When facing unemployment, many applicants consider going back to school as a way of expanding their resume. Not only that, but many workers have to choose between getting a job, or attending school. Being unemployed means there’s finally time to start taking classes. It might seem like the perfect opportunity to start taking classes, but there are some potential issues when considering taking classes while on unemployment.

Remember the rules:

For some, unemployment might first look like a blessing in disguise. It’s a way to earn money while taking classes that doesn’t involve juggling a complicated schedule. Unfortunately, one of the criteria for getting unemployment is the applicant has to actively be seeking a job, as well as being available for work. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that taking classes automatically eliminates the option to collect unemployment.

There are two ways to stay on unemployment while also attending classes.

  • The first is an applicant simply proving to an unemployment agency that their class schedule doesn’t interfere with their ability to get work. This can vary on a case to case basis. Typically, it helps to take just a few classes, especially if they’re evening classes. That way, the applicant leaves their early hours open for applying and attending interviews, as well as having those hours open for work if they do land a job. The biggest factor with this is how many classes the applicant is taking. If every single evening is filled with different classes, a strong argument can be made that the applicant would just have too much on their plate to look for a job, let alone actually work one.


  • The second option is much safer, taking workforce development programs. Workforce development programs are short term courses that focus on very specific areas to help with a certain career choice. The best part about these programs is that the government will cover all of the costs. This is a good choice for someone that isn’t looking to get a degree, but just wants a couple of courses that will look good on their resume and help once they start a new job. It can even be a good choice for someone that wants to transition into a different career. The programs that are available will differ from state to state, so it’s best to contact the local unemployment office for more information on workforce development programs.

Unemployment, Education, and Health Benefits

Taking Advantage of What’s Offered. Students have access to some very reasonable insurance plans while they’re attending school. Many of the plans don’t even require students to be attending full time, or at the very least they have discount options for part time students. This can be good for someone on unemployment, but there are some other factors to consider. Some plans specify that on campus health services have to be used before seeing any specialists. The other big factor is how difficult it can be to get family coverage. There are options available, but these aren’t nearly as affordable as the individual plans.

In comparison, there are affordable health options for people that are on unemployment, and these plans can provide family coverage. Something to keep in mind is the COBRA plan. COBRA allows someone to keep their past coverage up to 18 months after losing their job, and at a discounted rate. Depending on past medical conditions as well as the quality of the plan, COBRA might be a better option even for those that are planning to return to school.

Consider the Costs

Avoid the Student Loan Trap. The cost of tuition varies wildly depending on the college. Even being a part time student at a high end college can end up costing a small fortune. The very first thing to look into when considering going to school while on unemployment is what financial plans and scholarships are available. Some colleges will offer benefits for anyone that is returning to finish a degree. Many state and community colleges have very low in state tuition costs.

It’s very easy to fall into the student loan trap. Being on unemployment can help to alleviate these costs, but it can still add up very quick. Many people make the mistake of relying on being able to get a better job right after they finish their classes, allowing them to quickly pay off their loans. Lucky students will be able to transition right from school into a job, but this isn’t an option for everyone. If schools are only offering student loans, it would be better to look at a state or community college, or just take courses through workforce development.

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