College Drop Out : Saying NO to Expensive A’s

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High Cost College library I have a deep love of learning. I have multiple degrees, and so far, each has served me well. I know that pursuing another degree would be challenging and rewarded. But I'm on a FI journey that forces me to weigh the pros and cons of paying more money for college. After crunching the numbers and weighing the pros and cons, I’ve decided I’m done paying ridiculously high prices for higher education! My plan? Well, after I finish the course I'm currently in, I am dropping out of college!! Let me give you some context.

Just this year I gained acceptance into a state university Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. Curiosity, a desire for more nursing training, and increased earnings incentives led me to apply to the program. I admit that receiving the acceptance letter made me smile. But I knew I could always decide to accept or refuse admission at a later date. Applying was a huge deal for me. I’ve been to college three times already, and I paid those loans back in three years using the Ramsey Snow Ball and other life hacks. Obtaining (and PAYING for) three college degrees led me to zero interest in more schooling. However, for altruistic reasons, the desire finally returned.

When the acceptance letter arrived, I posted the good news on Facebook, sharing this wonderful milestone with family and friends. I thanked those who wrote recommendations, and spoke excitedly to callers and well-wishers. Honestly, though, I immediately felt the quiet reservations pulling in the back of my mind.

Eventually, I floated down from the acceptance “high” and returned to reality. It was then that I began the logical process to answer the question, should I accept this expensive challenge? I began a fervent writing session of compiling the pros and cons of accepting my spot in the program. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead me to a final answer. I knew, in FIRE theory, that this was not the best use of my money, but I still needed more time to decide. I accepted admission and I enrolled in one summer class in order to buy more thinking time. Now four weeks through that $2,200 class my decision is complete. I won’t be registering for the Fall session.

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
$Salary Lane Increase current job Cost $63,000
Nurse practitioner License Time away from family for studying
Nursing Professor–Able to Teach once done Same or less salary
Student Loan forgiveness for Nurse Educators Five year commitment for forgiveness-Locked in Location
Kids get to see me study–good role model Takes money away from kids’ schooling, activities, etc.
Learn more about interventions for current job/future jobs Money could be used to start something else more lucrative and more in line with FI
Love the content 4-5 year commitment

In the world of F.I.R.E, there is recognition and acceptance of the concept of finite resources. Time is finite, and money represents a valuable asset to buy yourself more control over your time. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience use so many of my dollars to pay for a degree that will take away from my overall goal to become financially independent. FI, for me, means time with my family, time for my interests, and a separation from work (in order to do what I love, instead) without worrying about paying the bills. So, I will secure my expensive ‘A’ in the class, and then I will drop out of college for the first time in my life!

Surprisingly, I am happy to do so.


17 thoughts on “College Drop Out : Saying NO to Expensive A’s

    • It’s so true! Luckily, my gut was telling me “I don’t know if this is a smart move”, and I did more research on the earning potential and lifestyle. It’s something I should have done more thoroughly before applying. With FI though, I’ve learned to be a little more creative in my thought process before making spending decisions. It literally applies to everything I buy now, including education.

  1. I am an advocate for higher education , but some people just have an entrepreneurial spirit, in which case I say follow your heart. You’re going to make it big either way, one way you invest in yourself first, and the other you invest in school and then yourself.

    • It takes some time to get used to this “invest in yourself” idea. I’ve had to build the courage to go against the norm, and make the decision that is most beneficial for me. Thank you for the words of encouragement.

  2. Having just listened to a Freakonomics podcast on the true value of nursing and how nurses could be more empowered I am an instant expert 🙂 Your decision feels right to me, and in FIRE terms, it’s knowing what is Enough and putting true value on time and relationships. (And besides you’d confuse people when they say “I need to see the doctor” and you say “that’d be me” (also))

    Nurses are the most trusted occupation in America (and elsewhere). Thanks for doing what you do.

  3. It’s a tough decision, but it has to be a good one, especially later on in life. When we are young and responsible for just ourselves, we have the time to make (some) mistakes, but as we get older and become increasingly responsible for more, the time to make mistakes or poor decisions diminishes significantly. Putting together a list of Pros and Cons is great, coupled with just listening to your gut.

  4. Thanks for showing me someone else is on the same page as me when it comes to balancing advancement with the cost of time and money. It’s always a tough decision and one that needs to be carefully weighed. Great write-up!

  5. I also said no to a DNP and your decision certainly sounds valid, indeed. I had strong higher education values being the first in a long line of even graduating from high school in my family. I was Valedictorian twice in both my degrees. But, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how taking on $20 K of more debt (my options are substantially less expensive) would help me in my quest.

    I am leanfire in a few months and I felt there was absolutely no huge financial incentive to get the DNP. I could still teach at the college level if I wanted and I could still do my job without getting the terminal degree, easily. After over 20 years in health care, I was approaching the end of my viability due to burn out and I was really ready to own all of my time and quit wage slavery altogether. It made no sense at all. I still feel ambivalent about it with the conflicting values, however.
    I predict you’ll waffle, too. It’s hard to say no the terminal degree distinguishing our profession.

    Part of the issue is the degree itself. I have seen so many people get the DNP and I seem them writing business plans and doing research which did not lend itself to being a better practitioner, although it did make them better students. The degree’s actual value is in question for me.

    We can still practice exactly like we practice — assessing, diagnosing and treating patients and do the exact same job with the noticeable exception of teaching GRAD students. Is the cost worth that? The answer for me was also a definite NO.

    I look forward to reading more about your journey.

    • Ahh! A fellow nurse!

      Everything you said sounds so familiar to me and my thought process-even the bit about waffling back and forth. I value higher education for many of the same reasons as you-I was one of the first, and I’ve done well in my programs.

      These FI choices are so pervasive-every year there seems to be some other potential option that needs to be weighed. In the end, I want to reach FI (even lean FI) sooner rather than later. I would go back if I thought the ROI or the lifestyle changes were worth it.

      I’ll keep reminding myself that in this instance I made the right choice. Thank You for commenting!

  6. I’m going to go a little off topic here, because I’m glad someone brought up the topic of higher education, and choosing about whether or not to pursue it.

    In my opinion, unless you are going for a career in STEM, you don’t necessarily need a college degree. For example, if you want to be a performer, you could also gain experience by participating in local performances. If you want to be in the marketing field, start selling your own digital product. Even a journalist could report on important topics via a personal media outlet. All in lieu of pursuing a degree.

    Experience is just as valuable, if not more valuable than a degree depending on the field of study. There is a learning curve in any job. Whether you are learning the basics in a classroom or in the field, you are still learning the basics.

    We are lucky to live in a time where getting an expensive degree is not a sentence, but a choice. Do the math before making a huge decisions that could land you in major debt! There are other options!

  7. When I was trying to figure out what to do with my life around 20 years ago, I was lightly pressured into college. Fortunately I started with community college, and quickly realized the degree I got in graphic design meant a work style that wasn’t compatible with my lifestyle.
    I eventually made it to trade school and have since become a licensed electrician. I now have a great job and a flourishing side business, and college had nothing to do with it!
    I think too many people have been pushed into going to college, when they had other options they may not have even known about.
    I’m glad you took a critical and reasonable approach to the subject, and thank you for sharing your story!

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