(Closed) Graduate School vs Debt- What do do?

posted 5 years ago in College
Post # 2
1641 posts
Bumble bee

Are you lined up for a job after graduation?  You can go straight on to your masters but it’s also pretty helpful to have some work experience on  your resume.  Maybe work for awhile and make sure you’re on the path you want.  See what the actual real world requirements are going to be to do the job you want.  Talk to people in that position and ask what route they took?

Post # 3
71 posts
Worker bee

Let me tell you a little bit about my situation before I give you any advice.

In May I will be out of college for 1 year. I graduated with appx 50K in federal loans for a degree in US Studies with a focus in Communications. Basically useless, a degree that is good for getting you into grad school. I excelled in school, graduating with honors. I applied to grad school for social service. I got in, but I did not get funding. Unfortunately there is very little funding for master’s prorgams. Most of the federal and school funding lies with Bachelors and PhDs. I would be taking on abother $20K in debt for a low paying career. I have no savings and even going to school part time I wouldn’t be able to work full time because of having to complete an internship. The only difference in my case is that I do not know exactly what I want to do, where as you seem to be on track with your career goals. So I’m not going. And I’m not upset about it.

I would apply. See what happens, you could find funding you never know. And there are always outside scholarships. If you get in, see what kind of funding you get. If you don’t get fundings see if you can defer for a year. During that year you can save up money that can be used towards school and you can also maybe take a course or two as a non-matriculated student. If you do well you can ask them to re-evaluate your application/transcripts to see if you can get funding.


Good luck!

Post # 4
1831 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

Personally, I would never invest in any degree that would get me $30K a year to start unless I had some pile of money to burn. I think you should start working full time and pay down some of that debt. Your debt to income ratio is probably going to be more favorable with a bachelor’s degree and $70K in debt than it would with a Master’s and a six figure student loan bill. The hard truth is that some (most?) degrees are just not worth the financial investment anymore.

Post # 5
1228 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

It doesn’t really sound like getting a master’s degree will significantly increase your earning power. Unless it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a job with just a bachelor’s degree, I would consider making it a priority to find a job right after graduating and working for a few years before considering going into more debt. You will likely be a better candidate for a master’s program with a few years of experience under your belt, anyway.

Post # 6
1306 posts
Bumble bee

I personally think you should have waited to buy the house until you had your debt under control (I’m a Dave Ramsey kool aid drinekr), but that’s neither here nor there.

Are you able to apply anywhere that offers scholarship (partial or full), or becoming a TA?  I have a good friend in a PhD program who works for the uni that gets the majority of her tuition covered and a small stipend.  Sure, it’s lower pay, but she is avoiding the debt and has the extra money to cover her basic expenses.  

I’m not sure of your personal loan situation in terms of your interest rates, but I think you should definitely go see a financial planner.

Hopefully your home is not more than your husband can comfortably afford.  You guys should really “live like students” until you are more out of debt.

Are you trying to be a counselor or a psychologist?  I think your undergrad debt was likely poorly thought through, but you can do this if you guys work hard together.  My best friend is 120K in debt for a social work degree.  She makes around 60k in NYC.  I would just go for the PhD, personally.  I almsot did it myself.  

Pay as much in cash as possible, even if it hurts.  Have a small pad of money in case of emergency, but get yourself into a good (state run, that will cover some of your tuition) program and hammer away at it with husbands extra income if possible.  

Edit: I guess I completely skipped the part about the masters not getting you significantly more.

Your other option is to go freaking HAM for a year or two (work three jobs if you have to) and pay down a big chunk of debt.  I mean everything.  No eating out in restaurants (unless you work in one), no vacations, no handbags.  Just DEBT.  Rice and beans.  It’s worth it.

