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Is it worth the debt?


everran

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Hello, everyone.

 

I have been accepted for the Pacific Northwest College of Art's MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research. Tuition is approximately 47k with a scholarship of 10k (no stipend, &c.) The school estimates I will need to borrow 60-70k to cover living expenses (this is a one-year program). If my goal is to enter a PhD in Fall 2015, is it worth the debt?

 

My concerns are:

1) A one-year program will not afford me enough time to ingratiate myself with faculty and prepare substantial PhD applications.

2) If I want to pursue a PhD in Art History I will not be deemed qualified after earning a Master's in Critical Theory, although my thesis will be art-history based.

3) If I fail to secure a PhD for Fall 2015 I will have to begin repaying these loans. 

 

Should I decline PNCA's offer of admission?

 

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I would definitely not consider this debt personally! I am getting a masters with the hope of moving into a phd from there. For my 2 year masters, I am taking out 20k total. I think much more than this would make me nervous.

Also consider what the MS is in. For example, with my bioinformatics masters I will be able to pay back the 20k within 5ish years if I don't get into a phd program. Will you make enough money with your masters to justify 70k in loans if you don't get in to a phd program? Also, what if you don't finish your thesis in time and take an extra semester? Would you feel comfortable with having 100k in debt?

Sorry to bring up only negatives but I feel like the MS has the potential to leave you in a pretty horrible financial situation. It's probably not too lake to apply to local state schools masters programs. I would apply to a couple of those, especially if there are any decent ones near family so that you can live with them instead of paying living expenses. When applying to phd programs, the name on a MS degree seems to have less importance then the research you do and concepts you learn during the degree. Also, a one year masters probably won't ell much with phd programs because you won't be able to get to know faculty well enough for great LORs and won't have any grades to show yet (or 1 semester depending on the deadline).

Edited by bsharpe269
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I agree with bsharpe269, I personally wouldn't consider the debt. Can you still get into the PhD program in 2015 without the masters? It might depend on the field, but I know a lot of programs accept (or even prefer) you straight from undergrad. Is there something else you could do in a year that could help you become more competitive for PhD programs that wouldn't give you the same kind of financial burden? I worked with a professor at my alma mater for a year, which really help applying for programs. 

Edited by TheGirlWhoLived
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Do not take on this debt. I don't think a degree in Critical Theory is lucrative enough to make that large of a debt worth it. You gotta ask yourself, is this degree going to make me enough money to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time AND live reasonably. 

 

I got into a top ranked program in my field and it would most likely make me tons of money after, but I rejected it because of the large debt (approximately 70k). So for me large debt is never worth it regardless of return on interest. For you (and many others) it could very well be worth it. 

 

Good luck and let us know what you decide!

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$60-70k, that is a lot of money. You either have to truely love the field to go into that level of debt for it or you had better be looking at a very high paying career soon after graduation. Personally, I'd run like hell.

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$60-70k, that is a lot of money. You either have to truely love the field to go into that level of debt for it or you had better be looking at a very high paying career soon after graduation. Personally, I'd run like hell.

There are a few art historians who cling to the notion of a unfunded MA - and it has been successful for a select group of people who go to brand name unfunded MAs/"cash cows" for amazing PhD programs. That said, while some people have decided their debt is worth it to them, and have gotten into PhD programs, it's simply an incredibly risky bet.You have no way of guaranteeing that A.) you'll get into a PhD at the end or B.) you'll even want to get a PhD at the end. I had two factors I considered in declining even considering such programs: 1.) I have about $42,000 in debt from undergrad already and 2.) I have a low-income background with no additional support coming in.

If you have absolutely no other debts, it might maybe, have a small chance of benefitting you. But might maybe are not odds I liked. I applied to funded MAs and PhDs. I wouldn't take an unfunded offer, and I can't really recommend you do it. Not to mention $70k in living expenses is downright obscene, unless I'm misunderstanding something. I recommend you go for funded MAs in art history, which is the field you're interested in anyways. Think Williams, Tulane, UT Austin, etc. When someone in material sciences and physics says: "I wouldn't take the debt even though I could make it all back" that to me says you definitely won't make it back right away in art history.

It's just not a particularly practical debt decision.

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As an applicant to English MA/PhD programs, I was told by so many people that paying for an unfunded MA is a bad idea because there is never any guarantee of stellar PhD acceptances to come after the MA and the return on the investment just won't be there.

 

Also, I have a lot of undergrad debt which already worries me so the idea of taking out more significant loans for grad school is terrifying. 

 

In the end, I think it depends on your financial situation. If you really think you will be able to afford the loans down the road/already have significant savings to contribute, it might be easier for you. Otherwise, I'd really try to look only at funded programs. 

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