Continuing education

By Katharine Swan On Saturday, August 25, 2007 At 4:25 PM

I am thinking of pursuing a master's degree.

I've been thinking about school for the past two days. Thursday night, I discovered that Metro -- the school from which I received my bachelor's -- is offering a class this fall that I had always wanted to take, but never got a chance to. Unfortunately, the deadline for fall application has passed, so it's too late to reactivate my student account.

This got me started thinking about school again, though. Since graduation, continuing education has always been at the back of my mind. The excitement of taking a class again -- and the disappointment when I found out I couldn't -- had me considering graduate school. Unfortunately, I don't like the programs offered by most of the graduate schools in Colorado. The only exception is Denver University, which offers a PhD (but not a master's) in creative writing -- if you are willing to sell your soul in order to pay for it.

When Michael and I were at the bookstore last night, I had just gotten done telling both him and my mom that the only online schools I knew about weren't "real" colleges -- that is, they weren't accredited by the standard agencies. Call me a snob if you want, but I am adamant about not wanting a degree that will be virtually worthless in academic circles. It turns out, though, that I was wrong.

As I was flipping through the July/August issue of Poets & Writers, I came across a full-page ad for writing programs at Chatham University. They have a fully online master's program: a Master of Professional Writing. And because it is a reputable, traditional school, I don't have to worry about obscure accreditation or any of the other issues with many online schools.

In fact, I think Chatham is very reputable on the East Coast, as it has been around since 1869. Moreover, my family has a history at Chatham -- my grandmother, great-aunt, and great-grandmother all went there, back when it was still called Pennsylvania College for Women. My mom even worked there as a librarian in the mid-seventies, when it was called Chatham College for Women. The campus is beautiful in the way that only an older school can be.

It turns out that Chatham University is comprised of three different schools: Chatham College for Women, which still offers bachelor's degrees just to women; Chatham College for Graduate Studies, for both men and women; and Chatham College for Continuing and Professional Studies, which offers online graduate programs for both the sexes. All three are accredited by the standard agencies -- they just happen to be one of the few traditional schools who have recognized the value of offering online programs.

The problem, of course, is the cost. I mean, YIKES -- that is almost as much as DU (though not quite). The degree would probably cost about $7,000 more than a master's from one of the state schools here in Colorado. I think it's worth it, because it is so specialized to my career -- but unfortunately, thinking it's worth it doesn't magically make money appear in my pockets.

What do you think? Is it worth the hassle of financial aid and student loans to go back to school (which I love) and get a master's (which would benefit my career)?


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Blogger Kathy@TheFlawlessWord Says:  

Well, this is a very timely topic given that I too have been hit with the returning-to-school bug. I've always wanted to get my Master's degree, but my attendance at a recent literary conference reset that yearn aflame. There is a low-residency creative writing program at one of my (farily) local colleges, which I briefly checked out. I wonder how the price of that compares to this online program you mention? I'll have to do a little research. Cost is also my restraining factor. Is having that degree going to result in an increase in income? Probably not, and while I was furthering my education, my income would probably temporarily decline. I'm too practical...I just feel like if I'm going to shell out that kind of money it would be better spent on an MBA, which I've also thought about pursuing. Sometimes I wish I knew how to throw caution to the wind!

Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  

I don't know about a master's in creative writing -- you might be right that it won't help to increase your income. However, I feel that a Master of Professional Writing would help to increase my income, since it would be a degree specifically in what I do all day, every day already. It would also give me a leg up over much of the competition.

I also found a program that a local college offers (but not a state university, which is why I didn't think of them). The program would be either on campus or online, and about $4,000 less -- but I am undecided, as it wouldn't be quite the same as getting the degree from the same school as my foremothers.

Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  

I just wanted to add that school should be something you do because you want to. I personally love school, so even if it doesn't result in an increase in income, I know I won't regret going. The big thing for me -- as it sounds like it is for you, too -- is funding it.

Blogger Sarah Says:  

Hi! I'm a Chatham alumna-- I got my BA there, and my mom got her MFA in Nonfiction Writing there as well. One thing to remember about private women's colleges like Chatham is that they have endowments like crazy. They are *free* with the scholarships, believe me. You'll incur some debt, but not as much as you might think-- for me, it ended up being cheaper to go to Chatham than to Pitt or another state school. You might as well apply, file your FAFSA and see what you get!

Good luck, btw. I loved it there.


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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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