  • This reply was modified 5 years, 5 months ago by  doglover89.
Post # 7
75 posts
Worker bee

If I already had 70k in debt, I absolutely would not take on more debt for grad school. Heck, even without the existing 70k in debt, taking on debt for grad school in a field (such as counseling) that does not necessarily lead to a well-paying job is already very risky business. It’s often good to get work experience in your field before heading back to grad school anyway—working will help clarify your professional goals. If I were you, I would look for jobs that would allow me to head in the direction I wanted to go while also paying down the loans. For example, academic advisors and admissions counselors at the university where I work often don’t have to have a master’s degree. Even if you can’t find paying work that relates closely to what you want to do, you could reach out to art therapists or counselors in your city and ask to shadow/volunteer/intern and get experience that way. In short…no, I really don’t think you should take on more debt for grad school when you already have a lot of debt.

Post # 8
246 posts
Helper bee

can you look for jobs that offer tuition reimbursement? for example, the PP mentioned universities and jobs related to your degree/interests.. could you try to work at the university you want the degree from?

Post # 9
446 posts
Helper bee

I think everyone is giving good perspectives. I have to echo what one poster said about working – give yourself some time, get a job, and get a feel for the field you’re entering. Working a year or more in your desired field will do a lot to help you figure out what you want out of your job/career and what you don’t want. Maybe you’ll decide getting a graduate degree will open up more opportunities for you.

Related, you may discover that even though the earning potential isn’t significantly higher with a master’s/phd, you may find that the kind of job you want requires those degrees. You might feel stuck in the posiiton you have that only requires a bachelor’s, and even though a master’s or phd might not make you more money, they might help you get a more interesting job. But again, I think it’s very beneficial to work first and see how you feel after a solid year. You’ll know better then.

My master’s (which I’m getting in a few weeks!) is not in your field, but is in a field that’s not exactly known as being high earning. I was hesitant to start because, even though I got some scholarships, I would still have to take out some loans and I wasn’t sure it was worth it financially – plus, I’d been working and figured maybe I could work my way up. But I am so glad I did it because this degree has opened so many doors for me, has guaranteed vastly more interesting work, and through the connections I made in grad school, I got a high earning job! So what I’m trying to say is, you never know what might happen 😉

Post # 10
5082 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2014

View original reply
Birdiebaby4:  Psychology degrees kind of put you in a tough situation because if you actually want to work in your field, you really need a graduate degree. Although, it doesn’t really seem like getting a master’s alone will up your earning potential much. I would see if you can get a job that requires any bachelor’s degree, with perhaps some element where you could use your psychology degree, like sales or HR or something similar. Then look into applying to PhD programs later with more work experience. 

It’s a tough situation, believe me, I know I have a lot of debt too. Luckily I was able to get into a funded PhD program after college, so I went. But “funded” didn’t mean that I still didn’t need some more loans to live (until I married my husband). But I have to look at it as an investment in my future. 

Post # 11
1740 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

I agree with Sithlady that you may have a hard time finding a job in psychology with just a BA — most of the jobs in that field require at least a MA.  I do have one friend with a BA in psych that works for the local DSS, but it is, honestly, a pretty miserable job.  

One thing to keep in mind is that even if you don’t get funding for the first semester of your MA, you may get it for second — that was true for me anyway.  First year students rarely get it from the start at my school, but once you prove yourself, they offer it second semester.  And even if you don’t get funding within your department, you could still get it other places in the university — with the graduate school or in student life departments, for example.  

Also you may want to focus your search on R1 schools as they tend to have the best funding opportunities (my current school is not an R1, but my undergrad school was.  There is a huge a difference between what they each offer, even though my graduate school is definitely considered the “better” school.  But I chose my current school based on its location, not on funding.)

  • This reply was modified 5 years, 5 months ago by  MelissainNC.
Post # 12
2256 posts
Buzzing bee

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Birdiebaby4:  I’m going to sound like a Debbie Downer just because I’ve been through this type of situation, and I’ve gone through grad school, and I’ve seen the puppet strings, and seen what’s behind the smoke and glass. I’m sorry if it comes across harsh, but sometimes tough love is necessary.

