Value of Education
by Ray Hayden:
Loans suck. Owing someone money... sucks.
It is vitally important that if you decide to use higher education to move in a direction for greater personal and professional
development, that you do so with the utmost of care, fiscal and financial responsibility.
The bankruptcy code does not excuse student loans. Someone pushed that through for a reason. If the Federal Government
was backing the loans, and people would be defaulting on those loans... we all pick up the tab.
The other side of the coin is in financial cuts to educational institutions. As income cuts back, tuition and fees increase. Educational
costs can be insane.
With most institutions of higher learning jacking up their prices, the student must be a student of finances prior to beginning any
What you sign on for now, if not paid for in cash as you go, can haunt you for the rest of your life. I have been reading far too
many stories of what will result in what I call Terminal Student Loan Debt.
This type of debt will destroy any chance for long term success because the graduating student will never, not ever, be able to repay
the educational debt that they placed on their own shoulders.
It is not fair. There are thousands of graduated students RIGHT NOW, who have already hit this path... there is no chance that they
could ever repay the loans unless a cap is placed on their debt - which I have not even heard mention of anywhere.
ETE is an organization that seeks to encourage continued personal and professional development, but NEVER at the cost
of your financial future.
This is specifically why I absolutely recommend that you NEVER, not ever, take out any loans for educational purposes. It is not
worth your financial future. There is no greater feeling at graduation than being able to look out over the masses of your classmates
and know that you have paid in full on this journey.
Best wishes for much success, always!
Not really a big fan of following rules myself, I like to keep things to their simplest terms.
That said, here are some simple points:
1) Cost is everything.
Value for your buck.
You must think of total cost. You have tuition, additional fees that you don't even consider - which get
tagged into tuition, there are books, supplies, costs for getting to and from school (why I like distance
education even more, because the travel time and cost is eliminated!), food, room / apartment / dorm,
and other costs. You must master your expenses prior to taking the plunge into education.
2) Live at home / have your own place.
If you are young and live at home, there is no better deal than to make use of the local community college close
to your home (if there is one), and to live at home while you go to school.
3) Community College or State University:
The home your folks live in, they likely intend to keep. They created you, you did not ask to be born, while they
legally owe you nothing at 18 years of age, it is in their best interest to assist you, if they can, by allowing you to
continue living rent free in their home while you go to school. If you have a job and can pay some of your own
expenses, that would be helpful to your folks!
If you've been out of the house for a while, or are an adult learner with a career in which you are wanting to move
up in, you have a bigger cost to deal with. You just have to plan more carefully around the available finances.
In either case, you must be a master of where every dime is going before you add additional expenses... I highly
recommend that you do NOT take out ANY loans of any sort.
On that issue of loans, let me just tell you why - consider your bank account, one that hopefully gains interest for
having some money in it...
Look at the interest rate that the bank or institution is paying YOU... compare that to the interest that you are paying
THEM for the loan... you get the idea!
The house always wins in Vegas... the bank always wins everywhere else. Do not take loans... take fewer classes and
get better grades in them before you EVER consider a loan... then don't take the loan anyway!
This depends on several factors.
4) How many courses?
There is no better value than using the local community college (if one is nearby).
I completed my Bachelor's Degree from Florida State University via distance education technology. Had I taken the lower
division courses at any four year State University, it would have cost me a whole lot more money for the same classes.
I find that wasteful, especially when the local community college guaranteed me that I would have automatic entry to the
school with my Associate's Degree. I did, and I had to do nothing extra (other than take one programming class) before I
entered my program.
I took the C++ course at the local community college!
If you live right across the street to the State University, and there are no community colleges available, you should seek
a distance education program from one of the community colleges in your state... you will not find a better, more affordable
solution - I have not seen anything remotely close.
The Exception is if you have a course that you are NOT very good at.
Math, science, a science lab maybe? Then, that one course, you might need to take in person. I do recommend doing that.
I also recommend that you consider taking that one single course all by itself so that you can focus only on it during that
semester - takes longer? Yep! Pass the course the first time? Most likely, and with a higher grade and better understanding
Other than the above, and the State University is right across the street (even then, in Florida, most of them have a community
college either close by, or on the same campus), then use what you must to pass a course that is a killer for you.
A note about "community."
Over the past few years, our local community colleges have been dropping "community" out of their names - which I think is
stupid. They began to offer (the local one to me) Bachelor's Degrees in Teaching as they are cutting teachers pay and jobs
now... it is just stupid. All of the other course work available is education that easily relates to the local "community."
Thus, I feel, it should always be a community related school. If you drop the community out of the name, what is next? Drop
the caring about the local community needs?
This is the big question. The more courses you take during a semester, the more you are going to spend. The costs seem to
multiply, and you must remain forever focused on your costs to properly measure the value of your investment.
