Scared to Death of Debt
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  1. #1
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    Default Scared to Death of Debt

    Hi, everyone, I have a situation and would like any tips on what to do about it. I am a very debt-averse person, but I also want to be a physical therapist. The degree required for this profession, a doctorate of physical therapy, is very expensive. I can expect to pay about $90,000 over a 3 year period just for tuition and fees for the program. With working part time and the savings I have now, I can expect that I will be about $90,000 in debt by graduation, and a starting PT can expect to make ~65-70k/year. This debt to income ratio seems ludicrous to me, and it really frightens me. Is there anything I should be doing/thinking about before I make this decision? Anyone who has experienced this before please let me know how you dealt with it.

    For reference, I am a senior in college and have been fortunate enough to remain debt free for the time being (praise the Lord). My degree(s) will be a B.A. in biochemistry and a B.A. in exercise science. I'm under the impression that I cannot get a job above $50k/yr with such degrees, so it seems to me that it makes sense to take out the debt given that I am basically trading years where I could be making ~$40k/yr for years that I will be making $65k+ with some interest of course, but it still scares me to death the idea of going nearly 6 figures in debt to work the job I want.

  2. #2
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    Getting into PT is very competitive. When you apply, there could be hundreds of applicants for 20 spots at the college. I would ask the college how many openings each year for the program and is volunteer work in a PT clinic required?

    I wanted to be a PT. I worked in a nursing home as a PT aide before making that decision. I ended up going to a community college to be a LPTA. Once I graduated, I took a year of courses at a university so I could apply to the PT program. I didn't get in, so I started working as a LPTA.

    Colleges offer scholarships to students and their websites give lists of those that you can apply for. If this is truly something that you want to pursue, I'd research the college and speak to those in financial aid. I'd fill out a FAFSA and see how much aid you're eligible for. That's the only way to know how much free money you can get for tuition. Depending on how that comes up, you may be eligible to do a work-study program on campus that will pay you and work with your school schedule. You can use the money for anything.

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    There are no easy answers to your dilemma. I also have a strong aversion to debt. I guess my suggestion would be to get the best job you can with your current degree and then live frugally and save every penny possible for a few years before continuing your education. In the meantime, if possible, take as many classes remotely on a pay as you go basis before diving into full time college again. $90,000 is a huge debt and while it potentially will allow you to make a large income, there are no guarantees. I know way too many people with advanced degrees that have been unable to achieve the level of employment needed to repay their loans.

    If your current degree will allow you to find a $50,000 a year job, I'd think with careful management and frugal living you would be able to save a good portion of your income. Say you are able to save $20,000 a year for three years you would be able to complete your education with only $30,000 debt. Much more manageable than $90,000.

    Also, after working in your field for three years you would know for sure whether or not you want to get that degree or go in a different direction altogether. That's something else I've seen quite a few people experience. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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