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Is 100K of Debt Not Insane?

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On 2/8/2012 at 8:46 PM, MYRNIST said:

 

In addition to the fine thoughts already posted (don't know % employed; cherry-picked self-reported HKS stats; etc.) I have a few more objections.


1) 100k of debt for a Harvard professional degree (be it a MPP, JD, MBA, whatever) is probably not crazy. It's a bit of a calculated risk, but the sheer prestige, networks, and quality of education it grants are very real, and should fast-track your career. But 100k of debt for a non-elite MPP/MPA, which apparently many people are willing to do, is absolutely insane. It's taking a massive gamble that a degree not known for large financial rewards will somehow do just that. I mean, I personally probably wouldn't even take that risk even for a Harvard degree; doing it for an American or Syracuse (or wherever, not picking on them) degree without that prestige/networks/quality is really pushing it.-

Not to revive a zombie thread, but as an FYI Syracuse (Maxwell) has been ahead of Harvard in public affairs rankings for many years, I think since US News began reporting Gov Affairs graduate programs a few decades ago. That being said the brand and network goes a long way with HKS.

Edited by decisions

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10 hours ago, decisions said:

Not to revive a zombie thread, but as an FYI Syracuse (Maxwell) has been ahead of Harvard in public affairs rankings for many years, I think since US News began reporting Gov Affairs graduate programs a few decades ago. That being said the brand and network goes a long way with HKS.

This forum doesn't seem to respect those rankings very much. There's more of a bias here toward private schools, seemingly motivated by reputation/brand name. For whatever reason, highly-ranked public schools like Syracuse and IU don't get much respect.

Edited by aslabchu

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I think public universities receive a fair amount of respect on here. Topics about Berkeley GSPP and Michigan Ford are just as hot, and I personally ruled out all but one private school due to program options. I think it is dependent on one's career goals: many folks here are in the IR and development camps, and it looks like private universities have stronger programs in that field.

Also, Syracuse is a private university.

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20 minutes ago, RCtheSS said:

I think public universities receive a fair amount of respect on here. Topics about Berkeley GSPP and Michigan Ford are just as hot, and I personally ruled out all but one private school due to program options. I think it is dependent on one's career goals: many folks here are in the IR and development camps, and it looks like private universities have stronger programs in that field.

Also, Syracuse is a private university.

Didn't know that. Oops. Looks like I can't edit now, so I'll just have to wear the badge of shame.

Edited by aslabchu

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I'm really struggling with this decision as well.

I'm on the waitlist at Harvard MPP, but will likely not attend because 1) no money and 2) Harvard doesn't seem to care if I attend or not. This is the feeling I get from having interacted with their admissions office, or perhaps more accurately, the lack of interaction I've received from said office.

Meanwhile, I'm in at Fletcher MALD with ~30k over two years, and Fletcher's staff has been courting me regularly ever since I got the letter of acceptance. Everyone from Fletcher has been exceedingly friendly and open. Still, I'm having a devil of a time bringing myself to sign the papers, knowing that I'd have to borrow around 100k to attend even with the generous offer.

Can anyone advise me here? Is Fletcher worth this kind of debt? I know this question is personal to a large extent, but any input would be very much appreciated.

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7 minutes ago, spectrum5 said:

I'm really struggling with this decision as well.

I'm on the waitlist at Harvard MPP, but will likely not attend because 1) no money and 2) Harvard doesn't seem to care if I attend or not. This is the feeling I get from having interacted with their admissions office, or perhaps more accurately, the lack of interaction I've received from said office.

Meanwhile, I'm in at Fletcher MALD with ~30k over two years, and Fletcher's staff has been courting me regularly ever since I got the letter of acceptance. Everyone from Fletcher has been exceedingly friendly and open. Still, I'm having a devil of a time bringing myself to sign the papers, knowing that I'd have to borrow around 100k to attend even with the generous offer.

Can anyone advise me here? Is Fletcher worth this kind of debt? I know this question is personal to a large extent, but any input would be very much appreciated.

I've read somewhere on HKS' admissions blog that the committee puts much thought into who they put on the wait list...I believe they do care, just that the admissions office is likely swamped helping many admitted students with various issues. Congrats on the Fletcher offer. 100K is a bit much. Is it possible to defer and seek outside funding for next year? 

