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Paying off undergraduate loans before graduate school?

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Hi everyone, 

One of the scariest things many of us who aspire to be SLPs are facing is the cost of education. This is a very sensitive topic for many people, including myself. I was not very smart about student loans as an undergrad, and am very worried about the amount I will rack up if and when I am accepted into a graduate program. I graduated with over $100k in student loan debt and am wondering if going to graduate school and tackling a possible $200k loan (due to interest) by the end of the program is worth it. Salary was never a huge thing for me going into CSD. It was never the reason I wanted to become an SLP to begin with. I have always had a passion for working with children, especially those with disabilities. I hope to work as an SLP in a school-based setting one day. Everyone knows how passionate I am about the field. Unfortunately, I am constantly reminded of the huge loans that will be weighing down on me if and when I graduate from school. Based on research (which may vary based on setting, location, and years of experience), SLPs do not make much in their CFY and in their first few years in the field. However, loan payments will be required during that time. 

For reference, I graduated a year ago and am currently working at a therapeutic day school as an assistant teacher. I work very closely with the SLPs, so I am also getting a lot of hands-on experience. Financially, I have been making all of my loan payments on-time. I currently live at home, which is fine. Therefore, I am able to live comfortably and can afford to splurge every now and then while also saving money. I was planning on applying for programs this upcoming season, but I can't help wonder if now would be the right time for me to do so. I am a follower of Dave Ramsey, so my budgeting skills have definitely improved. I am also worried since many programs advise you not to work at all or to work for little with highly flexible hours, which means interest would accrue during that time. 

Should I wait and pay off some loans first before applying to grad school, or should I be willing to tackle these loans all at once afterwards? 

I am not sure if anyone else out there is in the same financial situation as me. If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone. Any and all advice is greatly appreciated! 

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I would look into an online program if you’re needing to work as well! If you found an SLPA job in conjunction to doing your master’s (which some programs require) then you can count those hours toward your master’s AND make an income! Good luck to you. I follow Dave Ramsey’s envelope method too ?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello! I follow Dave Ramsey too!! I was/am in a similar financial position to you. I graduated from my undergrad with about $60,000 in debt, and had even more in credit card debt. Unlike you, the financial stability and great salary of a career as an SLPs WAS a huge part of my attraction to the field. I obviously love the actual work of an SLP and the help it brings to people, but having a stable, well-paying career is important to me since my 20s were filled with minimum wage day jobs. I realized that I was probably never going to pay off my undergrad debt with the jobs I was qualified for, and the only way to get out of debt was to go back to school. 

i just started grad school, but will end up taking out about $40,000 dollars in total for the whole program, so I'll have about $100k in loans when I graduate. This number scares me, but I just remember that I will end up having endless career opportunities that easily pay 60k-90k a year. I'll have access to per diem work if I need it, and the demand for my services will never diminish. 

I think Dave Ramsey would say to pay off all your debt and save the entire amount for grad school before you attend-but that could take a decade! I plan on going "gazelle intense" when I graduate and pay off my loans in about 3-4 years. Also since you love working with children, you could work in a school and your federal loans can be placed in the public service loan forgiveness program. And many schools offer huge sign-on bonuses that can go towards your loans. AND you may qualify for grants that help pay for tuition so you may need less than you think! AAAND there are programs that will pay for your tuition up front if you promise to work for a certain school or district. 

It is true that you can't work much during grad school. The readings, study time, and clinic prep take up a LOT of time, and you don't want to sacrifice grades and risk being on probation or worse, having to retake classes and extend the program. But I wouldn't worry about the accruing interest. I mean, it's only 2-3 years and the amount that is accruing pales in comparison to the principle anyways. What's another couple thousand when you owe close to 200k anyways? 

So in closing, I say go now! Obviously this is just one person's perspective and you'll have to consider your personal situation. I just couldn't continue on the path I was on any longer so I went for it. Good luck and one day we will be debt free!

Edited by EatSleepStudy
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I agree with the above poster. I would say go now! My undergrad was also extremely expensive and I that was my fault. It was my dream school and I wanted desperately to experience it. I knew that one day, with an SLP salary I would be able to pay it off however the piling debt also scares me. I however decided to continue to keep going. I couldn't find and careers that I was qualified for that I would absolutely love and would help me pay back my loans in a decent amount of time. I also wasn't a huge fan of the idea of taking time off if it wasn't absolutely necessary. I understand that other people's situations are different and things happen and time is what some people need before pursuing their graduate degrees! Some people don't even decide until later in life that they want a graduate degree! However, I knew this is what I wanted to do since I applied to colleges my senior year of high school. I just jumped right in and will do my best to pay my loans back as fast as I can. I applied to cheaper schools, who still had highly rated programs but were maybe just less heard of. My program actually offers a 3/4 time GA position to all first year SLP grad students. Thats 6.75 credits a semester that is paid for as well as approximately $2,000 in work stipends each semester. We are just required to work 13.5 hours a week at wherever our placement is. In the end, 2 years of grad school here will be around the same price as a year at my undergrad school. It was too good of an offer to pass up in my opinion. Now I am just hoping that when I graduate I can find jobs that will offer loan forgiveness if I sign contracts to work for a certain number of years. I would 100% work somewhere for 4-6 years if they would pay back my loans. If not, it will be a struggle but, just know that eventually they will be paid off. It will take time and a lot of work hours, but thats the good thing about an SLP salary. 

It all comes down to your situation though! If it is best for you to pay off your loans and then go back, then there is definitely nothing wrong with that either! I just like to think "The sooner I get my masters degree, the sooner I can start my career and the faster I can pay off my loans!" 

Best of luck! 

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I know for me I worked two years after I graduated from undergrad and before grad school so I was able to start paying down student loans. Not a huge dent but still is better than nothing but I agree with @Jordyn_M463 about getting the masters degree to start making money to pay down the debt! To make up for cost I chose a graduate program that was cheaper to save myself money so this will definitely help and have a federal student worker job on campus to help with bills. 

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