5) What about the Bachelor's Degree?
Keep in mind, the Associate's Degree is like advanced high school. It is around sixty semester hours of credits, and most courses
will be three credits each.
A normal load of classes for a fresh faced high school graduate entering college is either four or five classes. If this kid has to
earn a living to help out at home, lives on their own, or is an adult learner, things change.
Sixty credits, divided by three credit classes, is twenty classes in all.
Twenty is about the number of classes it is going to take for you to complete the Associate's Degree (some courses, like a
lab, might be one credit, but it is required, so, you get the idea).
A full time student will take between five and seven semesters to wrap up the Associate's Degree. A part time student, taking
just two classes per term, only drags that out to about ten semesters, maybe twelve if they take a single class during a specific
So, while a full time person can knock out the Associate's Degree in about two years, it will only take the part timer another year
to catch up, and with better grades than had they stressed themselves out with a full time load. Both examples assume paying
cash as you go, so a part timer may also have less stress over the cash as well!
Unless someone has the financial ability to attend full time, without draining the savings, I only suggest a part time schedule.
Had I done this, I would have been so much further along than I am... due to pushing it, I lost fifteen years of potential!
A funny thing happens here. The same schedule as for the Associate's Degree can be applied to the Bachelor's Degree because
it is also about an additional sixty semester hours!
6) State School or Private School?
Your Associate's Degree (depending on the program, I am referring to the A. A. Degree), is mostly advanced high school and
grabbing any required classes for the upper division (the schools all have advisers (counselors)). In that office, or online, you
will find Transfer Books, sheets or action plans that show what you need from the community college to slide in effortlessly to
the upper division program - USE those guides!
Also, For my Master's Degree, which I completed in February of 2011, I earned the Master's Degree, of course... but I also
scored three graduate certifications. Each certification requires four classes... how did I accomplish it with just EIGHT classes?
As I did way back when, for my Associate's Degree, I looked for courses that met more than one requirement. The mix of
Graduate Certifications that I chose shared one or more courses with another certification! What would have been twelve
courses, I completed with just eight!
Look for courses at the Associate's Degree level that meet more than one area of requirements. For example, instead of American
History, I took International Relations. American History met one requirement only, but International Relations met an additional
requirement of International / Intercultural studies, and one class gave me two classes of credit... you get the idea!
Another note: For me, the Associates Degree was the hardest. Why?
For the Associate's Degree, other than the courses that I wanted to take, I had to take the English, Math and Science courses
that I might appreciate, but really don't use for anything. Yeah, I got some understanding about the world in general, but I might
have preferred more focus on my primary interests.
And, here is the good news - when you get into the upper division, you take far less of the courses that you don't really want
to take. And, when you do have to take an off the wall course, it is in an area of study - so you can choose something that
you at least have an interest in.
And the even better news? For the Master's Degree, I was ONLY studying core classes on the subject matter of my choice...
and THAT was awesome!
For the legal studies program I am in, every single thing is in subjects that I enjoy tremendously.
I say it constantly, that I place 100% of the responsibility for education on the student.
7) Specialized Programs
The professor is someone who assists in relaying information to the student. If they are skilled in their tasks, it will be less of
a pain for the student to grasp what it is that they need to score well on exams. It is up to the student to obtain the most value
out of the courses that they take.
With that said, there is no better value for your educational dollar than to score an Associate's Degree from a community college,
then wrap up a Bachelor's Degree from a State University ("state" being YOUR state of residence). I have searched and searched,
I cannot locate any "bargain" more valuable than this process up through the Bachelor's Degree.
If you have a free ride at a fancy pants private school, or a discount to the level of the state school... then you could take them
up on it. Otherwise, nothing really touches the value of the education from the local community college or the State University.
Lastly, on professors, the very best ones that I ever had, have been painfully few and far between. The ones that just sucked...
a dime a dozen. This adds to why I place so much of the responsibility on the student over the instructor. When you find a good one,
you can appreciate them all the more!
This is something that requires special research and investment of time before you go this route.
8) In class or distance education?:
If you are seeking a very specialized program of study, you really need to conduct as much research as you can on the potential
return on your investment.
I offer the best source for such detailed research as being the bls.gov website. Here you can research any career for income,
potential and other information.
If you are looking into a career area that requires a PhD, or specialized training programs, I could assist your research
on an individual basis as this is part of what all my training has been about, but there are a number of fields that I would just have
to get up to speed on, that I could not cover them all here in any sort of detail.
Go to the website www.bls.gov and do some personal research
on your area of interest. Also Google (Google is an excellent resource), the career field and the outlook for it. Projected growth and
the like are covered in bls.gov, but personal insights to the field are more likely to be found through a Google search.
You have to choose what works best for you. I can do well in class, but I also do well via distance education. Of the
two, one will be harder for you than the other.
