health benefits, so it is a worthwhile investment. Here is how to do it on the cheap, while still reaping the benefits.

1. Listen to Music and Watch Films

If you already subscribe to music or movie streaming services, use them to improve your language skills. If you have a Spotify Premium account and want to improve your Italian, for example, head to Spotify Charts, filter the by country, find the most listened-to Italian artists, and build your "Italian Lesson" playlist. The same basic concept can be applied to other services, such as Netflix, Hulu, or Rdio. Va bene?

2. Tag Things Around Your Home in the Target Language

Try this at home. Use the free translation service from Google to translate items in your home to the language you would like to learn. Then, tag those items by using Post-it notes or small pieces of paper and adhesive tape. This way you can remember that in German door is tür and mirror is spiegel. Bonus: After having memorized the words, you can double check your pronunciation with Google Translate's "Listen" button.

3. Read What the Locals Read

Have you noticed how on international flights flight attendants often provide you the local newspaper from your final destination? This allows you to catch up on the current local issues and news. Take this learning tip without the international flight cost by reading the online version of local newspapers. Head to Online Newspapers, find countries that speak your target language, and start reading what the locals read. You can brush up on your French by reading Le Monde, one of Paris' most read newspapers, from the comfort of your home. If you get stuck on a word or sentence, Google Translate can lend you a hand.

Use MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are revolutionizing education by making previously unaccessible courses available to the masses. Often, they're doing this for free.

4. Become Part of the Ivy League

You too can say "I went to Harvard" by attending one of Harvard's free online courses. Here is a sample list of other institutions of higher education offering free MOOCs:

You can find even more online university courses through course aggregators, such as Academic Earth, ed2go, Coursera, edX, and iTunes U.

5. Learn at Your Own Pace With Khan Academy

If you think that attending free MIT courses is impressive, then you would be even more impressed by the Khan Academy. To put things in perspective, the Khan Academy's YouTube Channel has over 1.7 million subscribers and 393 million views, while MIT's OpenCourseWare YouTube Channel only about 507,000 subscribers and 65 million views. What makes the Khan Academy so engaging is the vision from founder Sal Khan, the backing from major organizations (such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google), and the free admission to all learners around the world. You can learn almost anything for free, and at your own pace, through videos at Khan Academy.

6. Go Beyond Universities

As Khan Academy shows, you may need to think beyond household names when searching for MOOCs. Some of the best online courses are not necessarily from well-known universities.

  • Udemy — Offers a wide of variety courses, mostly in practical subjects. For example, you can find several tutorials on Excel and on Powerpoint. You can find free courses and, if you opt for paid ones, you can filter them by the number of reviews they have received.

  • Lynda.com — With just a $25 monthly payment, you can have unlimited access to several thousand video courses in software, creative, and business skills at Lynda.com.

  • Udacity — What started as a series of free computer computer classes at Stanford University has turned into a whole organization offering courses from experts working at companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Cloudera. There are both free and paid versions of courses.

  • TED Talks — With over 1,700 talks ranging from what we can learn from the pursuit of perfect spaghetti sauce to how sampling transformed music, TED Talks dazzle with amazing presentations by experts from around the world.

Look for Financial Support

While you may think that you are fully on your own to finance your education, the truth is that there are a couple of organizations that may provide you financial or other support. The key is that you have to ask for it.

7. Talk to Your Human Resources Department

Your HR department may provide information about deals that your company has for continuing education. This is often true for large organizations. Your employer may be willing even to pay for your classes, as long as they relate to your job, and you can commit to stay at the company for a minimum period of time. For example, if you have several years of practical project management experience but still no degree, your supervisor could build a strong case to sponsor your PMP certification.

It doesn't hurt to check out your company's HR handbook and see if they provide discounted prices or stipends for additional training or professional certification.

8. Contact Professional Associations

The mission of professional organizations is to support their professions. One of the key ways that they achieve this is by offering educational and development opportunities to their members. If you already belong to a professional association, contact its local chapter to find out about its educational offerings.

For example, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) provides architects a wide gamut of training opportunities, most of them free to its members. If you have a membership with the AIA, you can attend several courses in your city or through the Internet, often at no cost.

From the Society of Petroleum Engineers to the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management there is one organization out there that could be waiting for you to knock on their door.

Despite the rising cost education, it is possible to continue your education. Which of these eight cheap ways are you planning to use?

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