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I’m Smarter Than My Student Loan Debt. – Gail

“Dear Steve,

I am a fifty-year-old teacher with a doctorate who has taught a total of 20 years. All of my education had been paid for in full by me (including the doctorate) until I decided I wanted to get out of the classroom and go into another field.

I later earned 1 1/2 additional masters degrees that I funded with federal student loans. I anticipate I can work another twenty years although I might not continue for twenty years in the public school classroom.

If I’m lucky, I might teach ten more years and retire at age 60 before going into another field. I might even find a position in a university or in the field of strategic communications. I’m a native of North Carolina who is also willing to explore earning abroad at some point as a university teacher.

I currently have 91 k in federal loan debt. I borrowed a total of 85 k, but the 6 k is the interest.

Should I borrow the last 8 k to complete the 2nd masters in Strategic Communication (5 courses) or should I withdraw and save 8 k? The seven graduate courses might be enough to get me the job that I would like to have at a university, and I’m unsure whether completing the program would give me an edge.

My other degrees are in literature, curriculum, and foreign language. I am certified in nine teaching fields. At times, I feel nervous about these loans and embarrassed that I could ultimately owe 99 k.


Dear Gail,

How nice to meet another North Carolinian.

The issue really seems to be which is the most expeditious path to achieve your goal of finishing your degree and getting to a higher income.

There is no right answer here. Both choices have pros and cons.

If you felt there was enough opportunity for you to use your new degree in the new field and increase your income, then finishing and paying off the loan as fast as possible makes logical sense.

If you think your income will not be stupendous after the degree then saving and paying cash makes sense.

But what does strike me as I read your question is how much of a perpetual student you’ve been. That can be an admirable quality for sure. But if you are just stuck in the revolving door of school because you don’t really know what you’d like to do, well then that’s a different story, isn’t it?

You know that old expression “in for a penny, in for a pound”? Well how about we change that to “in for $91k, in for $99k”?

There are two important factors beyond my prognostication and your control. What we don’t know is what the job market will be like when you graduate or if you might have some life even, accident, or illness that might impact your ability to take advantage of the bigger educational investment.

What do you think? Is it a risk worth taking?

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Gail

    I think, perhaps, saving and paying cash (as you suggested) for the last five courses might be a good option. I could take the courses intermittently rather than borrowing the extra 8 k. I can’t be very certain about this job market right now so there are no guarantees that I will earn more money than I do now although I do use what I learned in order to publish. I will also enroll in the IBR repayment plan. Furthermore, I don’t feel very secure in the teaching profession nowadays as it seems the schools are cutting their budgets.

    Thanks again for taking the time to answer my question. The idea of saving some money first is wise.

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