Funding

Turning the cost of an MBA into a career benefit

In the business world, anything can be made into a cost-benefit analysis–even going back to school.

Some plan on getting a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) their entire academic careers. Others wait until they have more of a footing in their lives and career. No matter when you make the choice, getting ahead in the business world can start with taking the risk of investing in an MBA.

That’s what Luke Alexander did.

“I made that decision right after my undergrad, and I mainly made it for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One is that the job market wasn’t great at the time, and I figured now was the time to do it when I was young and single.”

And with that, Alexander made the trip across town from Nebraska Wesleyan, where he got a bachelor’s of science in health and human performance, to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for graduate school. There was no job or specific light at the end of the tunnel, he just knew he wanted to give himself more career options.

“There are no guarantees in life, and you’ve go to work hard and earn it,” he said. “You’re not entitled to anything. At the time, it was more upward mobility and to do better, and maybe a little bit of a cost-benefit analysis.”

>> READ MORE: How THESE students financed their degrees

Sizing Up the Slope

Once he made the decision, it then became time to figure out the logistics. During his undergrad, Alexander was part of the NWU track team. In fact, if you take a quick glance at the Prairie Wolves’ school records, you’ll find him with the No. 6 time in the 800 meter (1:53.37) to this day. That meant he had help in the form of a scholarship.

Graduate school was a much different story. That’s where the “cost” part comes into this story, as Alexander was on his own both in terms of financial aid and family aid.

And with a program that is basically two professional degrees, that made it practically impossible for Alexander to consider making extra scratch on the side. It was a situation that proved even more difficult than running half-a-mile in less than two minutes.

“That’s what kind of sucked, is that I had scholarships and my parents helped me in undergrad. But for grad school, they were like, ‘you’re a man, figure it out.’ I did the joint law/MBA program, and just to live and pay bills and to pay tuition I took out the max loan every year.”

So on top of the funds he had to borrow for tuition and books, that left Alexander to rely on loans to cover all of his living expenses too. All to try and build a career in the business world with an MBA and a law degree.

“I had at the time about $125,000 or so in student loans, which is kinda scary,” Alexander said. “But, I looked at it as an investment in myself. No risk, no reward, and hopefully if you work hard and get through it, it will pay off in the long run.”

>> READ MORE: Best strategies to size up student loans

In For the Long Haul

Key words: “Long run.” Because as much as both undergraduate and graduate students like to plan on making a big salary right out of college, that is rarely the reality.

We’ve reached the ‘benefit’ portion of this analysis. At this point in Alexander’s story, as is the case for many graduate students, the reality of loan repayment and having to enter the business world came soon after his graduation. Despite some frustrations with the structure and rates of his loans, he had a jump start on making moves in his career.

In the years following graduation, Alexander turned his planning into hustle, and his LinkedIn page shows the path of someone willing to earn his way: “Manager & Director of Marketing at Snap Fitness”, “Financial Advisor at Wells Fargo” and there’s even a citizens activist group that Alexander helped launch on the side.

Now, he’s working as a senior vice president at JFC Financial Services, and is designated as a Certified Financial Planner and a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor.

Alexander didn’t hold back: It takes time to pay off debt and get a grasp on loan payments. But don’t get it twisted: Alexander also said it’s not something that happens overnight or all at once. Sometimes, it starts by simply getting that first job and taking it step-by-step.

“There are going to be ups and downs,” he said. “You’re not going to maybe land your favorite job or your best job first. As the saying goes: Once you have a job it’s always easier to get a different job; it’s always hardest to get a first job when you don’t have a job.”

“You certainly have to have realistic expectations.”

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