Friday, August 8, 2008

What does afford really mean?

I entitled yesterday’s entry “the other Broke Grad Student” in reference to Broke Grad Student’s blog. However, within minutes of posting an anonymous person commented:

“I'm so broke I can't even afford grad school.”

While this obviously is a serious and sad comment, it made me wonder:
When I was applying for grad school three years ago- could I really afford it?

Financial picture: I had an emergency fund and ROTH was partly funded (10% of my income always). I graduated without getting into any graduate schools that year, so I took a year off. During this time I moved north, worked the morning shift at a cafe making coffee drinks, and worked for free as a research assistant to a big name Psychology researcher at a local research institution. I worked hard, retook the GRE’s, got a great recommendation from this big wig and suddenly I was in at many graduate schools.

So could I really afford to go to graduate school?
Financially- not really.
I’ll be paying off these loans well into the next decade. I didn’t have the 16k I would spend on my graduate education saved in an account; I ended up borrowing that in interest-free loans from the government. I worked through my MA getting scholarships, grants, and stipends (euphemism for working lots of hours and getting paid very little) to pay the basics.

Professionally- I couldn’t afford not to go onto graduate school. If you actually want a Psychology-related job that pays well with some stability, then you’re going to have to get an advanced degree. An MA was all I needed to be able to teach Psychology at the local state college. While our move disrupted my career there, I’m still working hard to get colleges locally to notice me. It may take another year or so, but I’m confident something will come up.
Note: Academics tend to relocate to where jobs are, not relocate and then find jobs like I’m doing. (As if the thesis wasn’t masochistic enough, I’m adding this on myself….)

While I agree, there are plenty of people who would not be well-off enough to take this leap, I do wonder: if your career and happiness depends on it, can you afford not to go to graduate school?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only 3 years into my engineering career, and it already feels too late to go back to school to get an advanced degree. The thought of willingly going into debt is hard to swallow.