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What's the going price for a degree?

By gauntlet in Culture
Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:45:00 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I'm in a position right now where my employer is willing to fund my post-secondary education (i.e. BSc Comp Sci). The first year of the program is offered in the evenings and weekends, but the final three years I would have to be at the University for at least 20 hours a week.

Obviously, I've got the long end of the stick here. What is my employer going to expect in return for this (admittedly very generous) offer? What is reasonable? What's off-limits?

Essentially, what would YOU do?

To provide a little more detail, I'm a systems analyst for a health-care organization. For my age (23) I'm paid quite well by Canadian standards, piss poor by American ones. It's a combination of the job market and the dollar value. But I digress. I have a high-school diploma, and 4 certifications, for one of which my employer paid the cost of the tests.

My wife is halfway through the 3rd year of a 4 year Nursing degree, and when she gets a job (which will be easy), she will match my income almost immediately. I've been in IT for 5 years now. The plan is that when she is in her 4th year, I take my first year through correspondance, on evenings and weekends, and continue to work full-time. Then when she gets out and gets a job, I go to school for "real" at least part-time, and work part-time.

One question is what balance between work and school would be best for my final 3 years. The second question is, given that balance, what do I ethically owe my employer as a result?

I have taken correspondance before for technical things which had directly to do with my job. I consider the ability to put them on my resume a minor benefit, and don't really feel any additional obligation to my employer as a result. But a liberal education and a post-secondary degree from one of the top 5 universities in Canada, and they allowed me to take time off work to do it? That's gotta be worth something...

I mean, a college education is worth 3 years of military time in the US, right?


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What would Gauntlet Owe his employer?
o At least 5 years. 3%
o About 5 years. 9%
o As much time as he spent in school, not working. 31%
o Maybe a year. 12%
o If he works summers, nothing. 6%
o Nothing but gratitude. 37%

Votes: 66
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by gauntlet

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What's the going price for a degree? | 19 comments (11 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
US Military (3.33 / 3) (#3)
by kagaku_ninja on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:45:01 PM EST

As an Air Force sucker (err, vetran), what I remember is that a couple years of college gets you promoted two grades to E-3 (Airman First Class). If you have a degree, you normally become an officer (which requires a letter of recommendation from your Senator, as well as acceptance and graduation from the Officer Training School. This means is many months, even years of waiting until your first assignment)

Your *senator*? (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by whatnotever on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:00:16 PM EST

You need to get some guy who doesn't know you write a letter for you? I mean, that's all well and good for college apps and highschool teachers, but a senator? This makes no sense to me. Wouldn't the senator just have a form letter that their secretary fills out?

[ Parent ]
Re: Your *senator*? (none / 0) (#16)
by kagaku_ninja on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 11:08:18 PM EST

Drifting a bit off topic, but yeah, it is obvious that a senator doesn't have time to personally handle such matters (unless campaign contributors or other "VIPs" are involved, natch). This is especially true in large states like California.

This is probably a hold over from earlier times, when state populations were smaller, and "who you know" was more important than test scores.

[ Parent ]
*Senator* (none / 0) (#19)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 09:22:26 AM EST

Is probably just to get into the Air Force Academy. All the service academies, West Point, Annapolis, AF Academy, require a recommendation from a Senator or Representative. OCS and ROTC, in the Army anyway, don't require those recommendations.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
[ Parent ]

Zero! (3.40 / 5) (#4)
by Sax Maniac on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:49:32 PM EST

The answer is nothing, except maybe part of the cost of the degree.

Don't think you're cheating the company out of hard-earned dollars. Skills you learn as you work are immediately applicable to your job- just because you get your degree at the end doesn't meen you won't use it until then.

A degree isn't just a cash handout. You are investing your own free time for the good of the company. That's worth something.

The company is getting a deal, because you have the drive and intelligence to get your own degree. It's cheaper for them to encourage your self-training, than to force train other bozos or hire new people with specific skills.

So, get your degree. If you find later don't like the company, leave. If they insist you pay for the tuition for leaving too early, get your new employer to pick up the tab.

Life's too short to work for places you don't like.

Stop screwing around with printf and gdb and get a debugger that doesn't suck.

Never sign a term of employment agreement (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by Biff Cool on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:07:59 PM EST

I asked my boss to send me on some work related training, and his response was "only if you sign a 1 year contract with us", my response was "go to hell".  All I can see a term of employment contract being good for is an excuse for the company not to have to treat you like a real employee, they no longer have to pay competitive wages, they no longer have to treat you like a valued employee.  It doesn't mean they won't, it just means they don't have to, but why put them in that position.

Actually if they want you to sign one, make them sign something saying that they can't fire you for the same length of time.

My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler

[ Parent ]
Indentured servitude, the law, and you (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by Jonathan White on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:32:55 PM EST

This comment assumes the job is in the US, the employee is a US citizen, and the employer is not the US Military...

A term of employment contract does not force you to stay at the company for the specified period, that is indentured servitude and is illegal. They can however attach penalties to your departure (within reason). A common one in this situation is that the employee will either work for an additional year for every year of college tuition or repay the tuition. This is very different as many companies will buy your debt (or you can buy it yourself) as a / in addition to a signing bonus.

As far as not treating you as a real employee, if your company is that bad at managing it's people, you should move on. This market is too good to take shit.

[ Parent ]
Planning (3.00 / 6) (#5)
by skim123 on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:52:06 PM EST

Damn, you and your wife have a super-detailed plan laid out... kind of neat, I guess, but it removes some of the spontaneity that makes life worth living... Well, anyway, I hope your plan also consists of saving, say, 10% of your income each year from now on out to be invested wisely... so when you retire you have a nice nest-egg.

About your post, who cares what your employer expects. He doesn't have to send you to school, yes, but he's willing. Has he told you that he expects something in return? Has he asked you to sign any sort of agreements? If not, then you can do whatever you want, both morally and legally. Get your education, then quit and find a better paying job if you want.

My advice is to enjoy what you have - a job, a future, and a wife - and don't worry too much about the rest. :-)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Diploma (2.50 / 6) (#12)
by kagaku_ninja on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:40:42 PM EST

From my experience as a programmer, my degree is a form of proof that "I know something about computers", which was useful in the first several years of my career. If you have avoided dead-end jobs, your work experience should be considerably more valuable to employers. I suppose at my level of experience, a MS or PhD might open a few more doors, but my BA no longer matters.

Unseen benefits (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by Ummon on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 06:47:37 AM EST

There must be some benefit the company receives that you are unaware of.

I don't know how the tax system works in Canada, but I'd be willing to be they get some kind of tax write-off for paying for you to go school. They may even be getting some federal matching money.

You need to do some more research into the issue to find out what's really in it for your company. And keep in mind you owe nothing (ethically, morally or financially) to a company beside what you agree to when you are hired.

Their only desire is to get the most value out of you for the least expense. It is extremely rare (and perhaps illegal) for a company to act purely altruistically.

It's Like a car (only not really) (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by serrated on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 06:43:38 AM EST

Degrees are great when they're shiny and new, but fade in value the older they get. Work experience counts far more eventually, degrees end up just one more requirement on the personnel list... and when I interview people the degree is just the requirement for getting the interview.

At least your degree is in an area that pays something. I did one in microbiology and it turns out in the uk studying v small things leads to v small pay packet.
-It's basically death on a stick- Jerry Moffat in Hard Grit

What's the going price for a degree? | 19 comments (11 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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