How We're Cash Flowing a Master's Degree and Why You Should Too

In March of 2020, Kayla will begin her Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction through Western Governors University (WGU). The same school that I earned my MBA through in 2019.

The WGU Master’s in Curriculum and Education is PERFECT for our financial situation because we can cash flow the entire degree. This means that we’re able to pay for her Master’s degree 100% without student loan debt. We’re able to save enough of our income each month to simply pay for it outright.

My intention is to give you insight into our thought process and how we determined this to be a good financial investment.

How We're Cash Flowing a Master’s Degree

Our savings rate (savings divided by income) is high enough that we’re able to afford the monthly cost of tuition for the Master’s degree program Kayla has chosen.

This is how we’re cash flowing a Master’s degree:

  • Low cost of tuition

  • Low debt, bills and other liabilities

  • High savings rate

  • Ability to pay in monthly installments

  • Ability to complete the degree at a faster pace

  • Being able to work full-time while attending school

I earned my Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) through the same school and had a great experience. We performed quite a lot of due diligence prior to selecting WGU as the school we would complete our graduate degrees through.

How You Can Cash Flow a College Degree

  • Start at a community college (if applicable)

  • Reduce your expenses

  • Increase your household income

  • Go to school in-state

  • Go to a public university

  • Apply for Federal Financial Aid

  • Apply for grants and scholarships

  • Consider online school

  • Work while attending school

  • Utilize your tax return

  • Claim student status on your taxes

  • Ask about discounts for paying in cash

  • Ask to pay in monthly installments

  • Rent textbooks online, or buy secondhand, or look for e-text

  • Don’t change degree plans mid-way through

  • Seek employer assistance programs (EAP’s)

4 Reasons You Should Pay Cash for Your Degree

Student loan debt is one of the worst financial decisions you can make. The worst part is that parents are largely responsible for the student loan crises. They’ve let their kids down.

Because You Can

Paying cash for your degree might sound impossible, but it’s actually not that difficult to do. You will have to check your ego at the door though. It will require you to stop attempting to keep up with your peers.

Because of debt payments

For some reason, people don’t look at student loan debt the same way they do other forms of debt, like a mortgage. It’s not very different when you look at its effect on your financial status.

You’re going to have monthly payments of principal and interest, it’s going to reduce your free cash flow and it’s going to slow every other aspect of your life down.

It’s going to be more difficult for you to afford a reliable car, a place to live, food, clothing, entertainment, etc… Your mid-twenties are a very critical time of your life and career you don’t want to have weights around your ankles while learning how to swim.

Because It’s Socially Responsible

Don’t you love all of the social justice warriors out there? The people getting crazy over companies being irresponsible. The majority of people are so far in debt, they can’t even take care of themselves let alone tell a company how they should be run.

The most socially responsible thing any of us average American’s can do is to get out of debt. Going so far in debt that you can’t afford to take care of yourself and participate in the economy (real estate, investing, etc…) is very irresponsible behavior.

Borrowing more than you can afford to pay back is not what we should be teaching today’s youth. Not when there are viable alternatives.

Because You’re Likely to Take Ownership

You’re far more likely to take ownership of your grades and overall education experience if you’re actively paying cash for your degree. You’ll possibly party less, and study more as an additional semester would sound awfully expensive.

Finding a Legitimate, Accredited Program

Image of the national council on teacher quality badge.

WGU has one of the most well respected online teaching programs in the nation. Accreditation is so important when looking at a degree program.

You don’t want to be wasting your time, effort and most importantly, your money.

WGU’s Teachers College was named the best value in teacher education by the National Council on Teacher Quality—among 1,100 programs nationwide

How We Discovered WGU

Kayla earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at our local branch campus of the state university.

Many of the people she graduated with went on to earn their Master’s in Education through WGU.

Upon graduation, they all received pay raises by the school district and confirmed it was fully accredited and actually a leading program in the nation.

Fast forward to when she started teaching Kindergarten full-time. Many of her co-workers had done the same thing and had the same story to tell. The reviews were positive and the results speak for themselves (teacher salaries are public record and available online).

WGU Cost of Tuition

The Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction will cost $3,385 per 6-month term (this includes books and resources). When paying cash at WGU, you pay for the term in 4-months. Our monthly payment will be about $850.

We’re forecasting this degree will take Kayla about 18 months to complete. That’s three 6-month terms. The total cost of Kayla’s Master’s degree would be about $10,155.

WGU is extremely affordable for the student. This is due to economies of scale and extremely low overhead compared to their brick and mortar counterparts.

Tuition at Brick and Mortar University

Let’s compare the equivalent degree to our local brick and mortar university (where we both earned our Bachelor’s degrees). Keep in mind, this is a branch campus so room and board aren’t included in the cost.

According to their website, the estimated semester tuition is $14,314. The Master’s program will take at least 2-years to complete. That’s a total cost of about $28,628.

Western Governors University get’s an obvious +1 for tuition compared to our brick and mortar university option.

The College Return on Investment (ROI)

People always seem to misunderstand the definition of an investment when talking about a college education. People who don’t go to college don’t think it’s a waste and people who go into massive student loan debt tend to call it an “investment.”

I’m not sure I would call anything that requires me to make principal and interest payments for decades an investment (including our house).

My 3 degrees have been an investment (mostly in time) because I didn’t pay a cent for any of it.

I was actually paid to go to college for nearly 6-years. Here’s how!

How we're cash flowing my wife's master's degree through WGU. This will be our 5th combined degree with less than $5k in student loans.

Kayla’s Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education was an investment because she took less than $5,000 in student loans (prior to us being married) and it landed her a job that pays her 10x that per year. That’s a great ROI.

This Master’s program that Kayla will be working on in 2020 is a great ROI as well. It’s going to cost us about $10,000 for her to graduate. As a teacher, you get paid based on time-in-service, teacher training, and continuing education.

Getting a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction will give Kayla about an $8,000 pay bump per year. We won’t realize a positive ROI for about 3-years from today, but it will return value for the rest of Kayla’s teaching career.

This is why I believe education (done the right way) can be one of the best investments someone can make. You just cannot go into massive debt to get there or it becomes the complete opposite of an investment… a liability.

Summary

Keeping the goal in mind, Kayla and I chose a much more affordable path for her to complete her degree. There are several other benefits to attending WGU rather than a physical campus, but I like to keep these articles focused.

If you want to read more about my experience getting my MBA at WGU, check out the articles below.

The end goal is for her to increase her income by achieving an advanced degree. With that in mind, there are several ways to accomplish this. WGU checks all of the boxes:

  • Time to graduation

  • The total cost of tuition

  • Ability to attend remotely

  • Fully accredited degree program

  • Social proof that it achieves the desired outcome

FIRE worksheets & budgeting course

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