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I'm looking at going back to school, and I have the option for two different speeds at which I could pursue my degree. The following numbers are assuming none of my credits transfer. They all should, but just for fun let's say they don't.

The first one is the accelerated program which would put me at just under 50 credits at the end of my first year. It's definitely something I can handle without an issue, at least with the work load. The issue is the price. At $14k for the first year, I would need to take out about $700 / month in unsubsidized loans.

The second option would halve my credits taken per year, but would also take the cost from $14k to $8k. The $8k I could pay in cash with no issue over the course of the academic year, but I like the idea of getting my degree as quickly as possible.

I also have about $3k in student loans in my name and $15k in student loans in my parents name (which I pay on since they shouldn't have to). The total payment on those two is just under $300 / month.

Which of the two options would be smarter? I want to avoid debt, but I want to get my schooling done as fast as I can so I can focus on my freelance programming business.

Any suggestions would be fantastic

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    Is finding a cheaper school an option?:) – littleadv May 10 '12 at 23:26
  • Kindof. I'm looking at online schools that are regionally accredited. I can't really go to a normal university while working full time. Taking off in the middle of the work day to attend a class would be frowned on. The schools I'm looking at are between $55k and $68k for the entire bachelors degree. I have about 60 credits that I can transfer so that will knock off between $12k and $18k if they all transfer. – nick May 10 '12 at 23:43
  • Curious: What's the degree and major and what's the purpose of finishing? – Chelonian May 11 '12 at 0:50
  • What is the interest rate and payback period for the ubsubsidized loan? $700 seems aggresive repayment for $14,000. You should list the degree and your reason for finishing. It will aid in the answer as it will allow us to gauge your priorities vs the accelerated schedule. – Glorified Plumber May 11 '12 at 1:09
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    You have not made it clear whether you will be working full-time (or maybe part-time) at your job while also taking courses, but as someone who spent many years on the other side, I urge that you not fool yourself about the difficulty of working full-time and taking a full credit load at a university, whether online or in class. All the students that I encountered in a similar situation said that carrying a half-time course load towards a degree and working full time is barely manageable, and doing both full time is something they could not manage at all. – Dilip Sarwate May 11 '12 at 18:53
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Basically do some math on the 2 schools.

Let's say you know it will take 4 years if you go the cheaper route, at $8k/yr, plus the $300/month, total cost: $46,400.

If you (for these purposes) do not have to pay back new loans until school is completed, (and depending on the rate of those loans), you would need approx $6k/yr in loans, plus the same costs ($300/month + $8k/yr to cover the other part of tuition).

Let's say the expensive school takes 3 years to complete, which means you're out of pocket $34,800 and in debt an additional $18,000, totaling $52,800.

This means that to make the 2nd school worth it (assuming your rates don't kill you, etc) you should have an increased earning potential of at least $6,400/yr after you get your degree.

If you can finish in 2 years, your costs are: $23,200 + $12k, and you don't even have to change your earning potential to come out ahead.

Other factors to consider are:

  • What are your rates for your loans?
  • When do your loan repayments start?
  • What is your increased earning potential immediately? In 2 years? In 5 years?
  • What is the time you estimate it to take to complete a degree at each school?
  • Is there a difference in the schools? In other words, if you go to the quick program, is it worth the same, less than, or more than the slow program? Why? Schools should publish graduating senior pay schedules.

If you aren't following any of the math, or want to post more information, just comment back to me, and I'll try to explain further.

Best of luck!

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