Can You Go Back to School if You Still Have Debt?

Going back to school may feel impossible if you have student debt, but it may not be as out of reach as it seems. The question of whether you can return to school with outstanding student loan debt is an interesting one. Let’s dive in and see what factors could stand in the way of your returning to school to extend your education.

Are You in Good Standing?

If your student loans are in good standing, you can return to school at any time. However, you could face the possibility of being denied new student loans if your debt is too high. Additionally, the interest rates for new loans could be higher than your current ones. You’ll also want to consider if you can afford more student loans on top of the ones you currently have.

Are You in Default?

If your loans are in default, you’ll likely need to catch up on any past due payments or work out a payment plan before you’ll be allowed to re-enroll. You may even be eligible for new student loans to cover the cost of admission. The good news is that most payments are deferred while you’re still a student, although you might want to check out the benefits of paying interest as you go. Call your student loan provider to ask about the requirements for returning to school.

Are You in Massive Debt?

People with higher student loan debt may be denied new student loans. While the ParentPLUS program may be available for those with a parent willing to cosign, many returning students will be faced with taking out private loans instead of federal ones. Private loans can come with the significant downsides of higher interest rates, immediate accrual of interest while you’re in the program, and less favorable repayment terms. 

Additionally, if you’re already in massive debt, you may want to weigh whether the degree program will likely lead to a significant enough income increase to justify returning. A marginal salary increase may not be worth the costs of additional student loans and the resulting interest. Researching the job market can help you get an idea of the likelihood of employment with the degree in question and help you assess a career’s prospective growth over time.

Consider the Timing

Think about the timing. Going back to school can be time-consuming and stressful. Consider how the rest of your life will work around your education. Can you handle any other responsibilities to a job or family while attending? Figuring this out in advance could help make the transition easier. 

Having student loan debt won’t necessarily bar you from returning to school. You may still be eligible to return without any additional fuss. Before you write off your dreams as impossible, do a little research. You may just need to get your ducks in a row before you return to student life.