Let’s be honest. Money is on almost everybody’s minds. This is particularly true when you look at making any big decision or purchase. Starting a master’s degree program is definitely both of those things. As with all major decisions and purchases, that meant that I had to do my research.
When looking at colleges and universities, I compared a variety of factors, including out of state versus in state tuition, number of courses required, individual cost per credit, as well as the variety of fees that are often associated with attending any type of educational program. I found that Point Park University did not seem to inflate their program by requiring a higher number of classes, and their rates were in line, if not lower than, other colleges and universities. I was also impressed with the vast number of options that Point Park University provides to students to pay for their programs. Students have the ability to apply for financial aid, choose a payment plan, or depending on your school district, there is even an employer reimbursement plan.
Initially, I was planning on using the employer reimbursement. I was hoping to simply pay a small fee at the beginning and then have my school district pay the remainder upon the successful completion of my course. That meant that I would incur little to no debt of my own. Unfortunately this was not an option for me as it did not follow the past practices for my school district. Lesson learned – check with the district’s business office to see how they handle paying for college classes.
At that point, I needed to move on to Plan B. I opened up a credit card account that would only be used for my master’s program. That meant that at the beginning of each semester I paid the full bill on my credit card. At the end of each semester, I provided my district with proof of payment of the bills as well as my grade at the end of the course. The district then wrote a check to me with the amount allocated by my contract. That money was then used to pay off my Point Park credit card bill.
Walking into the master’s program, it was also important to understand my contract. I needed to be fully aware of the reimbursement policy, particularly regarding the number of credits permitted and the rate which they would be reimbursed. In addition, I needed to understand if there were any stipulations that would be required after I had completed the classes. For me, that meant I would receive 100% credit reimbursement from a college as long as the tuition did not exceed the rates of several preset Pennsylvania Universities listed in my contract. In addition, I needed to receive a “B” or higher in the course. In my case, there was a stipulation that if I were to leave within five years, I would pay back predetermined amounts of my tuition. As each year passed, I would owe less until after the fifth year.
I feel fortunate that both Point Park University and my employer made it financially possible for me to complete my master’s program. Instead of worrying about how I would pay for my classes, they made it easy to focus on my classes and successfully complete my program.