Staying Out of Debt

During a down economy a number of people return to school in order to advance their education.  Many are trying to complete their first degree, but a large number are looking to get a masters degree or another advanced graduate degree that will help them in the job market.

Unfortunately many people don’t do the math and often make some very poor decisions when it comes to the return on investment from their educational activities. College is rarely cheap, but there are schools that offer great value for their price.  For example, Harvard offers a number of online masters degrees and they are often significantly less expensive than the programs at much less reputable institutions from schools with much lower academic record.

Some of it comes down to what you choose to study.  Not every degree is going to help you get a great job.  A masters degree in vampire literature or chess isn’t probably going to make you any more employable than you are now, but a degree in technology in a growing field is likely to be very valuable.

The point is that you still have to pay attention.  Don’t assume that a degree is going to be a silver bullet that will open the door to any job you want. Also don’t assume that a high cost education is necessarily better than a more reasonably priced one.  Some schools are actually trying to use their price to make their programs seem more valuable than they actually are–what they lack in academics they try to make up for with a high fee per credit hour.

Also, don’t be afraid to pay as you go.  While you need to make sure you understand any cut off periods and limits in how long you can pursue a degree program, going to school while you continue to work a normal job can be very rewarding and is a great way to get your education while minimizing  your debt.  In some cases you may be able to get your current employer to pickup some or all of the tab.

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