Sunday, January 19, 2014

PhD Debt Data.

Atua Bear sends this along:

It would be nice to have CMers contribute to this PhD Debt Survey.

There's more info on it in Slate.


  1. It was said well on a previous thread on grad-school debt: If you're going into debt to go to grad school, you need to sort out your priorities -- unless it's a professional school, and even then you should sit down carefully and calculate what impact that sort of debt will have on your future.

    In STEM, *they* pay *you* to go (partly because the proffies need bodies to staff their labs). I am told that such assistantships are also available in the humanities, though they are not universal. But they don't really want you that much if they're charging you money.

    1. That all said, if I hadn't had GI Bill money I might have run up a bit of debt for living expenses, since I was married and had a new baby.

    2. The STEM student is still spending five years to get a PhD and earning low wages. That time might be better used starting a career. If you've got student loans from undergrad, those balances are still accruing interest while you are in grad school. I agree that STEM students fair better in grad school and it's probably still worth the effort for most people but it's not without a price.

    3. Yah. But in my case the Army paid off my undergraduate loans as well. There was an added opportunity cost (four years in the Service) on top of six years of grad school plus post-doc, but the Army time netted me about $20K on top of my salary and benefits.

  2. This is such a complicated issue for me. I decided to go into debt for grad school because I went to an R1 (and highly ranked) institution that only offers funding for 5 grad students in the first year. After that we get a package for proving ourselves. I took out $18,500 for that first year, depleted all my savings, had no heat and rented someone's dining room as my bedroom. It was the worst living year of my life.

    By the time I graduated, my undergrad and grad loans were at just under $60,000. But three years later, I had paid them off. The degree did give me good opportunities, and now I'm earning really good scratch.

    But I also know that a ton of my fellow grad class are underemployed and looking at loan amounts of over $100,000. One of them maxed out his lifetime loan amount. It's a tremendously complex issue.

    I suspect that I just got lucky with my job, and that's the only reason why I was able to pay down my loans so quickly. But I could be wrong.

  3. Thanks to a teaching assistantship and a little extra kicked in from a few hours per week at a campus job (as basically a library monitor), I actually earned more as a humanist than my STEM (but non-citizen) partner back in grad school. We both graduated debt-free, which has been the greatest gift we could ever have given ourselves in terms of starting our now-married lives post-graduation. But I should note that, now that both of us are working as faculty in hir home country, my STEM partner outearns me by a pretty ridiculous margin...

    If there is one piece of advice I impress on all of my grad student mentees, it's to do the degree debt-free, especially if you study anything in the humanities. This probably means living like a pauper, and it definitely means passing on any school that grants you acceptance without backing it up with funding. But you have to be in it for the long game--I have seen too many colleagues suffer from being saddled first with loans and then underemployment that doesn't allow them to both live off their earnings and pay back the money they needed to get that poorly paid job in the first place.


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