Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

PSLF implications of new degree

Hi all, I've been out of law school for a few years and r grinder06/02/17
I would not count on future loans being PSLF eligible what-s sjlawyer06/05/17
An MPA is essentially the equivalent of an MBA for governmen onehell06/05/17
"... recently I've been seriously considering getting anothe sjlawyer06/05/17
Yeah, it's like the NYU Tax LLM disclaimer they put on their onehell06/05/17
Are we sure it's not "better than nothing"? The debt and th sjlawyer06/05/17
Not sure at all. But, the MBAs who don't have the most compe onehell06/05/17
I'm with sjlawyer. I think there are serious red flags if OP mrtor06/05/17
Responding to mrtor, sjlawyer and onehell-- first off, want grinder06/05/17
Read more about the viability of PSLF. Last I heard, they pl mrtor06/05/17
OP: You are correct under current law, and could always drop onehell06/05/17
This is great advice -- noted. grinder06/05/17
Can you work for a government job that would pay for the MPA downwardslope06/05/17
grinder (Jun 2, 2017 - 9:53 pm)

Hi all,

I've been out of law school for a few years and recently I've been seriously considering getting another degree and pursuing a career in local government. If I go that route, I may enroll in a part-time MPA program while working a 40-hour-per-week job. Since I graduated law school, I've made two years of PSLF-eligible payments. I have a boatload of debt and feel comfortable enough betting on PSLF surviving to take out new loans. You can safely assume that I'll be in a PSLF-eligible position for at least the next ten years.

Are there any major PSLF implications I should be accounting for? My undeveloped conclusion at this point is that after eight more years of service, my law school loans would be forgiven. Then, my MPA loans would be forgiven two years after that.

I plan to research this thoroughly before I make any life-changing decisions, but I'm hoping for some insight so I don't leave any stones unturned.

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sjlawyer (Jun 5, 2017 - 9:29 am)

I would not count on future loans being PSLF eligible what-so-ever. The trump budget has put everyone on notice.

Also, what does an MPA do for you? I know a guy with alphabet soup behind his name - he's into investments right now, but I have no idea what his does. I think he's just on the doc review circuit.

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onehell (Jun 5, 2017 - 3:52 pm)

An MPA is essentially the equivalent of an MBA for government work. Several people I know have them. One is a foreign service officer for the State Dept. Another is an assistant director with the state Medicaid agency. If you do a finance concentration, it's also a popular degree for ending up as a city or county CFO or deputy CFO type role. You can even use it to get accounting credits for the CPA, just as people do with MBAs.

But, also just like the MBA, there are a lot of people who have one who have never seemed to be able to make much use of it, as it is very focused on government work and government is notoriously hard to get your foot in the door. Prestige doesn't matter as much as it does with the MBA, but like the MBA, most of them do seem to have relevant work experience coming in.

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sjlawyer (Jun 5, 2017 - 3:57 pm)

"... recently I've been seriously considering getting another degree and pursuing a career in local government."

That's probably the concern, but it's why I asked the question specifically and not generally. mrtor did the same thing because, I suspect, we're thinking the same thing - what does this do for OP?

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onehell (Jun 5, 2017 - 4:02 pm)

Yeah, it's like the NYU Tax LLM disclaimer they put on their website: "It helps a lot of folks, but it cannot be relied upon to completely change one's background."

A JD who has only worked at small law firms, for example, might have a hard time suddenly deciding he wants a non-law gov't gig and going to an MPA program. Such a person, an internship or two aside, will have almost the same lack of relevant experience coming out as going in. That's the same experience people who get some random MBA tend to have: You've taken a degree that's meant to be icing on a cake and tried to turn it into the whole cake.

It's a real concern, no question. But what else can you do? It's certainly better than nothing (and more relevant than anything else) for general government leadership.

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sjlawyer (Jun 5, 2017 - 4:06 pm)

Are we sure it's not "better than nothing"? The debt and the risk of losing/disappearing PSLF make me question the viability. If OP is already in a gov't position where this would help him/her advance, then it's a different discussion.

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onehell (Jun 5, 2017 - 4:08 pm)

Not sure at all. But, the MBAs who don't have the most compelling work experience tend to be best served by concentrating in a "hard" skill like finance or supply chain, rather than a soft concentration like marketing.

I'd probably do the same thing here: Concentrate in public finance or something like that, to maximize options and minimize the unrelatedness of being a public defender or whatever PSLF job he is currently in.

