Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is Tuition a Cost or an Investment?

There is much debate in the country about the cost and value of higher education as well as student loan debt.  I want to focus on the thought process that students should use in making these important decisions.  The one year Master of Science in Business Analysis degree at Catholic University is a case in point.  The tuition for graduate school at CUA is healthy, about $36k for a full year.  Add another $15k or so for living expenses and you have a total of $50k that you have to fund.  

In most cases, this means loans.  So this is a big decision and one that has to be weighed carefully.  As I said above, this is an investment, it's a business decision you are making for your Brand, which is you.  All companies invest in their businesses with the expectation they will earn a return on their investment.  That investment may come in the form of capital improvements, more advertising, increasing production capacity, R&D etc.  In other words, they invest to grow their business with the idea they will earn a return on that investment.  Investing in yourself also grows your Brand and rewards you in the long run. 

Companies also have to borrow money to make investments, from bank loans or through the sale of stock and bonds.  So you are not alone in making this important decision.  Here is how I counsel our MSBA applicants to analyze their personal investment decision.
  1. What is your value in the market place today?  What is your current salary if you're working or what salary have you been offered for a job since graduation? What are your peers earning?
  2. What do you think you could earn if you added the MSBA degree to your current undergraduate degree?  This is obviously difficult to determine and there are no guarantees but there are benchmarks.  Our first class of MSBA graduates averaged about $60k in salary and benefits.
  3. Looking at the positions these graduates obtained, do you think you can compete for those kinds of jobs.
  4. Our graduates have performed well and several have already received promotions or moved to new companies at an increase in pay.  So factor in both the growth potential and the pace at which the degree helps you achieve the next level.  
  5. Consider whether the kind of jobs you can compete for with an undergraduate degree are static positions or growth positions.  You may find a job with a decent salary but if there is not growth potential, you will soon be passed by.  Get a sense for the growth potential by asking others in the company where they started out, how long did it take to progress.
  6. Lastly, estimate where you think you will be in 5 years with your current degree or job and where you might be in 5 years with your Masters degree.  (starting salary plus promotions plus growth plus bonuses)  Calculate the return on investment (your $50k).  
And if you don't know how to do that calculation, consider a seat in the Master of Science in Business Analysis program.  Not only will we teach you how to make this basic calculation, we'll help you maximize your return on investment.

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA                                                                                                           

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