Graduate School, Meet Your Worst Nightmare:

Graduate School makes me shudder. Why? Because I don't have $120,000. And apparently, if I don't get into a top 5 MBA school, it's worthless. (I don't exactly agree with this article, but have had similar thoughts before)

With One Diploma Comes Debt

I graduated with $28,000 in debt from Bryant University, a top business school in the northeast. And I'm lucky. I have friends with 4x that amount, just from undergrad. For me, I have a payment of $300/month - for the next 10 years.

That's why I lived with my parents for a year and a half to pay the principal down.

My current student loan debt is $15,000, manageable with a full-time job and a couple other income streams.

But I hate debt.

The thought of taking on $120,000 + living expenses for grad school is not putting me on the path to financial well-being.

Some of my friends chose to go directly to graduate school. They've racked up significant debt and still don't have jobs. Sidenote:  loan payments kick-in six months after graduation. I would bust my butt to find a job - even if it meant under-employment. I digress...

Why I Almost Applied to Grad School

Every three months I searched for MBA programs. The program that kept coming back to me was the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University. It's a top school with an outstanding job placement rate. Plus, it's 100% online which meant I could take classes from the comfort of my couch.

I filled out the form to learn more.

Over the next few weeks, I was hounded by Northwestern's admissions team - emails, phone calls, etc. I hadn't even taken the GRE! The phone calls stopped after 3 or 4 and I unsubscribed from the emails. I had already made my decision.

I can't afford grad school.

A lot of MBA schools "guarantee" $80-120K salaries. Sounds awesome, right? But, what if I didn't land the six-figure job many MBA's dream of? I'd be financially screwed.

I'd have an additional $1,000/month in loans to pay off, bringing my student debt to a total of $1,200/month. So much for a car payment, 401K contribution or saving for a down payment on a house. Plus if I lived in San Francisco, Chicago, or NYC, I'd have just enough money to live in a cardboard box with a window.

Then it hit me...

How many books can I buy for $500?

Assuming the average Kindle book is $9.99, I could buy 50 books. (PS: Get a Kindle and thank me later). This means I can read 50 books for less than it costs me to apply to ten different MBA programs.

Many MBA programs are 2 years. That means I'd have to read 25 books a year to read through business school. At just over two books a month, that's 100% doable. Plus, if I wanted to, I could supplement my reading with online courses here, here, and here.

It's no surprise enrollment is dropping for graduate programs. Because and other online book sellers can provide educational resources for next to nothing.

Why would I pay $120,000 for an MBA that I would struggle to pay the debt back from?

I understand the value of an education. I respect many of my PhD level professors for doing what they do, but an MBA no longer makes financial sense.

For now, I'll be getting my MBA at