Monday, July 16, 2007

Is a Free Degree Truly Free?

I must say I have been very lucky when it comes to financing for college. I was awarded $20,000 in grants when I first started going to school. I got married while still atteneding and had to take out loans since my income shot up (well, not really MY income but they don't care). My loans totalled a little over $18,000. Now I have the chance to go back and get my Master's for free. That's right, I said FREE. As a teacher/librarian this is the ONLY way for me to increase my income. Teachers have a fixed pay scale in my district. You get a raise for each year of experience and what type of certificate you hold (I have A, Master's would be considered AA) At first glance it seems like I should go for it right now and get it over with. However I am sure there are expenses I am not thinking about that will make it more expensive than I anticipate.

First, there will be the extra gas. The closest campus to where I live is about a half hour drive and that is using the interstate. It is also possible that I might have to take classes as far away as the main campus and hour and a half away.

Next, there is food. I would have take night classes because I have to keep my full time job. This seems like an easy fix, make something and take it but with two kids, work, making food for lunch, I seriously doubt I would have time to do this on a regular basis. And, I can't just stop back by the house on the way to school because that is already a really long drive for me.

I guess what I have to find out is the lowest number of hours I can take and still have it paid for by the Institute of Higher Learning.

So, I am trying to decide if going to school is worth possible having to put my debt repayment plan on hold. Right now I really don't want to do that. But,there is no real way to know how much it will cost me until I am actually there an doing it. I guess this just proves the old saying about nothing truly being free.

I also have to consider the benefits. My income will increase but not until I am completely finished. WHen I was an assistant I got to bring in my transcript after every semester and I got a raise. This doesn't work once you have your bachelor's. So, I guess right now I am just going to wait and see. If you have any more tips on how to minimize expenses while going back to school I would love to hear them!

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