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Top 10 + Debt or Top 20 without Debt



Hi all,

So I have been accepted into several programs for a doctorate in political science.  Many of these are solidly top 20/25 schools with excellent financial packages.

However, I was also accepted into a top 10 school with a less generous financial package.  Attending there would either require $50,000 in student debt.  Has anybody been in this position before and is the difference between a top 20 and a top 10 school really worth the difference?  I am shooting to become an assistant professor out of grad school.

I'd appreciate any input from anybody who has had to make this decision before.

On a side note, one of the top 20/25 schools was Emory, so I think it has more name value/prestige than a typical top 20 school in hiring (in the last year with data they placed their 2 grads at Cornell and U of Minnesota) because it is a private university with a strong undergrad program that is very well regarded regionally.  Please factor this in.

Edited by mccp77
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It's worth looking at the starting salary for assistant professors and thinking about how you'll pay off that debt if you take it on... I would also pay attention to the reputation of each school in your subfield, not just its general reputation.

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If one of the top 20/25 programs has similar placements to the top ten then it may not matter that is lower ranked.  A top 20/25 program may also be better in your subfield as rising_star said.  Look at the placement records of professors in your subfield at the institution.  $50,000 is a lot of debt.  If I was in your shoes I would have to know that it would definitely be worth it on the job market.   

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