9) Regional or National Accreditation?:
For me, I cannot get to a designated location and be there at designated times - my career and responsibilities do not
afford me that option of education. I am forced to accept that I must use distance education.
What distance education has over classroom instruction is time. I don't have to travel, park, deal with people or get
stuck in traffic - or weather. I find that freedom to be worth the effort. I can do what I need to do, whenever I can
This means that I do not have to wait for anything either... I can just keep moving along at my pace - as long as I
complete projects and assignments on time.
Time is also asynchronous, meaning that I do not have to learn things at the same time as the entire class. If I have
a question, I can type it up and send them in, without forgetting what I wanted to ask by the time someone calls on me
in class. People in distance education have been truly forthcoming in answering emails very rapidly.
Classroom study, on the other hand, allows for getting your mind in gear as you approach the school. Your head is arriving
before you do, which is nice. You get to communicate live with other students and measure your understanding - often
helping each other to grasp concepts. This is missing (mostly) in distance education.
With that, it is up to the individual to decide what is best for them. I personally believe very highly in distance
education and the power of "asychronicity" - for me, it works extremely well... for you? It might not.
Flatly, Regional accreditation is considered to be a higher level than National Accreditation.
I just looked up some courses for an undergraduate degree from a Nationally Accredited school that run $750 per course - at the
Bachelor's Degree level at that - ouchies.
My Master's Degree from Amberton University ran $700 per course (for a higher level degree), and Amberton University is Regionally
Right now, as of 5 May 2011, you shouldn't pay more than:
Associate's Degree Level Class ~ $300 per class
Bachelor's Degree Level Class ~ $480 per course (see why you MUST get the Associate's Degree at the local community
Master's Degree Level Class ~ $705 per course (Amberton University rate is the lowest I have seen, anywhere!).
Law School - per year - $2,850 per year @ Northwestern California School of Law*
This works out to be $118.75 per credit, closer to the price per credit of my local community college!
You also only need an Associate's Degree to earn this Juris Doctor Degree - but a word... some of the concepts that I
am studying, I only picked up through my Master's Degree... it can be done with less education... but it might be easier
if you have a deeper understanding going in.
DEAC is going to be accrediting schools for professional types of doctoral degrees, like DBA (Doctor of Business Administration).
There are two distance education law schools (that I noted), who are also accredited by DEAC. The general theory right now, but
it might evolve, is that if you have a Regionally Accredited degree, you can seek out the next higher degree at any school. If,
however, you have a Nationally Accredited degree, you might have better success working on your next higher degree at the
Nationally Accredited institutions as Regionally Accredited schools may not accept DEAC school credits.
DEAC stands for the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. So, by it's very name, this agency, and the schools that it accredits,
seek to serve those who simply could not continue their education in any other way. For a while, this gave them a second class
citizen sort of reputation. I have never had a problem with the majority of these schools.
Now that more and more Regionally Accredited schools (traditional schools) are offering distance education, and the technology
that supports it is evolving nicely, perhaps this will all come together smoothly. It is something that you must keep in mind if you
go with a Nationally Accredited school though.
People have said that what you get out of education is what you put into it. I disagree somewhat, Valuable Education is what
you take away from it when you are done. If you come out in a better position than when you went in, it was successful, now
you have to ensure that it was also WORTH the initial investment and truly drive it to be worth while.
That is what it is all about. Quite frankly, each of us could do tons of independent research and never "require" what is known as
"formal" education. If we desire, or need, official recognition, however, we usually pay a fee, take the coursework and get cracking
on the books.
Keep in mind that a school, college or university, is a business. It is big business with many areas of funds available. If the school is
a failure, it makes all of their alumni appear in a bad light. Saving face is very important in this industry.
But, as with purchasing a home or car, education is a big expense. According to our belief at ETE, all investments need
to provide for a return on the original investment. Education is no different.
I am currently working on my Juris Doctor which is NOT accredited by anyone, but overseen by and registered with, the Committee
of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
A glance at any of my educational degree's, not one of them mentions the agency which accredits the school who issued the degree,
thus the value of the education really rests with me and what I got out of it all.
The same is true for each of you. When you invest in yourself through continuing education, you must do so in a responsible manner,
obtain the return on your investment, and do so in a fiscally and financially responsible manner.
It may seem to be taking forever, actually, no matter how you do it - full time or part time - it seems to - but I cannot stress strongly
enough how much damage you will do to your FUTURE financial strength if you take out loans that you cannot repay rapidly.
As institutions pay you interest on your savings, they pay you very little.
When they CHARGE you interest on your loans, they charge you quite a bit more. It is one of the ways they make money, and I suggest
to you that it is a suckers game that you should not get caught up in.
Pay cash for everything that you possibly can... indebting yourself for someone else's profit is nothing but damaging to your financial health.