Author Topic: Should I finish my Bachelors?  (Read 7964 times)

DigitalRain

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Should I finish my Bachelors?
« on: June 14, 2012, 08:33:39 PM »
Hi everybody,

I've been trying to decide for a while whether completing my degree would be worthwhile or not, so I'm excited to find a community of people that value frugality as much as I do! I'll try to keep this as brief as I can.

I'm a student at McNally Smith College of Music where I'm majoring in Guitar Performance. My intention is to make a living teaching private guitar lessons and playing in bands after graduating. I have 23 credits remaining, which I would complete in two semesters.

The issues: 1) many of these classes are generals and I don't feel would directly benefit knowledge or skills as they apply to teaching and performing (though certainly some classes would be worthwhile). 2) I did an internship as a guitar teacher at the School of Rock last spring, where I have since become an employee (though the pay isn't great compared to most private teaching situations, $12/hr, it's excellent experience), and I'm also doing occasional sub work for a McNally alumni at another school (which pays much better, $26/hr). Point being, it doesn't feel like my current lack of a degree is an issue in that field, and it certainly isn't when trying to join a band (playing ability matters far more than paper credentials in the performance world).

With what I've currently completed I should be able to walk away with an Associate's for my troubles. I can only really see a Bachelor's being required if at some point I want to teach at the collegiate level, however I could see myself returning to college at some point in the future if I really wanted to make that happen.

So, the finances.

Expenses - About $750/month

Rent - $400 (2 roommates. I live in downtown St. Paul, where I can walk to school, and most of the places I work)
Food - About $200
Gym - $43
Car - $100 (my parents are very generously loaning me a 2006 Camry, including insurance/repairs etc. for $25/month. Another $25 for parking a short walk outside of downtown, and $50 for gas. I use it to travel  to a few of the places I teach, ~10 times a month. I am realizing thanks to MMM that this would probably be a terrible idea, were it not for the deal I'm getting from my parents.)

Income

Subway - About $600/month (working here part time for the summer)
Teaching - Varies a ton. I'm a sub, so it mostly depends on whether or not other teachers are on tour or sick or whatever. In May there were a lot of openings, so it was about $800.

I don't see these figures going up significantly in the near future, until I can secure a more regular position at a studio that pays well.

Debt - $15,700

Federal loans - $13,300
    Subsidized           $5,500.00   3.4%
    Subsidized           $3,500.00   4.5%
    Unsubsidized       $4,000.00   6.8%
    Plus $300 in accrued interest.
Loans from my parents - $2400, interest free
No credit card debt.

Factoring in my current expenses, tuition, scholarships, and assistance from my parents, I expect to be in about $30k of debt when I graduate. I realize that this is not a huge amount, however as a musician I don't expect to make very much. I would be thrilled to earn $30k my first year out of college.

One confounding factor is that thus far my parents have given me $10,000 each year towards my tuition and they intend to do so for my final year. If I don't go however, they may be willing to apply it towards my outstanding debt instead, meaning if I don't complete my degree, I may only owe $5k, versus $30k if I do.

Cliff's Notes - I don't expect my final year of college to be particularly rewarding in and of itself, nor do I think having a Bachelor's vs. an Associate's will be an important distinction in my chosen field. I don't expect to earn very much, and skipping the last year could bring my debt down from $30k to $5k. I'm not sure if I should stick it out or drop out.

If you made it this far then thank you for your time! Any Mustachian input would be fantastic!

arebelspy

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2012, 10:06:00 PM »
Cliff's Notes - I don't expect my final year of college to be particularly rewarding in and of itself, nor do I think having a Bachelor's vs. an Associate's will be an important distinction in my chosen field. I don't expect to earn very much, and skipping the last year could bring my debt down from $30k to $5k. I'm not sure if I should stick it out or drop out.

Sounds like you've made up your mind.

If all of the above is true, then there is no reason to get it.

Really the only reasons I can think of off the top of my head (though there may be a few others) are because you want one for personal reasons, you expect to earn more, someone else wants you to get it (usually parents) or you expect it to benefit you in some other way (help you grow as a person, perhaps, or open up other options).

