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So you want to go to grad school?
Future grad students of the world unite!
Funding undergraduate foundation classes, and more 
17th-Aug-2013 11:35 pm
Hello. I've watched this community for a while, but I figured I'd join and ask some questions.

I'll spare you my life's history. Suffice it to say, I'm looking at obtaining a Masters in Health Information Management, while my Bachelors was... well, not in HIM. The program I'm looking at is an online program at the College of St. Scholastica, and that requires certain undergrad classes in order to start on the actual graduate studies.

I started taking classes at my community college in order to substitute certain classes for others. Those I can pay for. I will require additional funding for the remainder of the undergrad classes at CSS. My problem there is that, due to a long and storied college history, I have more than 180 undergraduate credit hours. I'm not sure how I can pay for the rest of the undergrad classes. The Masters program will be done through the GradPLUS loans, assuming I can get one.

I'm also approaching middle age, if I'm not there already. I work a full time job, and between classes and work, I simply don't have energy to put in for a part time job on top of that. I really don't know how to fund the last bit of undergrad.

I'm also wondering if it's worth it. Granted, I'm scraping by in life, as my current job does not pay very much. Taking on an additional $25,000 in student loan debt, that's a year's pay for me. The school reports a median pay of $85,000 for HIM professionals with Masters degrees, but then I look at my BA and I'm reminded that I'm supposed to be making more from that based on what THAT school said. If this degree pays off, then I can take care of the student loans. If not, to borrow a line from The Kids in the Hall, those loans will be buried in my body.

So, is it worth it to continue this pursuit? If so, how should I fund that last bit of undergrad work?
18th-Aug-2013 08:23 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, the only real answer to 'how should you fund it' is self-funding, for undergraduate non-degree classes once you've already got a degree. Except for in very rare circumstances, you just have to pay for those yourself. As for whether it's worth it, no one can answer that for you. Why did you pick public health, and what are you planning to do with it? What are your realistic employment prospects? Can you afford another $500 a month or so in student loan payments if those plans don't work out? Do you have other options that might involve non-loan funding?

(Also, go for Stafford loans before the gradplus loans, even unsubsidized they're cheaper!)
18th-Aug-2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
From what I heard, all new grad loans will be unsubsidized. Not sure if they're still calling them Stafford loans, though.
18th-Aug-2013 01:59 pm (UTC)
I don't think they do now (they're the federal student loan program or something or other), and yes, all of them are unsubsidized - the interest rate is still almost certain to be better than the PLUS loan, though.
18th-Aug-2013 08:42 am (UTC) - also ...
taking the school's word on what you might earn when you're done is just plain foolish--of course they're going to say you'll earn buckets of money! you should research the topic yourself ... and also get from the school placement information (how many graduates got a job in the field within a set time after graduation, what they're earning, etc.)

the school has no reason to paint you anything less than a rosy picture here. get your own answers.
18th-Aug-2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
Echoing what others have said: do not rely on your school's job placement/salary statistics. Do your own research and talk to alumni if you can.

As for funding, contact the scholarship office at your school to see if there are post-Bac scholarships available. Do not waste your time with sites like Fastweb; the school's scholarship office will be the best resource if you don't want to take out loans right away.

Shop around for other schools that offer HIM programs; don't settle on one school just yet. Other schools may offer better tuition rates and/or scholarship/alternate funding options.

Regardless, never take the school's word on employment rates. Never.
20th-Aug-2013 04:48 am (UTC)
Is the median pay for HIM professionals fieldwide, or is that the median pay for their graduates? There's a difference. If it's the field median, that's probably also midcareer pay. So I don't think you can expect to make $85,000 right after your master's. You might make it after 7-10 years of work.

Either way, though, the only way to pay for those extra classes is by borrowing the money or saving and paying out of pocket, unless your state has grant programs that will pay for post-bacc classes (unlikely).
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