These days, there are more university educated graduates than ever before.  Given the current job market, many new graduates have been having difficulty securing their dream job, or at least, they are having difficulty grappling with lowered expectations with the current jobs they have accepted.

Financial Samurai recently discussed the epidemic of young unemployed college graduates.  A whopping 54% of college graduates under the age of 25 are without a job.

Here in British Columbia, many college graduates of the local university are working in fast food joints, Starbucks, retail jobs; even those graduates with applied degrees.

Well, what if you already have a well-paying, stable job?  Should you take the plunge and go back to school or a university online for further education?  Forbes had a great article for those considering a Masters degree in tough times (2009 tough!).

That’s the decision I’ve been struggling with.  I’ll work through my decision making process with you.

I was deciding between School A, which would entail I leave my job and go to school full time.  It is a program that is in-class and not online, hence needing to be full-time study.

School B would enable me to continue to work on the side at about half my current salary, as content is delivered primarily online.  I would have to commute a few times a year to the school for in-class sessions.

There are a few things to keep in mind and think about before taking the plunge.  To me, taking on more debt is definitely not the way to go.

What is the Potential Return on Investment?

  • Many people consider education an investment.  You are investing in your career and future earnings.
  • Will this extra education give you potentially more earning power?  To be brutally honest, I don’t think there’s any point in getting an education if there’s no potential earning power.
  • How much more money will you earn?
  • With the program I was looking at, I could aim for an extra $25,000 increase in salary per annum.  If it was only $5000 more a year, I don’t think I would have bothered.
  • If there are no jobs for graduate-educated folks in your field, then that is another risk you need to consider seriously

What is the Tuition and other related School Expenses?

  • How much damage is this schooling going to cost you?
  • Will you have to commute?  Does that add to the expense?
  • With the two schools I was looking at, school A would cost $8000 for two years, and school B would cost $10,000 for two years.  With School B, I would have to commute a few times a year, which would cost $350 or so per term.

What is the Opportunity Cost?

  • Are you needing to go back to school Full Time for this degree?
  • If you’re needing to go to school full time- that also means you will lose income.
  • Depending on your income, this could be a big blow to your budget.
  • Often with highly subsidized tuition fees in Canada, the student loan debt you rack up isn’t necessarily from the tuition, it is primarily from the lack of employment and being unable to pay for the rent/mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, etc. on a month to month basis

Are there Funding/Bursaries/Scholarships Available?

  • There may be bursaries available in your chosen field of study
  • There is a lot of free money hanging around, it can be as easy as downloading a form and applying for it.
  • For example, The Yakezie has a regular writing contest whereby you could gain $600 (at least) if you are chosen first place.   The money’s there.  You just have to find it.
  • Oftentimes, many corporations pay for their students to pursue further education, even an MBA program (which can be very costly, upwards of $45,000).  You would also then have to think about how long you have to stay with the same company after you reap the benefits of education.  If you quit prematurely, you may have to pay back the $45,000 they gave you.  Every. Single. Penny.

Is this School Recognized as a Leader in the Field?

  • This is a personal preference, though it might not be worth it to go to the most respected school and still be unable to get a job (see the video in Sam’s post)
  • School A seemed to have disinterested faculty.  School B’s faculty seemed much more passionate.

So what did I decide?

Well, although School A is less expensive than School B (about $8000 compared to $12,000 for the two year masters degree), I will be able to work on the side, which lessens the opportunity cost of going back to school.  Furthermore, even though I was never a true proponent of online education, I think I’m going to adopt the mentality of “if you can’t beat them, join them” and will give School B a try.  Heck, I run a blog and love twitter, perhaps I’ve already adopted the online-learning-mentality??  I would love to do School A except that I cannot justify leaving my job, and accruing student loan debt.  I start at School B in September.  Wish me luck! (ughhhh…I’ll need it!!)

The decision of going back to school is undeniably tough.  It can be very difficult to give up the luxuries of the routine 9-5 and the constant, fat paycheck, and vacation time whenever you want (e.g. not during peak season when everyone is off school!).  Though the rewards can make it worthwhile.  I have always wanted to pursue higher education (and hoped to do it before babies start popping out, because when they do come, it might be GAME OVER for career aspirations!).

In case you’re curious about how I will manage not to go into (further) debt for school, I will continue working and may draw some money out of my saving account dedicated to going back to school.  I am also going to apply for bursaries like no tomorrow.

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with this blog doing full time school, part time work, and blogging 🙂

Readers, what do you think?  Are there any other criteria that you would add in considering going back to school?  Have you or are you thinking about going back to school too?  And finally, do you think going back to school is worth it?