Author Topic: Finish a degree or not?  (Read 4610 times)

frugally

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Finish a degree or not?
« on: March 02, 2014, 08:49:06 AM »
Hey Folks,

I'm looking for advice.  I currently don't have a Bachelor's degree, and I'm wondering what people think about the cost-benefit analysis of finishing it is.  I work in software engineering management, so the degree would be in computer science.  I currently need 27 more credits to finish, and I have not taken a class in two years.

Costs:
Money - Around $10k in tuition, probably another $3k in extra driving to the local college.
Time - I'd be doing this over the next two years.  My wife and I have two children, and we'd like to have another soon.

Current situation:
I currently make $90k in a low COLA, but I consistently work 50-55 hours a week.  My biggest worries about not having a degree are that I'll lose my job before I've had enough time in my field (currently three years) for it not to matter.  While I acquired my first job without a degree with relative ease, I am nervous about past results not being a predictor of future ones.  :)  I'd like to FIRE in five to eight years, but that's completely dependent on keeping this salary level or higher.  On the home front, I'm worried about taking more on and what that will mean for my family.

Has anyone been in a similar situation?  What'd you do, how'd it turn out, etc.

Thanks for the advice!
Frugally

phred

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2014, 09:17:14 AM »
I worked on my degree part-time.  Since the company paid tuition reimbursement, the cost to benefit was tremendous.  Just take one course year around including summer. Take any needed computer courses first if possible.  Involve the wife in this so she doesn't feel neglected; she could use your textbook to oral quiz you, etc.
  Give up the vending machine snacks so you can afford a sitter and take the wife someplace nicer every other week.
  After you've finished two courses, ask your boss(es) which further courses would most benefit you.  They will then be committed to your well-being. 

loki

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2014, 09:18:51 AM »
27 credits is 9 classes. If you can take three a semester, you'll be done in a year and a half and have some insurance against future employees who'll screen you out without the degree. I say do it.

I'm saying this as someone about to complete a master's while working, married, and recently with a child. It's busy, but it's doable. Work as a team with your spouse and work on getting your hwk done as efficiently as possible, and on spending as little time away from home as possible.

aj_yooper

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2014, 09:39:21 AM »
I would finish the degree.  I like the idea of involving your employer in course selections and your spouse in getting the job done together-quizzing you and planned fun reward breaks.  Usually, completed programs mean more financial benefits.

frugally

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2014, 10:06:31 AM »
I would finish the degree.  I like the idea of involving your employer in course selections and your spouse in getting the job done together-quizzing you and planned fun reward breaks.  Usually, completed programs mean more financial benefits.

That's a fair point, my employer does offer some tuition reimbursement, but that's dependent on me having the job long enough to get all of it.  I'm trying to think of this from the perspective of assuming I get no financial assistance (and then anything I get is a bonus).  Either way, 3/3 so far on people being in favor of getting it, so I'm sensing a pattern. ;)

PMG

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2014, 10:16:31 AM »
You might want to research tax credits for tuition paid out of pocket.  I'm not sure exactly what is offered and may not be available in your situation.

process

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2014, 10:26:52 AM »
I completed my bachelors and masters as a single parent of two children working full time.  It is not easy.  It is definitely not fun.  My mantra was, "It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be done" (don't know if that would work in your field.)  It made a difference in my employment opportunities and salary.  I would do it again, but differently as I have tremendous student loan debt. 

lb

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2014, 11:51:17 AM »
Don't take 3 classes a term. Start with one class the first term, focus, and make sure you can do the work. Then add a second class the next term, possibly a third class the following term. I see more people quit school when they try to bite off more than they can chew right off the bat. Ease yourself into it and reduce the likelihood of getting overwhelmed.

lentilman

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2014, 11:59:49 AM »
Absolutely do it.

You have the energy now and your future self will take pride in having completed it. It will provide more security for your family and provide a great model for your kids. 

These reasons are independent of any ROI you might (or might not) get.

ch12

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2014, 01:50:43 PM »
I work in software engineering management, so the degree would be in computer science.  I currently need 27 more credits to finish, and I have not taken a class in two years.

Costs:
Money - Around $10k in tuition, probably another $3k in extra driving to the local college.
Time - I'd be doing this over the next two years.  My wife and I have two children, and we'd like to have another soon.

Current situation:
I currently make $90k in a low COLA, but I consistently work 50-55 hours a week.  My biggest worries about not having a degree are that I'll lose my job before I've had enough time in my field (currently three years) for it not to matter.  While I acquired my first job without a degree with relative ease, I am nervous about past results not being a predictor of future ones.  :)  I'd like to FIRE in five to eight years, but that's completely dependent on keeping this salary level or higher.  On the home front, I'm worried about taking more on and what that will mean for my family.

Has anyone been in a similar situation?  What'd you do, how'd it turn out, etc.

Thanks for the advice!
Frugally

To agree with everyone else in this thread: finish your bachelor's.

I really think that you should start off with one course per semester, because it can be difficult to juggle 55 hour work weeks, two kids, and a wife. (Happy wife, happy life.) If it turns out to be easy, then you can increase your courseload.

Look into the American Opportunity Tax Credit ($2,500/year): http://www.irs.gov/uac/American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit:-Questions-and-Answers . It sounds like you'd be able to take it, but if you can't, you've always got the Lifetime Learning Credit ($2,000): http://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch03.html.

10k + 3k driving costs - tax credits is inexpensive enough for the upside of greater stability.

frugally

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2014, 08:03:33 AM »
Thanks for the advice all!  I'll start with one course this summer and see how it goes.

Tai

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Re: Finish a degree or not?
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2014, 03:04:31 PM »
I'm finishing my degree, I think I have 3 courses left after the current one I'm doing. It does cost money, but if it will help me stay employed, or let me get a different (better?) job, or extra work, it will pay off many times over. I also enjoy it, me time!