As I approach the completion of my Masters degree, I feel more anxiety than excitement. I started down this path over three-years ago, as I sat in a cubicle at a seemingly dead-end sales job. I would sit there day in and day out thinking, “what do I need to do to get ahead? How can I break out of this rut?” Living in Southern California at the time, I felt the only way to gravitate out of my endless cycle of obtaining inside sales jobs was to bust out of the mold, prove myself, and get the elusive MBA.
Afterall, my dad got one when I was a baby and has worked at an amazing job for the majority of my life. He credits his success on his education, and I figured that I would be able to sit down with my children one day and do the same. However, looking back, the ‘elusive’ MBA that was once only for the elite and overly disciplined has become a means to an end for many unemployed Americans. Instead of sitting back and stressing out over the shittastic job market, many people have decided to embrace their career lapse and pursue an advanced degree. Sadly enough, I feel my anxiety over graduating (ie: student loan payments) is not a bad case of tunnel vision. I asked my Facebook friends a simple question: those of you who have advanced degrees, has it helped or hindered you? Has your job search been easier? Has your pay increased.
Not one positive comment. I found out that I can look forward to years of a fruitless job search, or I can go work for a local electronics store. Sigh. Perhaps I would not be so upset about this if I weren’t in debt over my ears from this ‘education’. I could own a small home in the Midwest for what I owe the Government. And, since most of my loans are subsidized (ie: the devil), they have been accruing entrance since I bought my first book. Another sigh. Priorities have definitely shifted over the past three-years since I jumped for joy over my acceptance letter. Instead of being a driven career woman, set on landing a dream job and earning six-figures a year for my talent and vigor, I have set my sights on a new path: being a mom.
I lost my job almost one year ago (long story, future post), and I have been collecting unemployment since. I have seeking employment to no avail. I do everything that I can to save money and to earn dollars and cents. My benefits are running low, and I am terrified about what will happen when the well runs dry.

Ahh, the joys of “higher education”

It seems the day of the (successful) one income family is a thing of the past. My husband has a good job, but a third of his paycheck goes to pay for our health insurance. Our mortgage is affordable, but our home value has gone down.
I do the calculations, and in order to make money I would have to make a rather high salary for the current job market. We live in a state with some of the highest cost for childcare, averaging $10 an hour (or around $1600 each month, for in-home care).
I would demand that we hire a cleaning service, because I am not working full-time to spend the remainder of my evenings cleaning a four bedroom house. This would cost around $300 a month.
Add in work clothes, gasoline and lunches out, and I am adding another $500 to my monthly “cost of working”. Although I was always great about packing my lunches in the past, I am padding the monthly budget knowing that I would want to go to lunch with my new colleagues to meet new friends and ‘transfer’ back into the working woman world.
After taxes, just to break even I would have to earn $2400 a month. Not that this would be unobtainable, but if to earn just $10 an hour with my MBA education, I would have to be able to bring home $4,000.00 each month, or have a salary of $55,000.00. Just to have the honor to earn a hair over minimum wage and pay somebody else to raise my baby.
I cried on the phone to my father last night, who told me that he cannot believe he has seen the day where Masters degrees are a detriment to the job search. He said he wished he could have known that this would happen so that he could have discouraged me from racking up this debt for a piece of paper.
Perhaps things will change, and I will find myself telling my children that education (and student loans) are a true investment in your future. I wish I could once again believe this and feel proud of my 3.8 GPA…

With this rant aside, what are your opinions of college, graduate school and the beyond? 
If you are a stay at home mom, how do you ignore the pressure of looming debt to focus on the “now” with your children? 
If you work outside the home, how do you “make money” and not just break even?