Ray Hayden, J.D.

Ray Hayden, J.D.

Ray Hayden's Book

Ray Hayden's Book

Cat(s) of the Month:

Bella and Linus

Bella and Linus


Education is key to success:

The education that one acquires does not necessarily need to come from formal education, and certainly not traditional classroom education.

If you have any sort of prepaid account established to allow you to go through a four year degree full time, that is great.

Our focus will be in demonstrating a way in which to acquire higher education in such a way that you will complete your program with zero debt.

This will use a hypothetical person in an area of the nation where one may be able to find decent employment so that they can work a full time job or at least two part time jobs that allow enough income to cover affordable living expenses and continued educational expenses without taking on loans!

A Certificate Program:

For our purposes, let's take a person who has decided that they don't like commuting, they have good Internet service and they feel that they have discovered the perfect widget that they could sell online. Their desire is to begin selling their item on an online auction site, earn some money while testing the waters until they can afford to establish their own online business, and learn how to run their business venture.

Our person is currently working in a good job that pays a fair wage for what they do, and they can afford a modest apartment's rent, utilities and their car payment on a decent, newer model, used car. This person has yet to rack up any significant debt, and because they realize that any future development of their business is going to require investment on their part, they live frugally (meaning within their budget without any interest in acquiring "stuff" which could establish debt).

Our person works in their job, pays their bills and has a few dollars to begin testing the waters. They also want to take some entry level classes in how to run a business.

Lucky for them, the local community college offers a certificate program in Business Management. This is a 24 credit program that can be taken part time, and completely online, allowing for the maximum of flexibility. The credits of this certificate program can also be used to complete an Associate's Degree if they choose to continue their education.

Taking two classes per semester, it will take four semesters to complete this program. There are three semesters in a year, fall, spring and summer. At two classes per semester, this person can continue to work their full time job, do their coursework around their schedule and begin selling items on an online auction site to get their feet wet in how they may fair with this endeavor.

They will complete this program in just over a one year time frame and have 24 college credits toward an Associate's Degree (which is about 60 credits). Most important of all, they pay as they go and have acquired a big chunk of their Associate's Degree coursework with zero debt.

An Associate's Degree Program:

Now let's assume that our person has been doing pretty well with their business endeavor and they wish to establish their own online website to cut the costs and fees of using an online auction site. They are making enough profit from this venture to almost be able to work a part time job while investing more effort into their part time business.

Our person realizes that they really need some more information on business issues, accounting and economic knowledge. Our person decides to use the credits that they earned during their Certificate Program and apply what they can to an Associate of Art's degree. Their interest is in the possibility of using those credits towards a Bachelor's Degree if needed, so rather than obtaining an Associate of Science in Business Administration, they go for the A.A. degree.

Choosing the A.A. degree program requires a few courses that are more "advanced" high school, than strictly business, but it also gives our person the "2+2" option of being "guaranteed" acceptance at a state university if they meet the requirements of the A.A. degree. Our person also realizes that they are not all that great at math (Algebra) or some science courses, so they make the decision to blend online courses with on campus courses so that they may have the person to person assistance of being in a class with other students and instructors for those courses which they feel they require additional help.

There are still three semesters per year, and it will take, on a part time basis of no more than two classes per term, six semesters to complete this Associate's Degree.

If they made this decision while they had been in the final semester of their Certificate Program, they simply continue taking classes. An Associate's Degree is the first two years of college. Doing this program part time, allowing for the ability to work a full time job, work on their part time business and continue to gain valuable knowledge, our person stretches this two year program to another six semesters, or ten in total from the beginning.

Ten semesters works out to three years and one additional semester, a tad longer than the two years of a full time student, but this person is also completing their studies with zero debt because they are paying as they go. They also have more time for each course they are taking, which may very well work into a higher grade point average and - more importantly - better understanding of what they are studying!

A Bachelor's Degree:

Our person completed their Associate's Degree and has developed a thirst for more information. Their initial part time business actually failed to work it's way into becoming a full time income, but it did well while it lasted, and certainly helped with making ends meet to the point where they actually had been able to save money towards retirement.

They did, however, get noticed at their job, and a promotion led to greater income in their full time work. It appears that their effort to increase their business knowledge helped them at the "day job" and paid off. They also discovered a new line of items that they would like to work on selling online.

This new line, they feel offers better potential and a greater opportunity. As such, they continue using online auction sites, but really make the push to open up their own online store on the side. The hope is to move from online auction to fully self sufficient online sales.

From the success of earning their Associate's Degree, they decide to continue with online education and completing their Bachelor's Degree. They decide to complete their degree in Business Administration. Their Bachelor's Degree is a total of 120 credits, 60 of which had been part of their Associate's Degree, so they have another 3 years and one semester worth of work to complete the degree.

Using this technique, our person completes their Bachelor's Degree in six and a half years as opposed to four years of full time study, but what is it that our person has that the four year full time student does not?

Well, during the entire time, they worked a full time job, but they also had been working on learning about online sales and how to run a business. With their specific interest in becoming a full time business owner, they also worked on building that part time business as they could. It added income to their pocket, while they also acquired real world experience - something the classroom simply cannot do.

Finally, and this cannot be overstated, they graduated with a Bachelor's Degree - debt free!

The Master's Degree:

Our person worked very hard in their part time business, this second line of products also had limited potential. Back in the "real job", however, the completion of their Bachelor's Degree opened the door to a position that "required" the degree for consideration.

While earning more money is great, our person is simply not satisfied working for others, even if the pay is pretty good. They feel that they can have much more enjoyment in life if they are doing their own thing. They really enjoyed the online business, and it gave them an excellent return on their effort. The extra cash along the way helped them pay for their education, graduate debt free and the education opened the door to more income, but they desire a successful business of their own.

