This calculation is missing the "opportunity cost". The time invested in getting the degree can also be considerable. Even at $20/hr, let's say that you invest 3 years and a half times 20hrs a week, this is about 3500 hrs x 20 =$72K. As you mentioned the CPA, this could be seen as a much better "ROI" opportunity. As a CPA, you can charge between $50 to 100 an hour as a consultant on the side instead of the 25/hr that pays a typical online class. The cost is much lower that a low tier DBA. However, some might see the CPA more difficult than a low tier DBA as you need to pass a rigorous exam.