David Bakke is a contributor for MoneyCrashers.com, where he shares tips for college students and parents to finance their education and find ways to save.

It’s a fact that the number of nontraditional students attending college is on the rise. A survey conducted by US News and World Report showed that college attendance by students aged 40 to 64 increased by almost 20 percent in the last decade. What may be most impressive about this statistic is how much harder it is for older students to invest time and money in a college education. After all, there are mortgages to be paid, children to be cared for, and retirements to be funded.

Going back to college can involve some difficult choices and major sacrifices. But regardless of why you’re returning to academia, it’s often worth it. Here are four ways you can save money to pay for tuition…

1. Refinance Your Home Loan
Even with the volatility of the housing market and increased lending restrictions, refinancing is still a viable option to free up equity for college. With recent government legislation, such as HARP and HARP 2.0, you may now qualify for a mortgage refinance, even if you’re upside down in your current mortgage.

By saving on your monthly mortgage payment, you have more money available to apply to college tuition.áIf your home has equity, a cash-out refinance is also an option. Contact a mortgage professional with the details of your individual situation to see if you can save.

2. Cut Back on College Savings for Kids
Examine the reasons you’re going back to school, and see if it doesn’t make sense to put yourself before your kids. After all, they’re dependent on you, and what’s good for you is likely good for them.

For example, if your college education will allow you to make more money, you may be better able to afford their college education and a higher quality of life. Or, if taking a few classes or getting a degree simply makes you a happy person, it could make you a better parent as well, which is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Not everything comes down to dollar signs. Have an open mind when you consider cutting back or even eliminating saving for your child’s college education.

3. Slash Your Spending
To cut your spending, objectively define all wants and needs in your life – reduce the cost of your needs, and eliminate as many wants as possible. For example, cut back on your cell phone plan and your cable TV package, and adjust your thermostat to save on home energy. And if you haven’t already, consider eliminating your home telephone.

To limit unnecessary expenses, change your habits. Bring a brown bag lunch to work instead of going out to a restaurant. Forgo the latest and greatest electronic device, and get by with what you have. In general, think twice any time you break out your wallet to make a purchase.

4. Keep or Finance Your Current Auto
The average American buys a new car every three years. But if your current car is in good condition, consider driving it longer. If you paid off your car tomorrow and your monthly payment was $300, by just driving your current car for another two years, you’d have an extra $7,200 to put toward your education.

Alternatively, if you have equity in your car or have already paid it off, consider a cash-out refinance through your bank. Rates are fairly low right now, so this could be a good way to avoid financing your education via more expensive means – like a credit card.

Final Thoughts
Even after you implement the tips above, you may still need to take out student loans to afford a college education. But if that’s the case, simultaneously create a plan to pay off those loans as soon as possible, and don’t delay making payments. Even if it’s only minuscule amount per month, making student loan payments a priority will make you more likely to eventually pay them off and enjoy the benefits of your college education.

What are your thoughts on financing a return to college?

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