Since none of these seem to apply, why bother?

I think others may dispute the fact that you don't think you'd earn more (25k more net debt is insignificant if it added a few thousand per year to your base salary, and then improved raises on top of that, over your working life), or that you can't get anything out of that last year (especially if you have some options in what classes to take while still completing the bachelors without unnecessary classes).  Or that having a bachelor's won't open other doors (such as the ability to teach English overseas, for example, if that appealed to you).  You may see some push back based on them not agreeing with these.

But if all of these are indeed the case, by all means, drop out.  :)
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sideways8

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2012, 10:23:27 PM »
I'm a music major, too! I was fortunate enough to have my education paid for so I was able to get my Bachelor's in music (piano pedagogy) without debt. Some of the music schools around here require that their teachers have a degree OR significant teaching experience. Personally, I got tired of dealing with the music school thing and I teach independently now in addition to my office day job (with a super sweet 401K).

If you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd without having to incur that extra debt of an additional year of school, you could consider getting your teaching certification from MTNA (http://www.mtnacertification.org/).

In most college teaching situations, I believe you would have to have at least a Master's degree but individual situations may vary.

Don't be afraid to venture out into independent teaching. The school I worked at previously charged $22 for a 30 minute lesson with me. They kept 50% so I was getting $22/hour. They also didn't like to pay me on time but that is another story. Make sure that if you're considered an independent contractor to take advantage of the tax write-offs of any music related expenses! :)

I'm excited to see another musician on here!!

DigitalRain

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2012, 10:47:27 PM »
Sounds like you've made up your mind.

If all of the above is true, then there is no reason to get it.

Really the only reasons I can think of off the top of my head (though there may be a few others) are because you want one for personal reasons, you expect to earn more, someone else wants you to get it (usually parents) or you expect it to benefit you in some other way (help you grow as a person, perhaps, or open up other options).

Since none of these seem to apply, why bother?

I think others may dispute the fact that you don't think you'd earn more (25k more net debt is insignificant if it added a few thousand per year to your base salary, and then improved raises on top of that, over your working life), or that you can't get anything out of that last year (especially if you have some options in what classes to take while still completing the bachelors without unnecessary classes).  Or that having a bachelor's won't open other doors (such as the ability to teach English overseas, for example, if that appealed to you).  You may see some push back based on them not agreeing with these.

But if all of these are indeed the case, by all means, drop out.  :)
Thanks for the feedback! I am probably excessively averse to being in debt, so I might have worked a little too hard to talk myself out of it.

As to your reasons for it, my parents would certainly like me to get it, though they're awesome and will support me in whatever I do. I think I'd feel good about having it, I just really have no idea if I could expect it to increase my income at all. It would look good on my resume, but to my knowledge most studios charge all their students the same amount and thus pay the teachers the same amount, regardless of specific credentials. Continuing in school could certainly open opportunities though, as I got my current high-paying sub gig through a reference from a teacher at the college. Unfortunately I don't really have any choice in the classes I take, all that I have left are required.

DigitalRain

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2012, 10:58:40 PM »
I'm a music major, too! I was fortunate enough to have my education paid for so I was able to get my Bachelor's in music (piano pedagogy) without debt. Some of the music schools around here require that their teachers have a degree OR significant teaching experience. Personally, I got tired of dealing with the music school thing and I teach independently now in addition to my office day job (with a super sweet 401K).

If you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd without having to incur that extra debt of an additional year of school, you could consider getting your teaching certification from MTNA (http://www.mtnacertification.org/).

In most college teaching situations, I believe you would have to have at least a Master's degree but individual situations may vary.

Don't be afraid to venture out into independent teaching. The school I worked at previously charged $22 for a 30 minute lesson with me. They kept 50% so I was getting $22/hour. They also didn't like to pay me on time but that is another story. Make sure that if you're considered an independent contractor to take advantage of the tax write-offs of any music related expenses! :)

I'm excited to see another musician on here!!
Awesome! Can I ask what your office day job is? I've been trying to think of ways to supplement my income, as I said I work at Subway right now, but that's not the best, hah.

