Finances & Money

Fall 2007 Semester Update: Midterms are Over!

Some of you know that I started my graduate degree last month (September), as well as work full-time and write daily (except weekends) for Clever Dude. Although my wife would disagree that I actually WORK full-time (I’m here 8 hours, ok!), going to school has added quite a bit of stress to my life, and portions of my life and relationships have suffered. In the next week or two, I’ll be talking a bit about stress, so stay tuned.

As for the status on my first semester back in school, I finished an in-class midterm for one course 2 weeks ago (got a 94), and just turned in a take-home midterm last night for my other course. Don’t ever think a take-home exam will be easier, because it just means the professor can give you any amount of work since it doesn’t have to fit in a 3-hour time block.

As soon as I got the midterm, I scanned through the questions and wrote down an estimate of the amount of time I thought each would take me to complete. My initial estimate was 17 hours for the whole exam based on past homeworks, but in the end I was able to breeze through the whole exam in a mere 6 hours.

Last night, I was going to review my answers, but after finishing another homework for my Wednesday class, I decided to just send it in. Most of the questions are subjective, and although I’ve taken the same approach to every homework in the past, each has gotten me anywhere from a B+ to an A, so why change?

If you’re wondering, my employer will reimburse a grade of C or higher, and depending on the course, you can pass with a C or higher as well. I could really lower my performance and still probably get a low B in these courses, but obviously I won’t since I have higher expectations for myself. I’m not looking to ace every course because I’m not willing to put that time and effort into school, but I’d like to leave each course with an A- or higher. Right now I have an A- in one class and an A in the other.

Lastly, regarding finances, I’ve already paid for and been reimbursed for this semester (back in July). The cost was about $5000, plus about $200 for books, so I hit the yearly limit on my employer’s reimbursement amount.

Right now, registration is open for next semester, but if I paid now, I can’t submit for reimbursement until Jan 1st, 2008. That’s $5,000 of my own money that I would have to put up front, so here’s my plan. I’m going to sign up for one of the 0% card offers I posted last week and even get some rewards back on the purchase. I don’t like having more cards, but in this case, my only other option is to pay with my MINI credit card, but that offer would run out before I would get my reimbursement. All my other cards have higher rates, and I don’t want to pull money out of savings if I don’t have to (because we’re earning interest on it).

It stinks, but I’m going to have to deal with this situation one more time next year for the Spring 2009 semester. What’s even worse is that next year, I’ll have to pay for Summer and Fall 2008 semesters out-of-pocket. That’s about $7,500 non-reimbursed, but I knew that going into the program. It’s nice that my employer covers some of the program (about half when it’s all over), and it will speed up the payback period of my own investment in my education. I expect my $15,000 will be paid back within the first 2 years after school is over due to pay raises, and maybe even sooner as my employer recognizes my advances in education with each performance review until I graduate.

So for those of you who work full-time, go to school AND have kids AND are paying fully out of your own pockets, I commend you and respect you. I feel like I have it easy compared to some people in my classes, and I do. Good luck!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I actually finished my undergrad at a non-traditional nights/weekends style of University. I am considering starting a graduate program at a similar institution soon, but I want to make more progress with my debt before I take that on- or find an employer with a reimbursement program. I know how tough it is to go to full time work and school at the same time- good luck!

  • I am in the same boat as you. I work full time, and go to school every night except Fri and weekends. My company pays for my school (75% of the cost, up to $5500 annually, 25% remainder 3 years after graduation while still with company). Right now, I pay all out of pocket, but I pay with cash. No credit card for me. My school offers an installment plan that costs $30 to do but it breaks up the huge lump sum I’d have to pay otherwise. It’s worth $30 to me. I get my reimbursement back after I submit to them my receipts for payment. Very nice, considering they don’t look at grades. Regardless, I still have to do good for myself.

  • M, the thought crossed my mind to get a student loan, but if we budget and save, we can pay out of pocket, or with a low interest credit card and pay it off quickly.

    Jonathan, it’s in IT, but not computer science. It’s more of system architecture, so more writing that coding (actually, no coding at all as I’m not a programmer anyway).

  • J: One of the things holding me back for years from proceeding with a masters is deciding whether I needed or wanted an MBA. I figured that was the buzz in the industry, but I kept balking at the price and time committments. I let me career move forward and finally this past year decided that I wanted something more technical (but not scientific). I chose a systems engineering route, which combined tech with management (technical management is a different degree though), and is exactly what I’m doing right now in my career.

    Also, I decided against the MBA because I just don’t see myself as being a CEO, CFO, or any other high-flying business type in the near future, or even 10 years out. I like staying close to the technology, and I’m not big on the politics of business.

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