At ASU, my master’s will take two years and cost about $44,000 that I do not have. Amazingly, I will not graduate next year with anywhere near that much debt. Here’s why:
1) ASU is the best. Just because I exist and am TFA, they found ways to waive about $27,000 of that money, so that I’ve never had to do more than notice the waiver on my bill. That’s amazing and I’m so sorry that I complain about classes. (It’s not you, it’s me. I get extraordinarily tired and grouchy on those long days.)
2) The federal government is the best. TFA counts as an Americorps program, which means that this week I received $4,725 towards higher education in exchange for my first year of service. It’s good for seven years, but clearly I’m using it right now to pay for ASU. Unless the Americorps deal changes, I’ll get more money at the end of next year. Thank you, taxpayers!
3) My job is the best. Not only do I like where I am and what I’m doing, but I also teach a high-need area (mathematics) in a low-income school. (My school happens to rank in the poorest 20% of Arizona’s 1,423 low-income schools. I don’t want know where that puts us compared to all AZ schools.) This means that I was just offered a $4,000 federal TEACH grant. (I feel like I should get one for each year of my degree, but it doesn’t look like they’re offering.) In case you weren’t doing the math, I just saved about $40,000. If we pretend that was additional teacher salary, I am rich.
Of course, there is a catch on #3. In order to keep the TEACH grant, I need to commit, right now, to teach for four years. I’ll probably do it, because if I back out it just turns into the loan I would’ve used instead anyway. And I won’t be surprised if I end up teaching two more years after this one. But still, it makes me nervous to promise the government something when my official plan is just to make decisions one year at a time. I’m not really enthusiastic about committing to future plans right this minute… but I am enthusiastic about a nearly free degree. Hmm.