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9 minutes ago, HKS hopeful said:

I've read somewhere on HKS' admissions blog that the committee puts much thought into who they put on the wait list...I believe they do care, just that the admissions office is likely swamped helping many admitted students with various issues. Congrats on the Fletcher offer. 100K is a bit much. Is it possible to defer and seek outside funding for next year? 

Thanks HKS hopeful, I appreciate your response.

For other reasons I don't want to go into here (pretty self-identifying), I've kind of gotten the wrong vibe from HKS. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be all sour grapes about being waitlisted: it's a fantastic program and I wish I'd been admitted outright. That said, even if I had been admitted, no money would have been a dealbreaker in any circumstance.

I've thought a lot about deferring Fletcher and saving/working/searching for other funds for a year. The problem is I'm older than the average student and don't want to be in a situation where I go to grad school in my thirties. I know a lot of people do it, but I feel it would be for the best if I could knock most of my schooling out in my twenties. Perhaps this is a silly position.

I'm in a relatively good position because I don't have much undergrad debt weighing me down. It's just the big numbers at Fletcher that are giving me cold feet. Everyone I've spoken with at Fletcher seems to think it's worth the debt load. I'm not so sure.

Decisions, decisions.

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2 minutes ago, spectrum5 said:

Thanks HKS hopeful, I appreciate your response.

For other reasons I don't want to go into here (pretty self-identifying), I've kind of gotten the wrong vibe from HKS. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be all sour grapes about being waitlisted: it's a fantastic program and I wish I'd been admitted outright. That said, even if I had been admitted, no money would have been a dealbreaker in any circumstance.

I've thought a lot about deferring Fletcher and saving/working/searching for other funds for a year. The problem is I'm older than the average student and don't want to be in a situation where I go to grad school in my thirties. I know a lot of people do it, but I feel it would be for the best if I could knock most of my schooling out in my twenties. Perhaps this is a silly position.

I'm in a relatively good position because I don't have much undergrad debt weighing me down. It's just the big numbers at Fletcher that are giving me cold feet. Everyone I've spoken with at Fletcher seems to think it's worth the debt load. I'm not so sure.

Decisions, decisions.

Regarding HKS--- go with your gut instinct. However, sorry to hear you've had an unpleasant experience.  That said, perhaps its the universe way of telling you that your presence is needed at Fletcher...which you and others have pointed out is a very good program. Besides, you've gotten good vibes.

I've always been one of the older grad student in the the numerous programs I've attended...and if admitted to HKS, will be mostly with the older folks (mid-careers).  Are there many cons of being 30s in grad school? Its never too late to stop learning. :-)

Good luck with your decision. ..but it seems you've already decided on Fletcher. Unless you have other options, put ink to that admissions offer and enjoy your studies. :-)

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In order to pay off $100k of student loans in 10 years, you would need to pay $1,100 per month.  In order for that to be "affordable" based on the standard of paying no more than 10% of your monthly income (that's what the income-based repayment plans for federal loans is based on), you would need an income of $150,000, excluding contributions to retirement and health insurance premiums.  

Given entry-level public sector salaries, a common approach is to enroll in an income-based repayment plan.  On a $60k income, your payment would be around $352 per month. Bear in mind the calculation for income-based payments is based on your AGI, which excludes retirement contributions and health insurance premiums.  Therefore the income-based payment will probably be a bit lower.  Based on current interest rates, $100k in loans will accrue $487 in interest every month.  So your income-based payments will not even cover the interest that accrues each month.

What does this mean in practice?  If you do income-based repayment, you can keep doing that until your loans get forgiven in 10 (through public service loan forgiveness, which may very well be eliminated or changed by Congress) or 20 or 25 years (assuming you're paying under IBR or PAYE).  However, unless you get forgiveness through public service loan forgiveness, the amount forgiven is likely to be considered taxable income.  An extra $100k in income (or more, if you've let your balance increase over time) is a big tax hit.  Plus of course there is the stress to consider.

Also bear in mind that the salaries out of HKS are as much a function of who goes to HKS as they are a function of what HKS does for its students.  In other words, if you are someone straight out of college who got into HKS, the odds of getting a federal government job that pays $65k are pretty low.  You're much more likely to start out as a GS-9 making $53k (assuming you are in DC).  Your salary will certainly grow (if you're lucky, you could get up to a GS13 in as little as three years, and that currently equates to a $92k salary), but so will your expenses/desire for savings if you're trying to save for retirement, buy a house, etc.  