Working on their part time endeavors, they come across yet another idea that they wish to pursue, this time, they will not be using an online auction site, but other methods of getting traffic to their site. This time, they will get their site up and running successfully.

Our person creates a website dedicated to providing free information with links to their sales site which has products related to their subject matter. These products are small in size, inexpensive to ship and take up very little space. They also have the best profit of any item they have had sold previously. Selling them from their own online site also cuts down on fees paid to auction sites, thus increasing their profits even more.

Some time goes on, and while our person is quite happy with their job and income, the online business is their passion. They just can't seem to generate enough income to allow them to step away from the "real job" and invest 100% of their efforts into their "side business".

Our person discovers an online Master's Degree in Web Design. Noting that our person feels that if they could make a more interesting looking website, that they feel they could bring in more traffic and generate more sales... they get excited about the potential.

Our person is still working full time, making a good living and good pay. They are also working on their part time business with the hopes to take it full time and expand it as well. They decide to take the online program in web design.

The Master's Degree program addresses areas such as theory of information retrieval, usability analysis, database management and advanced web applications. The program is 36 credits and will take two years of part time classes to complete.

While a full time student could knock this out in one year (no summer break!), our person completes their Master's Degree with zero debt and more time to commit to each course while working full time and gaining experience in their business venture by applying what they learn to the website as they acquire the knowledge!

In taking things slower, our person cut the stress level of trying to rush through courses that they really wanted to master in understanding so that they could get the most return on their investment - plus, the wonderful benefit of graduating with zero debt!

It wasn't easy!:

This effort, this plan of action to obtain an advanced education with zero debt, is by no means an easy thing to do. The power of the effort is in the continued experiences of what our person can still accomplish.

Life is funny, things get in the way from time to time, but those who have the drive, the determination to complete what they started, will.

Ray Hayden had joined the USAF specifically because of the line the recruiter said, "We pay 75% of your college tuition." That was the magic sentence that got Hayden to sign on the dotted line.

Hayden always knew that he had to have a Bachelor's Degree to stand any possible chance of a successful future. He based that on his family history. Working without a degree was not going to get you anywhere - fast!

The USAF did not score many credits to Hayden's transcript, but Basic Training did score two very important things, first, it counted as physical education credit, so he never had to take that again, but it also scored him a starting date for college, he had a seven year clock ticking!

To complete his studies, he had to complete the Associate's Degree before that seven years ran out. Going back to school in the summer of 1985 with a fist full of useless USAF credits, he completed his Associate's Degree in December of 1986, in five semesters!

He took on debt (student loans) to get the job done while working full time to pay his bills. In 1986, the Savings and Loan Crisis began and he got nailed with incredible student loan repayments. Repaying those debts while working full time to stay just above water kept him from continuing his education at that time - you can see the beauty of going to school without debt - right?

The break in education for Hayden was some fifteen years! In the meantime, he did end up going into business for himself, in 1992, shooting Litigation Support Video projects. During the 1990's, Hayden tried to return to school and complete his degree three times. Each time, work projects went right through class times. Three times, Hayden had to withdraw... it starts to get pricey doing that, but no program existed at the time to allow Hayden to complete his degree.

In 1997 - 1998, the company that Hayden worked with began merging with other companies. They became a national firm and offered a nice pay cut to Hayden, of some $20,000 per year! Hayden decided to open up his own firm (as opposed to being a subcontractor), and on 1 January 1999, he did.

That first year, he grossed some $14,000 before expenses - that hurt! Good thing he saved money! While income began to increase the second year, Hayden found an online degree program from Florida State University. They required him to take a "C++" programming course, so he did. That delayed his entrance into the program for one year (they only allowed entry in the fall semester). During that time, Hayden saved money to pay cash for his education. This worked out well.

In 2001, Hayden returned to school in a Bachelor's Degree program offered online. This time, he had the cash to pay for the degree as he completed it! He graduated in May of 2003 with zero debt toward his education! It is this experience that we use to demonstrate the hypothetical person above.

Had Hayden not gone to school full time for his Associate's Degree at a time when money was so tight, he could have gone part time and stretched out the time to complete the degree, but also earned the Associate's Degree with zero debt - which, as it turned out, due to the banking crisis, was the very thing that prevented him from continuing his education earlier.

As it turned out, Hayden got lucky - when opportunity meets preparedness. The online Bachelor's Degree program that Hayden took had not been available online previously, and the year after Hayden completed it, it was no longer available. Hayden scored the perfect window of opportunity to complete that program. The program is still available to students who go to FSU in person, it is just not available online. The Master's Degree programs are available online!

Our point is that it is not easy. It seems to be that those things which are worth while, are never easy. It seems as though the struggle is part of the fun. We can tell you from a number of experiences that financially struggling is never fun - don't do it!

If you have a big bag of money and can complete a program full time - by all means, go for it! If, however, you need to work, and you are going to be paying for your education on your own dime - do it slowly and pay as you go!

You will not only NOT be adding too much extra time on to your studies, but you will be working in the "real world" while you are doing it - networking as you progress in your education - and that might be worth more than if you could have gone full time! Graduating debt free is the greatest feeling that you could ever have.

You will be so much further along when you wrap up your educational goals.


For our person who worked their way through, let's just say that their online business did finally hit strong. Their Master's Degree was extremely helpful in their understanding how people search for things. They took that knowledge and created an expertly designed website with effective links to their products online. Sales increased and they had been able to leave their "real world" job and work on investing all of their efforts into their own business.

As they became more successful, they needed more help in their business. They added several positions in customer service and had been able to employ people with very good benefits and a better than fair paycheck. Their belief had been to reward those who help their company succeed, and by helping others to succeed, their success level continued to increase even more.

What the future holds? Bright futures for our person and those who work towards greater success themselves!