Great idea on the teaching certification, I wasn't aware of things like that, it would certainly be cheaper than a year of college. As for necessary degrees, it probably depends on the college. McNally is pretty contemporary, to my knowledge all the teachers at least have a Bachelors, but in many cases it doesn't even mention their degree on the faculty page. They're more concerned with professional experiences.

Many of the studios I've looked at do hire teachers as independent contractors, so I'll be sure to take advantage of it if/when that happens!

I'm glad to see another musician too! We can't be the only ones though?!

arebelspy

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2012, 11:41:18 PM »
Intuitively I feel like 25k more debt to get a bachelor's (even a fairly unmarketable one) is pretty cheap.

Ignoring your sunk costs, if an 18 year old kid was able to get a bachelor's degree for only 25k (essentially 6k/yr for 4 years), I'd say that's a bargain.

I would think it would pay off, just in job opportunities alone.  You're a sub now, but if you actually decide you like the teaching gig, I'm betting a degree will help quite a bit, and provide a higher income (not to mention keep it as an option in other states/places; I know my state requires substitutes to have a college degree).
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Donovan

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2012, 07:53:36 AM »
, but to my knowledge most studios charge all their students the same amount and thus pay the teachers the same amount, regardless of specific credentials. Continuing in school could certainly open opportunities though, as I got my current high-paying sub gig through a reference from a teacher at the college.
[/quote]

Just wanted to provide some evidence that getting the degree could help earnings. At the place that I used to study guitar (it's my secondary instrument, I'm primarily a singer) they did indeed charge a different amount for degree vs non-degree instructors.  I don't know for sure that this translated into higher pay for those degree holding instructors, but it seems logical.
http://www.jlma.net/classes

Also, I am an ex-music student who at one point was double majoring in Music and Computer Science (about as far apart as you can get).  Just thought I'd pipe up and say that it is actually fairly possible to do 23 credits in 1 semester if you work at it.  My record during my double-major years was 21 credits at once, and that translated into 30 hours in actual classes during the week (thanks to 2 1/2cr choirs that met for 7 hours total and a non-credit (audited) class).  I managed to get through this, while working part time, with a perfect 4.0 semester.  So it is possible to do for a single semester (I would never suggest it for more than that, because dear lord the burnout would be terrible a year in.)  If you could work a little less and pull this off, it would cut your time and money commitment to your remaining degree work in half and still give you whatever benefits that may come from actually holding your degree.

James

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2012, 08:21:41 AM »
Another option would be to take a year off.  Ask your parents if they will apply the money to your loan if you don't go to school, and try and get debt free over that year and start saving.  Once you have saved up money with your increased work and lack of educational expenses, then start to decide what direction to take.  You could go right back the following year and take loans to cover what you need, your parents might chip in again one last time to encourage you to finish the degree, and maybe you would only take the courses you can pay cash for and spend two+ years finishing your degree.  Treat it as an "extra" you are willing to purchase with cash as you can afford it, rather than something you are willing to borrow big for.

In other words, is there a compromise that ends with your full degree but without $30k+ in debt?  I just can't see taking on that much debt without knowing it will pay off in more stable work or higher income.

Either way, it's awesome you have multiple income streams during this time and are working hard to make money while in school.

sideways8

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2012, 09:20:58 AM »
My office job is an administrative/customer service position. It's plenty of paperwork plus handling clients via phone and email. It's medical related and involves quite a bit of detail and brain use. My position requires a high school diploma, although my boss was happy about my degree (he knows that we creative types can bring a unique perspective). The hours are the usual 8-430, although they'll be reasonably flexible if you need to make adjustments. As long as the work gets done and the clients are taken care of they're happy. Because of this day job, I've been able to get a house and a nice piano. Oh, and health insurance and 401K :P

I guess it all depends on the college as to what they require for their instructors. I'm more used to the classical world where you can be snubbed if you don't have your precious doctoral- my college piano instructor wasn't given as high a title as she really deserves because she "only" had a Master's. Nevermind the fact that she has knowledge and experience probably greater than someone with their doctoral... AND she came from a rather prestigious university.