Don't get me wrong, I have heard great things about HKS (apparently their career services is amazing), Fletcher and similar schools.  That said, I have seen my former classmates from Syracuse go on to jobs with sought-after employers such as the UN (I was offered one), the World Bank, and McKinsey.  You can go on to have a great career out of most reputable MPP programs, though I think a place like HKS might do a bit more hand-holding along the way.  Think carefully about taking on a massive load of debt for the sake of a prestigious name on your resume, in order to work in a field where your salary will likely top out at around $200k at the most, unless you decide to go for the private sector, in which case why not just get an MBA?

Edited by MaxwellAlum

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On ‎4‎/‎10‎/‎2016 at 0:45 AM, decisions said:

Not to revive a zombie thread, but as an FYI Syracuse (Maxwell) has been ahead of Harvard in public affairs rankings for many years, I think since US News began reporting Gov Affairs graduate programs a few decades ago. That being said the brand and network goes a long way with HKS.

It's also worth noting this is for public affairs, not public policy/policy analysis programs. Much of this forum is interested in MPPs, not MPAs so the popularity of schools follows the US News rankings for policy more closely.

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-public-affairs-schools/public-policy-analysis-rankings?int=a95909&int=a06908

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44 minutes ago, SDtoMPP said:

It's also worth noting this is for public affairs, not public policy/policy analysis programs. Much of this forum is interested in MPPs, not MPAs so the popularity of schools follows the US News rankings for policy more closely.

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-public-affairs-schools/public-policy-analysis-rankings?int=a95909&int=a06908

It's also worth mentioning that a lot of the ambiguity in the rankings and program evaluation is the terminology used by various programs, which is why the rankings are typically called into question due to the lack of a standardized metric. Most programs offer two separate degrees, an MPA (public administration) typically offered to mid-career professionals and an MPP (public policy). However, some programs such as SPEA and LBJ offer only one degree, an MPA, but it is public affairs rather than administration and students choose whether to focus on policy analysis or administration. The confusion is compounded when incorporating IR, which is included in some schools' public affairs programs, whereas other schools like GW have separate public policy and IR schools. 

It really comes down to if the program is a match for you regarding program specification, career goals, costs, alumni network, and reputation.

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3 hours ago, SDtoMPP said:

It's also worth noting this is for public affairs, not public policy/policy analysis programs. Much of this forum is interested in MPPs, not MPAs so the popularity of schools follows the US News rankings for policy more closely.

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-public-affairs-schools/public-policy-analysis-rankings?int=a95909&int=a06908

A little off-topic, but I don't really understand why there are so few MPA folks around here. Maybe public admin is just unsexy, I guess.

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2015 SAIS grad here. Yes, 100k in debt IS insane.

I have about half that and still feel very stressed by my loan payment every month, even though I'm making just at the median private sector salary that SAIS publishes and got a job shortly after graduation, which I happen to enjoy greatly (i.e. I'm not itching to get out but feeling trapped b/c of my debt). I'm also a single 20-something with no kids and have a good family safety net. Alter any of those factors and the situation could be unmanageable. As it is, there's almost nothing left each month after I pay my rent (I live with roommates in a non-luxury apartment, btw), my loan payment, my basic bills, make a 401k contribution, and occasionally pay for a plane ticket to go to a friend's wedding or visit family during the holidays. 

I remember reading this thread and other similar ones when I was applying for the fall 2013 cycle. The warnings of other posters about the burdens of debt made a big impact on me and I'm so glad that they did,  because I have many friends who took on 6-figure loans without thinking too carefully and I don't envy any of their positions right now. DC is a very pricey city if you're not already aware of that (it's a feat to pay less than $1000/month rent even with roommates), and while a lot of these IBR/deferral/forbearance/PSLF/whatever schemes can make the short-term situation bearable, when a massive tax bill comes due 10-25 years down the road it might not seem like such a brilliant idea after all. 

