Determining Financial Costs

To determine the financial cost of a computer education, the student must consider a number of factors. First, how many classes are needed to reach the desired level of skill? Second, what school or program will be providing these classes? Third, will the student be required to purchase any additional hardware or software? And finally, do the computer courses qualify to be paid for partially or completely by an employer or by some other agency? By considering these factors, students should have a rough idea of the expenses they may face in pursuing their education.

If a student only wants to have basic computer knowledge, classes are available for free or for a low cost in most communities, generally at libraries or other community centers. If the student wants to learn advanced concepts like programming languages, or in-depth database and networking skills, the process can take several years and will usually require a four-year degree.

In-depth classes can be taken at a college or through online courses. The cost of both types of classes varies depending on the college or online program. Online courses are generally cheaper, but if the program offers accreditation when the student completes the program, then the classes will probably be more expensive. The cost of a college course varies at different colleges. In the end, both kinds of classes can cost from around a hundred dollars per class up to and over five hundred a class for a certification program, depending on the subject matter and location of the class.

Additional hardware and software are needed to participate in some courses. Additional manuals or other books may also be required. These are part of what might be called the “hidden” costs of education. Each of these can cost more than a hundred dollars apiece. New hardware usually needs to be bought only once in a student’s educational career. New software packages may need to be bought regularly, and frequent book purchases are likely.

This can add up to a lot of money, but there are many ways to cover costs without students having to spend a lot of their own money. Some businesses help employees finance their continued education. Grants, scholarships, and loans can reduce the burden of education costs. Regardless of how this education is financed, the money that students can earn using their new computer knowledge easily makes it worth the cost that it takes to earn it.

Who Pays?

Once the cost of taking computer courses has been determined, it will be time to decide who will pay the expenses. Should students cover the expenses themselves or are there other ways? Many employers offer tuition assistance to their employees. If a student is employed by a company that participates in one of these programs, the employee may be able to get reimbursed for some or all of the cost of his education.

The first step should be for the student to see if his company offers any assistance to employees who are enrolled in school or other educational programs. If tuition assistance is offered, the student should find out the qualifications for it. Will the company pay all tuition or only part of it? How many classes per semester and per year will they cover? Are school-related expenses, such as books and student fees, covered by the program? Are certain courses or schools not covered? Are there minimum grade requirements? The answers to these questions vary from employer to employer and can be answered by the employee's human resources department.

Determining Financial Costs

Frequently, employers will not give an employee financial assistance if they are attending school so they can change careers. Employers offer incentives for employees to attend school to strengthen their own business. If the employee has not worked for a company long enough, or if the employer suspects that the student will use their education to find work somewhere else, it is unlikely that student will be given assistance. Some employers require employees to commit to remaining with the company for a specified amount of time in exchange for help with education costs. If the employee leaves the company before that time is up, he might have to repay all or a part of the money the company provided.

Sometimes employers set grade requirements for the employee and if he or she fails to meet them, then the employee will be expected to refund some or all of the financial assistance the company gave him. If this result is unexpected, it can be a huge setback for a student. If it is the student's goal to seek work elsewhere, or if the student doesn't want to risk having to refund money to his employer, there are many other ways in which he can help meet the expenses of schooling without having to pay entirely out of pocket.

Factors That Affect Cost

There are many factors that affect the cost of computer education. They vary with the school the student attends and the courses he must take to complete his education. In addition to standard tuition, costs may include extra fees, the cost of required hardware and software, and the cost of books and other instructional materials. While some instructors try to limit these costs, many expenses are simply unavoidable. These additional costs may or may not be covered by various forms of financial aid such as those offered by the college, by scholarships, by the military, or by employers. Some of these extra costs are mentioned in course descriptions, while others may appear during the course without prior notice. It is important that the student be ready for these additional fees and have a plan for paying them.

The two most common expenses a student can expect to pay are materials such as textbooks and software, and lab maintenance fees which cover the upkeep of the school's computer lab.

Taking an online course will eliminate the need to pay a lab fee, but this expense is generally the smallest one a student is charged. The materials necessary for completing a computer course can sometimes exceed the cost of the course itself.

There are various ways a student can decrease these costs. Buying secondhand textbooks and software is one way of doing so, but students can run into problems both ways. Out of date textbooks may differ from the version in use by the instructor. These differences can be trivial or significant, and often a student won't know until it's too late. Installing secondhand software may violate software licenses and be illegal. Licensing is more commonly enforced on the large scale corporate level, so students rarely face consequences, but it is not advisable.

Fortunately, the rising cost of these materials is being recognized by scholarship committees and other organizations that provide financial aid to students. While not all financial aid services cover these expenses, they have made increased allocations for the growing cost of non-tuition expenses in recent years.

Financial Aid

If the financial cost of taking computer courses is more than a student can afford, there are a number of financial aid options available. These options vary with the amount of money a student makes, his grade point average, the school he chooses, the number of classes he wants to take, and many other factors. Fortunately the number of options available means that almost all students are able to get financial assistance in one form or another.

The easiest form of assistance available comes in the form of student loans. These are offered by colleges, banks, or the government. Most loans must be paid back when the student has completed all his coursework. They are generally available to spend on whatever costs occur during a student's education.

Scholarships and grants are commonly used to help students deal with the costs directly associated with education. Although they are harder to get than loans, they do not have to be paid back. Many different organizations offer these, and what they provide varies from scholarship to scholarship. Some offer only a single lump sum, and others support a student for several terms. They may cover tuition only or may help students with other school-related costs. Most require the student to write an essay, and meet minimum grade point average requirements in order to be eligible and to continue receiving aid.

If a student or one of his parents was ever a member of the military, the student may be able to receive assistance from the appropriate branch of the military. All branches offer some sort of financial assistance, which can provide up to several thousand dollars a year to help with tuition and related expenses.

Many employers, especially larger companies, offer their employees scholarships and reimbursement plans as well. These are sometimes more difficult to get than other forms of aid, but if a student has been an employee at a company for several years and plans to use his education to advance within that company, his employer may give him financial aid. This can be either in the form of a scholarship or as reimbursement that the student gets after he has completed his coursework with good grades. There are many factors that affect these scholarships, so it is best for the student to speak with his human resources department in order to get more information.


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