Graduation cap on top of a pile of hundred dollar bills.

How I Paid for My Master’s Degree at Concordia University Chicago

All professional teachers know a master’s degree in education is a critical step for our career development, but the price tag is intimidating for anyone on a teacher’s salary. As a full-time teacher, I was able to pay for my master’s degree out of pocket through careful budgeting and planning, taking advantage of tuition reimbursement, and working closely with Concordia University Chicago to make sure the pace of the program best fit my financial abilities.

Monthly Budgeting Makes the Bills Manageable

One of the ways I made paying for a graduate degree manageable was by incorporating payments into my regular budget. I found this was really easy to do with Concordia, because they offer the option to make monthly payments, rather than paying one big bill once or twice per semester. This way the cost of the program was spread out evenly over the entire year, and it was easy to incorporate my school payments into my family’s regular budget for expenses. I can’t underemphasize how much this relieved the stress of having to worry about a large upcoming payment a few times a year. If you are feeling stressed or anxious about the prospect of massive school bills in order to get a graduate degree, then relax. Take a close look at your monthly budget, and see where you can find wiggle room. By giving up a few pleasantries here and there, you will likely find that most of your degree can be paid for through careful and strategic budgeting.

Take Advantage of School or District Reimbursement Programs

Many school districts offer tuition assistance/reimbursement. If you haven’t looked into this yet, it is definitely something to check out ASAP. Chances are something is offered to help assist with your school costs. In my own experience, the school district offered a fixed amount each semester for classes in which I earned a B or higher. At first, I was dismissive of the assistance program because it didn’t seem like a lot, but once I started my degree, I quickly realized its value. Although the amount didn’t cover the full cost of tuition, it definitely took a huge chunk out of the bill and made it possible to pay for the entire degree out of pocket through careful budgeting. If you haven’t already, talk to your school’s HR representative or other school administrator about what kind of tuition reimbursement is offered. You can also try negotiating with your administration for reimbursement based on professional development through your degree. Good school districts and good administrators understand that a graduate degree in education is a worthwhile investment in their teaching staff, and any amount will go a long way toward reducing your monthly payment.

Take Advantage of Concordia’s Flexible Schedule Options

When I first looked into a master’s degree, I was unsure whether I could afford to continuously take classes without pause to recoup financial expenditures. When I talked with my Concordia advisor, we discussed the possibility of taking summer sessions off and extending the program length by a year in order to make the costs more manageable. Ultimately, with the ability to incorporate monthly school payments into my regular budget, as well as some help from tuition reimbursement, I found that there was no need to lengthen the program, and I was able to take classes continuously. Regardless of your financial situation, Concordia is great because they offer the chance to complete a degree program at a pace that best aligns with your financial situation and abilities. Getting a master’s degree in education is a worthwhile investment for a lifelong career; don’t let the prospect of stretching it out an extra year prevent you from starting now.