I really, really would advise you not to take out massive debts based on any of the following:

1) Getting your dream job right after graduation 

2) Getting that rare, super hard-to-get consulting/MBA-lite job

3) Somehow not caring about living with roommates until you're 35 because IR is your PASSION (caveat being that I know there are a few people who really don't care, but you're probably not one of them)

4) Having all your debt forgiven by the government

 

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On 4/18/2016 at 5:35 AM, kb6 said:

2015 SAIS grad here. Yes, 100k in debt IS insane.

I have about half that and still feel very stressed by my loan payment every month, even though I'm making just at the median private sector salary that SAIS publishes and got a job shortly after graduation, which I happen to enjoy greatly (i.e. I'm not itching to get out but feeling trapped b/c of my debt). I'm also a single 20-something with no kids and have a good family safety net. Alter any of those factors and the situation could be unmanageable. As it is, there's almost nothing left each month after I pay my rent (I live with roommates in a non-luxury apartment, btw), my loan payment, my basic bills, make a 401k contribution, and occasionally pay for a plane ticket to go to a friend's wedding or visit family during the holidays. 

I remember reading this thread and other similar ones when I was applying for the fall 2013 cycle. The warnings of other posters about the burdens of debt made a big impact on me and I'm so glad that they did,  because I have many friends who took on 6-figure loans without thinking too carefully and I don't envy any of their positions right now. DC is a very pricey city if you're not already aware of that (it's a feat to pay less than $1000/month rent even with roommates), and while a lot of these IBR/deferral/forbearance/PSLF/whatever schemes can make the short-term situation bearable, when a massive tax bill comes due 10-25 years down the road it might not seem like such a brilliant idea after all. 

I really, really would advise you not to take out massive debts based on any of the following:

1) Getting your dream job right after graduation 

2) Getting that rare, super hard-to-get consulting/MBA-lite job

3) Somehow not caring about living with roommates until you're 35 because IR is your PASSION (caveat being that I know there are a few people who really don't care, but you're probably not one of them)

4) Having all your debt forgiven by the government

 

Thanks for this. You've made me feel better about my decision to go with the money, and not the dream school.

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bro, if you're dropping 6 figures for something that ain't med school, you done fucked up. i probably wouldnt even recommend that much debt for law school or an MBA unless you're attending a top 20 program. your 60k a year job in washington isn't going to pay back your debt obligations in an efficient manner, especially if you plan on having a life. unless you figure you're gonna become the next ban ki moon or some shit, save up some real cash before you go

Edited by ViewsFromThe6

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On 5/9/2016 at 2:35 AM, ViewsFromThe6 said:

bro, if you're dropping 6 figures for something that ain't med school, you done fucked up. i probably wouldnt even recommend that much debt for law school or an MBA unless you're attending a top 20 program. your 60k a year job in washington isn't going to pay back your debt obligations in an efficient manner, especially if you plan on having a life. unless you figure you're gonna become the next ban ki moon or some shit, save up some real cash before you go

Perhaps a little harsher than my take, but I think the sentiment is correct. 

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On May 9, 2016 at 2:35 AM, ViewsFromThe6 said:

bro, if you're dropping 6 figures for something that ain't med school, you done fucked up. i probably wouldnt even recommend that much debt for law school or an MBA unless you're attending a top 20 program.

As an MD candidate I would upvote this three times if possible :D

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@MD guy @ViewsFromThe6 Agreed. With the exceptions of (some) medical fields - definitely don't go to school if it's going to cost you money. There's an amazing correlation between being in a fully-funded program and getting a job afterwards (and that's not even that good of a correlation, considering the employment stats). Sure, I'll be making (if I get a good job in my field) around $60k, but I'm not paying for my doctorate in anything other than time spent. This is also why I have a whole list of Plan B for post graduation, including being the next Ban Ki Moon or Samantha Powers. In an effort to tie this to the topic, my wife is a policy wonk with an MPA from a fully-funded program and runs a non-profit. 

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4 hours ago, drivingthoughts said:

With the exceptions of (some) medical fields

Nah. Contrary to popular belief driven mostly by sensationalist media, any medical field for a physician can make back 6 figure loans easily.

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On 6/1/2016 at 1:15 AM, MD guy said:

Nah. Contrary to popular belief driven mostly by sensationalist media, any medical field for a physician can make back 6 figure loans easily.

it's true, even someone in pediatrics or psychiatry or some of the other less competitive residencies makes enough bank to pay back their loans. their debt/income ratio is probably a lot better than a lot of the IR/policy grads on gradcafe 

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