7 Options to Pay for School Without a Loan

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The U.S. unemployment rate of 6.1 percent has changed little in the past year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.6 million people are still out of work. This represents a 1.1 percent decrease since last year. Job segments that showed increases were business and professional services and healthcare.

Many self-assertive professionals are taking to the classroom for professional development with the hope of acquiring new skills that will keep them combat the volatile job market flushed with qualified professionals. But before you head back to school to earn more money, stop and weigh the potential economic gain or loss of investing in higher education.

For 2013-2014, the average cost of private non-profit tuition for an MBA program including housing and books is $100,000. Law school rakes in at more than $150,00, and med school more than $200,000. Postgraduate tuition at some of the nation’s leading institutions (including room, board, and books) can run as high as $300,00 to $400,000.

A U.S. Census Report, The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings, reported higher education unequivocally lead to higher earnings over the course of a lifetime (age 25 to 64).

Gathered from my research of U.S. Census Educational Attainment, the average change in lifetime earnings over a 39-year period is roughly a little more than $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 per month depending on your degree, however; that increase in income will be eaten by loan repayments for at least the first 10 years of your career.

Table 1: U.S. Census Educational Attainment And The Average Change In Lifetime Earnings

Field of Study Bachelor’s Degree Master’s Degree Professional Degree Doctorate Degree
Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences $2,288,000.00 $2,757,000.00 $5,435,000.00 $3,511,000.00
Business $2,563,000.00 $3,257,000.00 $4,013,000.00 $3,535,000.00
Communications $2,333,000.00 $2,552,000.00 $3,467,000.00 $3,306,000.00
Computers, Mathematics, and Statistics $3,044,000.00 $3,541,000.00 $3,848,000.00 $3,890,000.00
Education $1,798,000.00 $2,260,000.00 $2,461,000.00 $2,802,000.00
Engineering $3,349,000.00 $3,918,000.00 $4,120,000.00 $4,176,000.00
Liberal Arts and History $2,046,000.00 $2,448,000.00 $4,088,000.00 $2,705,000.00
Literature and Languages $2,083,000.00 $2,444,000.00 $3,874,000.00 $2,755,000.00
Physical and Related Science $2,527,000.00 $3,193,000.00 $5,447,000.00 $3,825,000.00
Psychology $2,001,000.00 $2,366,000.00 $3,565,000.00 $3,157,000.00
Science and Engineering Related Fields $2,587,000.00 $2,925,000.00 $3,772,000.00 $3,814,000.00
Social Science $2,406,000.00 $2,986,000.00 $4,321,000.00 $3,490,000.00
Visual and Performing Arts $1,966,000.00 $2,227,000.00 $3,042,000.00 $2,545,000.00
Average Lifetime Income $2,383,923.08 $2,836,461.54 $3,957,923.08 $3,347,000.00

Table 2: Earnings vs. Cost of Higher Education

Cost of Education Bachelor’s Degree Master’s Degree Professional Degree Doctorate Degree
Private non-profit costs 179,000 100,000 150,000+ 200,000+
Percent Income Change 74% 19% 66% 40%
Dollar Income Change $1,050,240.08 $452,538.46 $1,574,000.00 $963,076.92
Year $26,929.23 $11,603.55 $40,358.97 $24,694.28
Month $2,244.10 $966.96 $3,363.25 $2,057.86
52 Weeks $517.87 $223.15 $776.13 $474.89
Direct Unsubsidized Loan before 7/1/14 – 6.21% $2,006.20/120 months $1,120/120 months $1,620/120 months $2,241/ 120 months

I’m an advocate for higher education, but I strongly encourage every individual to conduct their own research and evaluate why they have chosen an advanced degree. Ask yourself, “Do I really need it to reach my goals?”


If much of your view of success is driven by financial achievements, there are alternatives to giving your career a boost and increase your earnings while reducing the impact of debt or not being financially burden by student loans for the next 10 to 20-years.

7 Options To Alleviate The Financial Burden Of Going Back To School

  1. Scholarships, Grants and fellowships: Scholarships, grants, and fellowships for certain degree programs such as scientific studies often provide more money towards education, and are great if you qualify—because they never have to be repaid.
  2. Financial Aid: Financial aid is available to anyone accepted into a program and can demonstrate financial hardship.
  3. Diversity Programs and Tuition Waivers: Qualify to have tuition fees waived based on diversity or circumstantial factors.
  4. Free Courses: Some universities and institutions (Yale included) offer free online courses that you may be able to market as acquired skills.
  5. Employer Sponsored Tuition Reimbursement: Some employers offer annual reimbursement for professional development up to a monetary limit.
  6. Assistantships and Work-study Programs: Earn a stipend while working for your school.
  7. Extension schools and certificate programs: Are less expensive and will give your resume a boost.

Written by Qiana Chavaia. The views expressed represent the opinion of the author and are not intended to reflect those of FutureAdvisor or serve as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendations or an offer to buy or sell securities.

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