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mrtor (Jun 5, 2017 - 4:42 pm)

I'm with sjlawyer. I think there are serious red flags if OP is going to try to use the degree to get a government job.

MPAs are almost always advancement degrees, not barrier or entry level degrees like JDs, MDs, etc. Even putting aside the debt issue, over-education this early in OP's career could be detrimental to his job prospects. Outside of academia, few appreciate multiple advanced degrees. Too much education can be viewed with contempt, such that one used it as a safe harbor from the real world or is overly academic and lacking in common sense.

Ultimately, OP selected a JD as his advanced degree. Whether wise or not, he needs to make do with what he has. If OP cannot get into a government job with his JD, I doubt an MPA will aid him significantly. An MPA's only use at this point is if it explicitly required to advance to management.

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grinder (Jun 5, 2017 - 9:00 pm)

Responding to mrtor, sjlawyer and onehell-- first off, want to thank all of you for your responses. I'm a long-time lurker here and the three of you have given me and other lurkers more solid guidance than you might realize.

I'm very mindful of the red flags my post sends up. But given my circumstances and goals, I think the degree will help me more than it might potentially hurt me. The biggest value of the degree to me is the knowledge -- my understanding is that MPA programs, unlike JD programs or even MBA programs, emphasize practical skills and concepts. Also relevant-- I won't be using the MPA to get a job at the outset, but for advancement down the road. (I'd be working full time in a career track position and taking classes at night.) All things considered, I'm fairly comfortable eating the $50,000 (on the high end) if PSLF were to lapse and the degree turns out to be less valuable than I'd like it to be.

That said, all of your points are well-taken. Particularly mrtor's comment about multiple advanced degrees. My biggest hang up with getting the MPA is coming across as a degree collector, and all the associated stigmas. Definitely don't want to be that guy, although I don't think I come across that way in the workplace and I'd like to think my narrative makes sense.

For the sake of anonymity, I'd prefer not to dive too deep into my background, but I'd love to run my plan by one of you to see if it passes the crazy test. Sjlawyer -- based on your past posts, I think your background is particularly relevant to my situation. My email is jdutemporary@gmail.com

Thanks again!

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mrtor (Jun 5, 2017 - 9:48 am)

Read more about the viability of PSLF. Last I heard, they planned to render loans taken after 1/1/18 ineligible for PSLF. If they do not change the program, you are correct. You need to make 120 qualifying payments for each of the loans in the program.

Out of curiosity, what is an MPA going to do for you? Is it required to advance to management in your current position or are you trying to use it to get a new job? Barring it being an explicitly enumerated requirement for advancement in your current job, the MPA sounds like an absolute waste of time and money. You should be able to advance with your JD. Furthermore, like an MBA, the MPA does not make early career candidates more attractive or competitive -- it may actually harm your prospects.

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onehell (Jun 5, 2017 - 3:34 pm)

OP: You are correct under current law, and could always drop out if it changes because any change, it has already been announced, won't apply to loans you took out before the effective date of any elimination or cap on PSLF. You may also want to consolidate again after taking out new loans for the new program, to avoid any risk of different loans with different servicers/etc.

One caveat, though: If you are enrolled in a degree-granting program "at least half-time" then your enrollment will be reported to the National Student Clearinghouse which will then forward that information on to your loan servicer. Your loan servicer will then automatically place your loans into an in-school deferment and you will have to affirmatively request to be placed back into repayment, because periods during which you're in a deferral do not count towards PSLF.

I ran into this myself when I decided to enroll in a part-time program just for personal enrichment. I was paying completely out of pocket, and did not take out a single dime in loans. Despite this, the school still reported it and my servicer automatically put me in a deferral w/r/t my JD loans.

Full time is 12 credits. So even taking two classes (6 credits) will mean you are "at least half time" and trigger this automatic deferral. So it's just something to be aware of. You can anticipate a month or two of phone calls with the servicer explaining that yes, you really do want to stay in repayment despite being in-school. Minor hassle, and one that exploits the psychological instinct to love not having to make payments, so something to be aware of.

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grinder (Jun 5, 2017 - 9:01 pm)

This is great advice -- noted.

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downwardslope (Jun 5, 2017 - 6:13 pm)

Can you work for a government job that would pay for the MPA? When I worked in state government, that degree would have been free if I did it 6 hours a semester. I had a chief of staff who went that route and had either an MPA or MPH she had gotten through that option and we had tons of people who used the benefit.

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