First off, I know I’m going to tick off a lot of folks by talking about the free college thing again while giving zero information as to why. Let’s put it this way, there are lots of reasons someone might not want to tell you why they are getting something for free – especially when it’s a big thing for ‘free’. Divorce, loss, death, military, disability, etc. Seriously folks. Lots of reasons. It’s a part of my life that I’m not open to talking about. Just understand it exists. Sorry. I hate that.
I’m bringing it up again because there’s something I didn’t share. I qualify for it as well. Tuition. Any school of my choice. Any degree of my choice. The ‘event’ that qualified me for it didn’t happen until after I graduated from undergrad, so I had to pay for that, but I’ve been debating graduate degree lately.
Here’s the problem. I don’t know if I want it. Yup. I just said that. People go hundreds of thousands into debt for it and I’m like…meh. Something about looking a gift horse in the mouth. But here’s why, it would be a 1-2 year commitment with lots of late nights attending classes and studying plus the cost of books. Sure, I’d get my MS but for what? I’m really happy with the job I have now. I don’t work crazy hours. The team that works for me is a reasonable size and I don’t lose a lot of sleep over them. I get paid enough to pay my bills, invest for retirement, and have a little extra. Sure, I don’t have nice clothes or take crazy vacations but that’s not my jam anyway. My boss is talking about moving me into a role to supervise more people and all I can think is…Ack. No!
Mo Money. Mo Problems.
I applied for a graduate program at the local college, though I may look closer into one online since that’s a bit easier, and my husband is SUPER supportive but I’m so torn. I’m applying because it’s free, not because I have any desire for it. I know it’s a bit of a weird situation but I’m wondering what the BAD readers would do. Get a degree even though you are happy where you’re at? Or decide to forgo the degree and enjoy a margarita? Better yet, be home each day to hug my kids and play tickle monster. That’s pretty appealing. When is enough, enough when it comes to work and money? What are your thoughts?
As some background, the benefit never expires. I could wait until I’m just about dead to use it.
Beks is a full-time government employee who enjoys blogging late into the night after her four kids have gone to sleep. She’s been married to Chris, her college sweetheart, for 15 years. In 2017, after 3 long years working the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps, they paid off more than $70K and became debt free. When she’s not working or blogging, she’s exploring the great outdoors.
In my field, we have a pay scale in which more credit hours increases our pay. The pay from a bachelor’s to someone with masters increases by about 20k. I live a pretty happy frugal existence with no debt (other than my house) but a masters is definitely worth in my setting. Recently I took some classes to max out on my pay scale, but haven’t yet committed to earning the certificate.( The 2 classes cost about 5k which increased my salary immediately another 3k, but the cost benefit has leveled out at this point since I’m not particularly interested in the coursework)
So I guess, it’s worth looking at the cost benefit / would it open interesting doors in the future ?
Absolutely take advantage of free education! It is totally possible to get your graduate degree without cutting too much into your free time. I also was lucky enough to get my graduate degree for free (my employer offers complete tuition reimbursement). I didn’t NEED it right now, and I won’t end up needing it for the foreseeable future. However, I took one class at a time just to get the ball rolling. I graduate in a few weeks. Sure, it took me longer than 1-2 years (3 to be exact), but that time is going to pass regardless. Chipping away at a degree for an extended period of time is much easier than devoting your entire life to it for a year or two!
I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have a reason. I would say if you can use it for certificates or trainings (example coding through a community college) or something that could be useful for you, go for it! No reason to waste your time if you don’t want it and you could also run the risk of making yourself “overqualified” or pricing yourself out of a market.
I didn’t think about that!
I think work life balance is seriously underrated, especially when you have young kids. If you can make your financial and life goals in the position/salary you’re at now (and the tuition coverage will always be there), I wouldn’t bother with additional education now.
I would not go to grad school right now. Not only do you not have the interest in it, you have enough on your plate and your kids are young. Enjoy life and if you feel the urge later in life, then you can go for it.
Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
I personally wouldn’t bother.
I started a Masters degree right after undergrad and hit pause when we moved to a new city. Fast forward 20 years… Was just thinking the other day that I was glad I didn’t bother. But I didn’t need it for my career and I wouldn’t have spent that precious time while raising kids.
If I could legit translate a free degree into an extra $20K per year, I might consider it, but still is not something I would have done with small kids.
No I would never in a million years go to grad school while my kids were young for a degree I neither needed not particularly wanted. Who cares if it’s free? That’s a huge opportunity cost. If you want to do a degree for personal enrichment, why not wait until your kids are older?
For the last five years, I’ve been in a job that I have described as my dream job. I do the same tasks that I did at another place for about 25% more than I made there. I didn’t need an advanced degree to get this job, don’t need one to keep it. And I have always envisioned myself staying in this job until retirement. (I’m currently 49) But, the advanced degree is free*, so in 22 days, I’ll have a Master’s degree.
My program is fully online, and I highly recommend that! I put an asterisk beside free because there is one thing you might want to consider. Not sure if it will apply for you in this case, but there is a limit of ‘free’ tuition. For me, anything above $5,200 (or $5,500?) counted as income and I had to pay taxes on it. My first year in the program, I had spring and fall term courses, and paid taxes on a portion of the fall term. The second year, I had spring, summer, and fall. That hurt. I paid taxes on a portion of summer and the whole amount for fall.
So take a couple of classes to gauge the workload and see if it’s for you. The time is going to pass anyway. Might as well have an advanced degree at the end.
You are correct. I will have the tax liability. Fortunately my tax guy gave me the heads up. That would have been a shock!
Great advice. I’m leaning toward trying one class to see how it goes. Nice to know you were in the same boat and you finished it!
Most grad school programs are around 36 hours and with a breakdown of three credits each ends up being around 12 classes. My spouse has finished his undergrad and MBA through kids, demanding careers, a cross country move, medical crisis, etc. He did it one class at a time, took semesters off if we projected a busy few months, sometimes snuck in a quick summer class, some online, some in person, etc. He wasn’t passionate about either degree, but checking the boxes has benefited him along the way.
My best advice is to make sure you know how many years you need to finish within, choose a program/school where the credits aren’t likely to vanish and ensure you have flexibility between in person/online/hybrid classes. My husband went to a traditional brick & mortar in-state university where the majority of the students in grad school were working in their chosen professions.
I was just wondering if your children are still homeschooled. I went back a class at a time but my kids were in middle school and I was home by 7 the 2 days I had class. They did their homework and started dinner for my husband and me. I was a stay at home mom- all graduate classes were in the evenings.
Yes, they are still homeschooled. My husband is the stay at home dad so he will continue to be there for them, make dinner, etc. It’s a good set-up
I have an MBA and I’m so glad because I learned a lot in that program. I found it incredibly valuable for my career and it was fascinating since it focused on corporate social responsibility and ethical business practices. So my advice is if you want to go back because you love learning, do it. If you want to go back for a job you’d love to have, do it. But if it’s not for either of those, just wait until either of those are true.
Great point! I do LOVE learning.
Even if it’s free time is still a cost.
For me a higher degree wouldn’t really change my work status or pay, so it’d just fall under the same category as a hobby.