As I continue my career as a middle school teacher, I have discovered why they call teachers “a forever student.” It became evident to me within the first few years of teaching that I would need to go back to school in order to grow as an educator and to provide new career opportunities.
Immediately, one of my first concerns was how I was going to be able to afford tuition for a master’s degree. I already was making monthly payments for my bachelor’s degree, and I felt as though I could barely make those payments. And on top of that, I live in Chicago, and money can be tight when you live in a big city; how was I going to be able to pay for more schooling?
Then I found a flyer in my mailbox at my work for Concordia University Chicago and all of their offerings for master’s programs. It also explained a discounted rate for teachers and explained payback options to make it more affordable. At first, I was not completely convinced, but I decided to attend the meeting.
If you are still cautious as I was, I would recommend attending the informational meeting. I found the meeting to be very informative and helped me decide that I could complete a master’s program and that I would be able to afford it.
After the meeting, I went home and crunched some numbers together. I decided to fill out the FASFA and take out a loan. I also decided to pause my current payments since I was enrolled back in school again and wanted my focus to be on my education and not worrying about financial stresses regarding making payments. I knew that when I finished school, I would need to resume paying the loans for my undergraduate degree and paying for my graduate degree.
The rationale with this additional payment is that I knew that I would be making more money from my new degree. I would either be taking a large pay increase if I chose a new career path and transitioned into a principal role, or if I remained in the same role, I would take a smaller pay increase. Still, the extra amount would cover the additional amount I would need to pay for my new loan.
So I pursued a master’s program and completed it in two years. After completing the program, I decided not to seek a principal position and remain as a teacher. I felt that my job was not done in the classroom yet, and I wanted to continue my current role a little longer before considering a different career path.
Even though I remained a teacher, my predictions were correct. My student loans cost more, but I received a raise since I now had a master’s degree. The additional pay helped offset the additional cost of my loan.
It has been a few years since I completed my master’s program, and I have to say that I am really happy that I did. When I started my master’s program, I lived in an apartment with two other roommates, I barely could afford my rent and my student loans together, and I had credit card debt. Today, I live in my condo that I purchased a year ago, I have no credit card debt and can easily afford my loans.
I am still a teacher, but having that master’s degree helped my salary increase at a faster rate. Funny enough, I was looking at old pictures on my phone, and I came upon a picture from about ten years ago; I took a picture of my predicted expenses and income when I first became a teacher. I created budget that was rather tight and ended with an additional $200 a month to spend and save; I am happy to say my finances have greatly improved since then.
In the end, I am extremely happy that I completed that master’s program. I was nervous in the beginning that my financial situation would get worse, but it actually got better; I never pursued a career as a principal, but just by having the degree, my financial freedom has improved.
My recommendation for anyone considering a master’s degree is to make a plan and make a budget. Ask yourself how will you pay for your master’s program and what does it look like after you receive your degree? I did that for myself, and I am happy with the end product.