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3 Questions for an Online Master’s Student

Can a teacher get a master’s degree while teaching and without going into big debt?

May 25, 2021
 
 

Connor Dumont is a mathematics teacher at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, Me., and is currently pursuing a master of education degree in curriculum and teaching through Boston University. As the parent of an undergraduate who plans to go into the teaching profession, I am highly interested in Connor’s story. Is it possible to get your master’s without going into debt? Are there high-quality yet affordable degree options available at the graduate level? Connor graciously agreed to answer my questions.

Q: Why did you decide to get a master’s degree? And why did you choose the online master of education in curriculum and teaching at Boston University?

A: One of the Maine Guiding Principles that my students must demonstrate proficiency in states that they will be “self-directed and lifelong learners.” As their teacher, I feel it is extremely important that I also be a lifelong learner, and I am constantly looking for ways to better myself as an educator. This led me to pursue my master’s degree in curriculum and teaching. Why Boston University? I was excited by the opportunity to learn at a top-ranked graduate school while still being able to continue to teach. I also appreciated that I was able to focus on a concentration that I hold near to my heart -- mathematics education. Lastly, I felt that the price tag was worth the education that I would be receiving. The Wheelock School of Education charges $916 per credit in the fall and spring and $730 per credit in the summer. I will have taken 20 credits during fall and spring semesters, and 16 credits during the summer, bringing the total tuition to $30,000.

Q: So your master’s degree will end up costing you $30,000. Could you have gotten to these out-of-pocket costs with scholarships at a more traditional face-to-face or another online program? How are you financing this degree? What sort of debt will this leave you with, and how does that work on a teacher’s salary?

A: My district also provides course reimbursement based on the state school tuition. I certainly could have found a local, face-to-face program that would have cost less than $30,000. Ultimately, however, the opportunity to work and learn from students around the world was worth the extra costs.

To finance my degree, in addition to the course reimbursement from my district, I have also taken out Direct PLUS loans. I was extremely fortunate to leave my undergraduate program debt-free, and while this won’t be the case with my graduate degree, there are opportunities for significant loan forgiveness for educators, including options for teachers of mathematics (an underserved subject). Knowing all of this, I felt that I would be able to manage the costs while working on a young teacher’s salary.

Q: The big concern that educators have with $30,000 degrees is quality. Higher education, when done right, is very expensive to create. Faculty are expensive -- at least if they are paid reasonably well. And it takes significant resources to support the student learning experience. Given these concerns about quality, can you share your experience with your online master’s program?

A: My experience with the Boston University online master’s program has been extremely positive. What I love the most is that I have access to many of the same courses that are offered in the face-to-face program, and they are taught by the same professors. The Office of Distance Education is fully committed to supporting professors and students alike, and I have never felt that I am being shortchanged by learning from home. Equally important, my professors are extremely understanding that I am also a full-time teacher. While they still hold students to deadlines, they are flexible if you need to miss a class for a school event and provide you with ways to make up the time and content. I feel that I am still able to give 100 percent to my students while also learning how to be a better math teacher for them in the long run.

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