Post Academic

The Schools May Be Broke-Ass, But You Don’t Have to Be

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe HuffPo college section unleashed a flood of education-related financial woe yesterday. The Broke-Ass Schools this time include Syracuse, Penn State, and Maryland. The stories focused on undergraduates who found themselves in schools they can’t afford, but the lessons apply to future grad students as well. If you get accepted, don’t sign on the dotted line right away. Take a long look at the aid package the program offers.

Ask how long the package lasts. PhD programs often provide some form of fellowship; MA programs, not so much. Even the PhD program fellowships last only a year or two. As for teaching assistantships, if you get one, that’s great. But you should also ask how long these assistantships will last, as the school might cut you off if you don’t get finished in time.

Compare the aid package to the cost of living in the area. UCI had subsidized student housing, so making the rent was easy, but that’s not the case for all schools. And there’s more to your budget than rent. For example, when I arrived to grad school, I had been accustomed to Nashville prices, not Orange County prices, and my budget changed drastically. Speaking of budgets …

Set a budget, and make sure it is one you can stick to. People with fancy tastes don’t belong in grad school. Just do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t wind up tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of dollars in debt.

Anyone with a PhD or MA in the humanities cannot expect to make the kind of money that will erase a massive loan. There are too many risk factors involved. For example, you might get a job offer when you’re done with your PhD, but salaries vary wildly from school to school, especially when you compare public and private systems. You simply cannot predict where you will end up, so it is wise to play it safe.

Image by Sten from Wikimedia Commons.

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