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  1. #1
    Patron Saint Of Smileys Gloriana's Avatar
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    Question College Cost-VS-Pay-off

    As I've mentioned before, I'm almost one year out of a marriage and I'm currently undertaking the re-building of a whole new future for myself. I never went to college, and while I've learned a whole lot in the years since I was 18, I've got nothing on paper. This is proving a sticking point in the current job market.

    I'm applying everywhere I can but unemployment is mega-high in my state, and doubly mega-high in my county. I read about stimulus funding for re-training and figured "OK, if it's going to be awhile before I can land a decent job, college would be something I could do to still be improving my future right now".

    I checked out the 'targeted occupations' on the re-training list, these are occupations the government is currently providing extra funding for. I didn't find much on it that I really liked, but I saw "Health Information Technology" and thought this was something I could definitely DO. I started looking around at the approved colleges on the list.

    I found one local college that has the course I want. Problem is, even after a Pell Grant and the stimulus funding, I would walk away with $18,000 to $23,000 in debt at a 6.8% percentage rate. Now, I can probably be placed into a job pretty much right after I finish, but the job I would get would net me $30,000 a year if I'm LUCKY, I could go home with less than that depending on what I get. They could not bring that interest figure down for me, they said there's a chance the people holding my loans MIGHT bring it down, but no guarantee. The thought of $23,000 collecting interest at 6.8% makes me feel a bit ill.

    My heart sank about this, because I am not sure I want to walk away with that much debt. I know I can't go to school for FREE, but I'm 31 years old now and the thought. I'm almost debt free at the moment, all I have is around $4,000 in credit card debt I'm paying down. I'm living at home at the moment, I'm getting by on food stamps and what is left of my savings (I had a small interest income but that tanked to nothing back in October 2008).

    I don't know if I'm being too anal retentive about that figure though. I've been looking over the targeted occupation list again and again trying to find something cheaper that I could see myself doing, but there's not much there. I wanted the Health Information Technology because it's an associates degree, a lot of the other things are just certifications or diplomas.

    I mean, do you think it would be worth it? I WOULD come away with an associates degree, so that would just automatically give me more to work with in terms of looking for better paying work. I'm just not sure it's worth taking on that much debt.

    What do you think?
    "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get, but if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you...amazing things will happen" --Conan O'Brien

  2. #2
    Senior Member Snoopy22's Avatar
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    Most likely not, if you had the extra money and wanted the degree for personal reasons cost does not matter. And unless the degree guarantees a job paying over 60,000 a year, I see little use of it, youre 31, pay off your debts, budget your spending to allow for saving, and if the world does not explode by the time your 60 youre be sitting pretty. From this point in your life, any money you send to someone else just limits your future choices.

    Hell, I spent 21,000 getting an AS in accounting and I make more money sitting in front of a press doing manufacturing. And age will work against you.

  3. #3
    The Architect Alwar's Avatar
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    What state are you in? Some states like California and Illinois have kick ass online programs where you can knock out your gen ed's which would give you time to research what you really want to do.

    Edit: Oh, Florida. Look for a "virtual campus" where you can take credited courses towards a degree.

  4. #4
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    Health Information Technology sounds like a really smart choice. I think it's suppose to be one of the fastest growing occupations, and when the baby-boomers start needing lots of care soon and with the influx of public funding towards health that is coming soon.. I think the whole health sector will be begging for people to fill positions.

    If the job you'd get after your associates degree is at least $5,000 or more than you would make without it, over time I think it would be worth it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member avolkiteshvara's Avatar
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    Move to Cali. We have some of the cheapest community colleges in the US.

    And for shits-sake don't go to a For-Profit school like U of Phoenix or ITT tech. Good rule of thumb is that if it advertises.......you don't want to go there.

    If 18K is for an AA.........you are getting jacked. If it is for BA.......seems reasonable. Although my mom makes more off her AA than she does her BA so guarantees.

  6. #6
    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    Health Information isn't working with patients, is it? It's a desk job?

    Just in case it's patient-related, I'll state my POV for the sake of giving you an informed decision:

    Health Care careers (those that directly deal with patients) fall into three categories.
    (1) Intellectual stimulation despite the annoying bureaucracy (at least in the states). Advanced degrees MD/PhD.
    (2) Trenches patient care where there's usually a lack of much intellectual stimulation but a lot of opportunities for heartfelt and meaningful connections with patients. Nurses, or someone who fills a similar role.
    (3) The MRI/ultrasound/whatever tech, who spends 45 minutes max with a patient, does not have enough time to form much of a connection at all, but spends their entire day Feing, without intellectual stimulation.

