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My Story: Getting an MBA with no Debt

This is my story of how I was able to get an MBA with no debt. At the time when I made the decision to pay for my education out of pocket, I did not give much thought to it. I knew that I did not want to get a loan, I was not willing to touch my savings and that paying for the studies monthly would have been my best option.

Primary and Secondary Education

My primary and secondary education was pretty standard. In primary school I completed the core subjects of Mathematics and English with introductions to other areas such as Integrated Science and Social Studies.

In secondary school, I continued with Mathematics and English, but there were a few changes. English was split into English Language and English Literature. I prepared for and passed Caribbean Examinations Council exams in English Literature, English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies, Art and Principles of Business.

Then I went to a sixth form school where I completed GCE A Levels in Art and Design, English and a General Paper. I can admit that this was a poor choice in subjects given my future choices in studies, but Art and Design was probably the best experience in my school life and it was my favourite subject.

Tertiary Education and Professional Qualifications

I had applied to study at the university. This too was a poor choice, but at that time there weren’t many specialized degrees to choose from. I pursued studies in Economics and Management, and realised that my love was stronger for the Management subjects. I struggled with the Economics subjects but kept on going.

Unlike any other student that I came into contact with, I loved to work on projects. I really wanted to get into a research/ project management oriented role, but up to this day that has eluded me. Upon graduation, I felt as though I could work in any area because of the broad depth of my degree.

I then decided to pursue a Diploma in Financial Management, but then that was integrated in a new accounting programme scheme. I was then awarded a Diploma in Accounting and Business. This was an extremely long process (because I did not pass the exams) and it was a bit annoying, but I finally persevered.

Getting an MBA with no Debt

Because my love for project management was so strong and I was desperate for a new job, I decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration. I limited my search to online degrees, because I wanted the flexibility of studying at home.

I had seen firsthand how difficult it is to go from work to school. That was not an option for me. I did not own a vehicle and taking the bus would have too strenuous. I also knew that studying on my own required discipline. But if I decided to study via online I had to make it work so that I could reach my goals.

They key to getting an MBA with no debt was to find one that was reasonably priced, but provided good value for money. And, I also needed to find a university that had a tuition payment plan in place. I think that this was a big determining factor in whether or not I could afford my studies.

I created a short list of programmes and universities and I ultimately selected the University of Wales. They offered (via RDI) an MBA programme with several specialisations including Finance, Management Consultancy and Project Management.

Payment Plans and Budgeting

RDI’s payment plan allowed students to pay for each course as they worked through the degree. At that time, the tuition for each course was USD $800.00 and there were eight courses. I can’t remember exactly, but I think the dissertation fee was USD $2,900 and that had to be paid before the dissertation could begin.

Because each course was approximately three months in length, I had more than enough time to accumulate the funds. When I got paid each month I allocated USD $275 to my tuition. I even opened a separate bank account just so that I could save the money for my studies.

In my budget, I created a line item for the MBA and I got used to the idea of setting that money aside. Something else that I realised was that the timing of when I decided to study was absolutely crucial. I did not have any other bills, so I could easily divert funds to the MBA.

How I Avoided a Major Financial Crisis

Halfway through my MBA studies, I made the decision to purchase property. Looking back, I can now see how crazy that was. I was not making a lot of money, so my finances dictated that I could do one or the other, not both. However, I did not see it that way when I approached the bank for a loan.

Fortunately, the property deal was not finalised until a year later. But there was some overlap because the property deal came through when I was still financing the MBA. It meant that I had to dip into my savings and make some serious cut backs in my personal life. But I had saved a good portion of the funds for the MBA, so that was a little ease.

Because I had made up in mind that I would get an MBA with no debt behind my name, it was relatively easy to borrow funds to purchase a property. This is another reason why I was glad that I did not get a student loan – it would have significantly altered my debt to income ratio.

MBA With No Debt Checklist

If you are considering pursuing an MBA or any other degree, here is a checklist of things that you should remember:

  1. Financial commitments – What other bills do you have that could impact your ability to pay out of pocket?
  2. Length of programme – How long will you have to contribute to your studies?
  3. Mode of study – Is the programme face to face, online or blended?
  4. Cost – What are the costs of the programme including books, materials and exam fees?
  5. Programme – What are you interested in studying and how does it relate to your personal goals?

I believe in education whether it be academic or skills focused; if you go to a university or take classes at a skills training center. Learning is critical if you want to increase your knowledge and go further in your career. You have to be willing to make the investment in yourself and possess the right mentality to make it happen.

We all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when times get rough. Here are some of my favourite personal finance quotes from 2016.