Ever since I completed my undergraduate education a few years ago, the thought of going to grad school has been with me. Every few months, I’d think to myself, “Well, I’d really like to get my master’s degree. I should look into that!”
So, I would. I’d do a little research online, and ultimately I’d be instantly reminded of the one thing that always stopped me in my tracks: the cost.
The major deterrent in furthering my education wasn’t the amount of time or hard work it would take. It wasn’t even the fear of not succeeding. Nope — it was just the cold hard cash that kept me from taking the leap.
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Let’s face it: Getting an education today is expensive, particularly when you get into graduate-level courses.
As a matter of fact, the average tuition for graduate school is $17,868, and that doesn't even factor in books, housing, and other additional expenses.
The thought alone makes me cringe, especially since I’m still in the process of paying off my undergraduate debt. I was lucky to come out of college with debt less than the national average of a 2016 graduate – a whopping $37,172. But, even though I managed to somehow stay below that threshold, I’m still forking over a decent chunk of my monthly income toward paying down the debt.
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So Why Would I Want a Master’s Degree?
With all of that financial ranting aside, why would I still deal with the constant itch to pursue my master’s degree?
I make my living as a freelance writer, and I’ve talked before about the fact that very few people care about my educational background. Instead, they only care about the fact that I’m able to actually write high-quality material.
So, considering that, wouldn’t furthering my education be a complete and total waste? Well, it’s about my future.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of teaching at a college level, and there are numerous opportunities for journalism, communication, and mass media instructors at the higher education institutions in my area. And here’s the clincher: Every single one of those positions requires at least a master’s degree.
So, while heading back to school won’t benefit me in the immediate present, it will open career doors for me in the future. Plus, with the notorious financial instability that comes with being a freelancer, I feel as if it’ll add an additional sense of security for me – I’ll know I have an alternative that I can turn to when needed.
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Our Plan Moving Forward
Ideally, I’d like to head back to school part-time while still maintaining my full-time career. It’ll be tough (I foresee a lot of late nights and very early mornings), but I think it’ll be worth it.
I also plan to head back to my alma mater – the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. I really enjoyed my undergraduate education there, and I am already familiar with the program and the professors. The idea of attending the same school for my graduate degree gives me a sense of comfort and excitement. Of course, I’ll need to work out the logistics of what courses are offered online and how I’ll commute back and forth for any necessary meetings or coursework.
So I had one other big piece of the puzzle to figure out: how we’d pay for it.
Here’s what I know so far: I need 30 credits to complete my master’s degree, and I’m aiming to take six credits each semester. This means that it’ll take me two and a half years – or five semesters – to complete my graduate education.
I plan to schedule an appointment with the bursar’s office to find out more about the total cost. But based on what I’ve been able to gather so far, I can estimate that we’d be spending at least $600 per credit hour, bringing us to a total of $3,600 per semester, not including textbooks.
Since I can’t stomach the idea of taking on even more student debt, my husband and I decided that it would be best to pay for my education as I go – class by class. Yes, it’s expensive. And it means our monthly income will take a bit of a hit (which means we’ll be tightening our purse strings in other areas). But it seems like a wise tradeoff when the alternative involves accumulating even more student loans.
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“Education is the one thing that nobody can take away from you,” as my grandfather used to tell me. So I think I owe it to him – and myself – to finally continue getting the information I need to make an informed decision.