    I don't know how many NFJs who would be happy with the third option, or at least willing to go into serious debt for that.
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  7. #7
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    I say an associates degree is not what you need right now.

    They have a lot of medical programs that are continuing education certificates that allow you to do jobs. I'm going into a program fall of 2010 for Surgical Technician. The medical field is a good one, so you're right on choosing that.. Even though Surgical Tech's only get paid 30k a year the huge differences: 1. The class is CE (Continuing education) for a test, so the tuition is way cheaper, probably sparring you a lot of costs and student loan debt. 2. The course is shorter than an Associates. (Surgical tech, for example, is three semesters.)

    Bonus: Surgical tech's can work as surgical techs, get some experience in the field, and then go back to school for training as a surgical first assistant.. a job that yields an average of 70-80k a year.

    I'm using my plan as an example, but I wouldn't look at a straight up degree right now. I'd look for college that WILL pay off, and a certificate in a field would be the best bet imo based on the information you provided.
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  8. #8
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Do you want to get an education mostly or purely as a means to get a particular job or career? Or do you want the overall experience and the "enrichment" that comes with education?

    If you want the education mostly for the career, community colleges are wonderful and you may find a school out of state that ends up being cheaper, even with teh cost of the move. If you want a BA, many community colleges have fast-track programs with accredited and even prestigious universities if you can maintain a certain GPA or enroll in a certain program. I have my BA but I returned to school for a year at a community college in CA. It was a really good experience, it was extremely affordable compared to community college in the DC metro area (even with out of state tuition) and it was very pre-professionally focused. Totally different experience from my liberal arts undergrad experience, and since I was more focused on finding a new career the community college experience was what I needed.

    You can also get certificates, not necessarily an AA or BA. That can shorten the amount of time you need to spend and lessen the financial burden. A certificate is just more focused in your particular field and can be parlayed just as well into a job, depending on what that job is. Certain careers don't really need or put much weight in degrees, they want the technical training/experience/skills. So you can bypass much of the issue of the debt to get an AA.

    Or you can enter training programs, like to be a massage therapist or a real estate agent. Real estate brokerages often will pay for your training to pass the national sales person test (because you have to work for them afterwards). There are still jobs out there that you can get into through old fashioned apprenticing and interning.

    What is your timeline? You can go real slow and steady by getting a job at a university/college. After you get vested, they will pay for your education. Or at least pay for 1 or 2 classes a semester once you start.

    If you have your heart more set on a traditional college experience (even despite your non-traditional college age and life experience) women's colleges often have "non traditional age" programs specifically for women such as yourself. These programs also usually involve a very good financial package. You would have the option to live in a dorm (with traditional age students or with non-traditional age women in your same program).

    But if really what you are looking for is a new career, you have many more options. And if you are looking at a new career purely in terms of pay off and a sensible choice, then mathematically as long as your new job will pay off
    your debt in say, a few years (and you can work out a budget to meet other goals like owning property, a car, etc.) then I would say to do it.

    Good luck!
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  9. #9
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    1) You're not that old, I don't see "age working against you" as one person commented. Not in the slightest. You are never too old to seek other options, particularly in your early 30's. It's not like you're in your 50's or 60's. So, please, don't let that determine your choice. I know people who were non-traditional college-age students and found jobs that were better than what they were stuck with before college. One of my favorite teachers in high school actually ended up becoming a professor, and she didn't start her undergraduate until she was 28.

    2) Having a degree is better than not having one, in my opinion. Just make sure you go for something that interests you that has some practical application.

    3) There are different options. You don't have to get your BA or even your AS, you could get training or certification in a certain field, as others have recommended. Or you could go for a Masters. It's really all about what you want to do.

    4) If you're unhappy with your job options now, I definitely say go for it.

    5) Whatever you choose, make sure it satisfies what you want, and not what other people think you should do.

    Good luck.

  10. #10
    Patron Saint Of Smileys Gloriana's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks so much for all these responses.

    I think most people I've run it by have agreed that the figure they gave me (mainly the interest rate) is too high (it is indeed a private college btw). It's not worth it to me as I don't have any real passion for HIT or anything, I just thought it was something I could just DO since it was on the target occupation list for stimulus funding.

    I think perhaps I will start from square one and make the rounds at the state colleges to see what programs are there and what it will cost me. I would not mind debt if I can hit upon something I feel I'd really be dedicated to. I'm a creative person, so there might be better options for me out there in some field where I can apply that passion.
    "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get, but if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you...amazing things will happen" --Conan O'Brien

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