Novi Money is pleased to share one of the winning essays from our inaugural scholarship. Students were asked to write about the financial challenges they faced in their pursuit of higher education and what creative solutions they applied to address these challenges. Below is the insightful response from the winner of the $1,000 Graduate Student Scholarship Award for Spring 2020, Jordan Ferrell of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Congratulations, Jordan!
Novi Money’s scholarships are awarded to one college senior and one graduate student to help offset educational costs. The entry period for the Novi Money $1,000 Scholarship Fall 2020 awards is now open.
Taking the Long View: From Umpire to Lawyer and MBA
by Jordan Ferrell
To combat massive student debt in my pursuit of higher education, I had to view my life decisions with a long lens, then practice self-control. My decision to leave a nine-year career of umpiring professional baseball to obtain a dual JD/MBA degree to provide a better life for my family was easy. The hard decision was choosing the university that was best-suited to open doors to my career goals, measured against that university’s cost of education and the heavy debt I would incur.
Looking at Educational Costs vs. Benefits
My solution to this quandary was to step back to a 30,000-foot view and take an objective look at my goals. I wanted to build a successful Tennessee corporate practice while avoiding the debt that would cripple my family for years after graduation. This decision was particularly difficult because I am a non-traditional student graduating at age 36, far older than most students who still have that decade of earning power.
My goals known, I simply needed to determine which program could open those doors at a reasonable price. Pursuing a four-year degree (to include MBA studies) requires more money management than the standard three-year JD degree because of the added year of expenses, but also its elimination of one more year of potential income.
Creating a Yearly Budget, Managing Credit Cards
Before selecting a school, I established an all-inclusive budget for cost-of-living expenses. With that in hand, I was able to plan out the cost of four years in school and the debt incurred. For my list of schools, those expenses were constant; however, tuition and fees differed drastically. I believe my best decision so far was to choose the University of Tennessee because it will empower me to build a formidable local practice without incurring crushing debt.
After establishing a budget, maintaining control over my credit card was my next greatest concern. I use mine for as many expenses as possible in order to earn reward points, but I make sure not to approach those unstated levels that tend to affect one’s credit score. Upon graduation, my intent is to purchase a home. The higher my credit score, the lower the interest rate and the less mortgage interest I’ll owe.
Bringing In Income and the Grades
Finally, in the past three years as well as my upcoming 3L year, I have successfully held outside employment, all while maintaining my position on the Dean’s List every semester and a current Top 10% ranking. My employment requires extensive travel, up to ten hours’ driving each way, each weekend from February to May with several additional trips in the fall semester. I attended all my classes then drove or flew to my assignment. I brought all my textbooks with me and, whenever I wasn’t working, I studied in my hotel room.
I believe this dedication and ability to take on responsibilities beyond the walls of law school demonstrate that I have made all possible efforts to limit my student debt. Along with my long-term perspective, I think I’ve taken resourceful measures today to help secure my family’s financial future.