As far as pay at music schools, I have seen couple of different structures. The one I have experience with is where you are hired as an independent contractor and the school gets you the students and does the scheduling. They take 50% of the tuition and you get the other 50% (or some other variation). Where I taught it was 50/50 so while it would have cost $44 to have a one hour lesson with me, I would get paid $22. Another structure is where you pay the studio to use the space. I don't have any experience with this but have heard about it. I've also heard of places where you are actually hired as an employee and you get benefits but as far as I've seen, those places are few and far between.

I'm finding a balance between the day job and teaching independently. Personally, I like having control over who, when, what, and where I teach. :) Luckily, the layout of my house is nearly perfect for having a home studio and I am currently working on getting that space up to snuff so I can start teaching at home. My plan is to slowly build up a studio of good/happy/fun/willing students, save/invest as much as I can, and one day I will retire from regular employment so that I can devote more of myself to music.

OO! A weird side-benefit of being a musician... my immediate boss (there is another higher up from him and then there is the Board) is also a musician and has a band. It was like auto-brown nosing haha! Sorry for the rambling..... I could talk music related stuff aaaaaaalllllllll day!

AJ

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2012, 10:02:18 AM »
I think if you are only one year away and it would please your parents (who seem to have been very financially generous) you should do it. Getting that close and stopping is something I think you will regret down the road. If you ever want to go back and finish, you may be required to re-taker certain classes, or the degree requirements may have changed.

Now, if you were a freshman asking whether to begin such a program, I would change my tune. But from what I'm reading, I think your parents have invested a lot in you with the intention of you earning a degree and I think that is worth appreciating and honoring, in addition to the increased income potential.

Arbor33

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2012, 11:06:52 AM »
Preface: Having somewhat recently graduated, I'm pretty against schooling. I know there are benefits to it, but depending on your specific scenario, they can be trivial relative to the time and effort you put in.

That being said, I'm thinking you should finish your bachelors work and get your degree. Good fortune seems to favor those with more options and while you can currently do the job you wish with no degree, that may be all you're capable of doing (on paper). If you decide one day that instead of teaching music, you'd like to teach how-to-teach-music, you'd probably be far closer to your goal with that magic piece of paper that you'd get after one more year. That's just one example that comes to mind, I don't know what else the degree may help you with in the future.

You sound like a hard worker and you've got the support of your family. Use that to your possible benefit and do something that future you might appreciate more than present you. That seems to be what this community is all about anyhow.

Do it!                                                 Get your degree!

yomimono

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2012, 12:45:28 PM »
You don't sound very excited about the courses you'd be taking if you finished your degree.  23 credits across 2 semesters leaves plenty of wiggle room to take some additional courses that you might find more interesting (if your school counts credits the way mine did, anyway).  Would being in school afford you some opportunities you might have trouble finding elsewhere, e.g. access to studio space or recording equipment?  Or perhaps there's an instructor that you've always wanted to work with, who might be willing to take you under their wing for a semester or two as some kind of independent study?

If you can't find anything exciting in finishing up, I agree with James - you may wish to take a year off.

CeciliaW

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2012, 12:58:32 PM »
Do it now and get it over with.

It will be much more complicated to finish later.

Cecilia

Jamesqf

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2012, 03:26:03 PM »
Do you have to finish the degree as a full-time student?  Could you get a job, do teaching, or otherwise be self-supporting while doing 1 or 2 classes per semester until you're done?

Zoot Allures

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2012, 01:33:08 AM »
I think your plans for a musical life are great, and I admire the careful planning you're doing. I'm a musician too. But I'd encourage you to finish your degree, just to have it in your back pocket. If you find yourself needing it in the future, it won't be because you failed to reach your goals in music and teaching--it'll be because your priorities changed. It happens.

I didn't finish my bachelor's degree until I was 26, so as others have mentioned, taking some time off is always an option. I'm very glad I finished, though, because my work has evolved over the years in a way I didn't anticipate when I was in school and thought I was going to be a filmmaker. Without the degree, my various employers would not have taken my applications seriously. The important point to note is that my employers didn't care what my major was--it was having the degree itself that mattered.