I know people who jump from BA/BS to MA/MS just for the simple fact that they can defer payments on their student debt because they’re still enrolled in a college setting. This is a terrible reason to go into a Master’s program.

I will say, I was able to get into Columbia for a Master’s program and I had an ok GPA of 3.6. I think most schools look more at your GRE score, or your recommendations, and your application package as a whole. I didn’t give a shit about the math section of the GRE because I was applying for history programs. And I was right. Columbia didn’t care.

You have taken the GRE, haven’t you? If you’re two weeks out from graduating with your Bachelor’s and you haven’t taken your GRE and you haven’t applied to any graduate programs, that’s going to put you back a year. It takes months to get your scores back. It takes months to apply. It takes months to get a decision from the college.

You need to be doing those things the last year you’re in school. SO, with that in mind, it may be best to hit the job market if you haven’t done any of these things, and work for a while while you take your GRE, get your scores, get your recommendations lined up, and send off your applications, which can take several months to get back to you. Because I’m fairly certain most deadlines for applications have passed by now, and this is when seniors are getting their rejections and acceptance letters.

And, if you are accepted to a program, you’re not guaranteed to be given stipends or grants, which will be necessary in the line of work you’re going into. I personally think that graduate degrees aren’t worth it if you’re going to be paying off massive debt and be paid relatively little. If the payoff is greater, I can excuse going into debt for it. And sometimes, if you’re employed, your employer will pay for your Master’s degree.

So, start applying for employment AND preparing to apply for school. Eggs in many baskets, and all.

Post # 13
2256 posts
Buzzing bee

I will also say, there are a lot of rewarding jobs you can have with a BA in psychology that aren’t necessarily associated with psychology. If it’s just to help you bring in money until you CAN get into a program, that’s fine.

Post # 14
533 posts
Busy bee

I have a BA in psychology. The jobs related to a psychology under grad degree are few and far between and the emotionally and financially rewarding ones are even more rare.

I am not in one of them.  This is what I would tell my younger self.

I would suggest determining the following:

1: What types jobs are there that you can really get and how much do they pay? Both now and with a Masters and or PhD. Run the numbers for pay and costs and weigh those against the intangibles like feeling financially stable enough to have children on your original timeline and job satisfaction.

Please also consider the following:

2. Are there other less expensive schools you could attend and still get a respected degree?

3. Can you get any type of job at any of the local colleges? Almost all college or university jobs have some sort of pt tuition waiver for employees and some have some sort of reciprocity with other local schools. (Yes a TA or assistant position would be best for your resume, but free classes are good for the degree.)

4. Where are you with your other classes? If you stayed another year, could you double major with a second and more employable degree?

Once you have done the research and develped a game plan, do some informational interviews with people in similar job positions to confirm the real world viability.

Good luck in what ever direction you choose.

Post # 15
1011 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2017

View original reply
Birdiebaby4:  Personally, I feel that the earlier you start working in your desired field, the better. While the temptation is there to stop at your BA and work for a while to pay down your debt, unless you are in a job you really like, you will be miserable (working in a crappy, low paid job knowing you want to continue your education is soul destroying, believe me!!!). So if you both can survive on his income for the next few years, I say to just continue on with your education and get it all over with. Yes the debt will be a lot when you finish, but at least you will be in a field you like and developing your career.

FYI I was in this same situation. I got my BSc when I was 22, worked for 8yrs in a job that I HATED and knew from day 1 I would never stay in it. But I perservered in order to pay off all my debt and then started my current degree in a completely different field at 30. Will finish next year at 34 and be 150k in debt and seriously against the clock to start a family. Point of my story is that if I had the opportunity to finish my education while I was younger, I would have. Overall you will still wind up with a huge amt of debt, but I feel sometimes like those 8yrs spent working in a non-relevant career were a ‘waste’ and I wish I could have them back.

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