CeciliaW

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2012, 08:06:04 AM »
The important point to note is that my employers didn't care what my major was--it was having the degree itself that mattered.

Exactly.

menorman

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2012, 09:44:15 AM »
The important point to note is that my employers didn't care what my major was--it was having the degree itself that mattered.

Exactly.
This 100 times. Due to degree inflation, the bachelor's degree (much less associate's) is quickly becoming the high school diploma of 50 years ago. Now I know there are plenty people without a degree who have done exceedingly well for themselves and that as a Mustachian, high earnings might not be your ultimate goal. But at the same time, having a BA will give you a leg up for sure and open up more opportunities for you even within the field. I subbed for a music teacher once who actually had majored in guitar in college and he said he was fortunate that he got hired as a teacher because many of his guitar playing friends were stuck playing gigs to try and make ends meet. But without the degree, he couldn't get the teaching credential or the pay.

DigitalRain

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2012, 10:45:35 PM »
Thanks so much for the feedback everyone.

I've decided that I will stay and finish out my degree, but I'll just do 6 credits per semester for the next two years. I think this will be the best choice for a few reasons: 1) I get a $1500/semester scholarship from the school because my GPA is in the top 10 (it's a small school), but I only need to go part time to receive it. Therefore I'll get it four times for $6000 instead of twice for $3000. 2) It will allow me the time to work quite a bit while in school, which should at the least offset most of my living expenses, or hopefully even start to build up some savings before I graduate. 3) It will give me more time to gain experience in my current teaching positions and build my resume before I'm out of college.

I will end up paying more per credit (I was planning on taking 17 this coming fall, as anything from 13-17 is the same cost, then 6 in the spring), but I think it will be worth it.

Anyone see any glaring holes in the plan? I feel pretty good about it.

Zoot Allures

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2012, 12:12:34 AM »
Anyone see any glaring holes in the plan? I feel pretty good about it.

Go for it. Ten years from now, you may not remember the details of how you finished...you'll just know that you finished. :)

James

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2012, 02:15:44 PM »
No one but you can see your full situation, but I don't see any holes and it sounds like you have a good handle on things with a very workable plan.  I think you will be much happier in two years finishing with less debt and with more experience.  Good luck!

Dicey

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2012, 04:04:22 PM »
JUST FINISH!!!

1. It will never be easier.
2. It will never be cheaper.
3. You have completed the vast majority of the work. Be strong and see it through.

The time to second-guess your field was before you started, or at least during your underclass years, not when you're almost through. If you want to change later in your career at least you'll have the basics locked up tight. If you don't finish, your money, your parent's money, your efforts and your parents efforts to earn the money earmarked for your education will be wasted!

Finally, expecting your parents to pay you for NOT finishing school is magical thinking.

menorman

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2012, 06:06:18 PM »
Thanks so much for the feedback everyone.

I've decided that I will stay and finish out my degree, but I'll just do 6 credits per semester for the next two years. I think this will be the best choice for a few reasons: 1) I get a $1500/semester scholarship from the school because my GPA is in the top 10 (it's a small school), but I only need to go part time to receive it. Therefore I'll get it four times for $6000 instead of twice for $3000. 2) It will allow me the time to work quite a bit while in school, which should at the least offset most of my living expenses, or hopefully even start to build up some savings before I graduate. 3) It will give me more time to gain experience in my current teaching positions and build my resume before I'm out of college.

I will end up paying more per credit (I was planning on taking 17 this coming fall, as anything from 13-17 is the same cost, then 6 in the spring), but I think it will be worth it.

Anyone see any glaring holes in the plan? I feel pretty good about it.
Nope, sounds excellent. Especially since you seem like you'll be able to graduate somewhat ahead of the pack. Good luck!

arebelspy

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Re: Should I finish my Bachelors?
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2012, 06:21:38 PM »
Cool.

I don't think you'll regret finishing, whereas you might regret not finishing.

Good luck!
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