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3-year MSW: Simmons or Salem State?


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Hi everybody,

About me: I did my undergrad at an Ivy, graduate school in elementary education at the same Ivy. I left school before completing an MAT, thus forfeiting my scholarship. Am currently $56K in debt, mostly from grad program #1. 


I have acceptances for 3-year (just over half-time) MSW programs at BC, Bridgewater (MA) State, Salem (MA) State, and Simmons. I am deciding between Simmons and Salem (yes, Bridgewater is higher ranked, but I live north of Boston, and the commute is a concern).


At Simmons, I'd do the clinical focus on Health and Aging. At Salem State, I'd be concentrating in Older Adults and End-of-Life care. After graduation, I'd hope to get a job at a hospital or a hospice, and later transition into private practice.


The total cost of Simmons is $63,050, but I have been offered a $30K merit scholarship, so the total cost would be $33,050 - about $9500 the first year (3 6-credit semesters) about $17,000 the second year (10 credits fall, 11 credits spring,  6 credits summer), and about $6,400 in the third year (2 6-credit semesters). 65 credits at what ends up being $508/credit (full price is $970/credit).


The total cost of Salem State is $22,816, based on 62 credits at $338/credit. 


I believe that it will be easier for me to continue working if I do the Salem State program - it's part time during the year with two full-time summers (for which I might be able to take short-term educational leave from my job) whereas at Simmons, only the first year is part-time. This definitely skews the numbers game a little bit towards Salem. I don't make very much money at my current job (in the neighborhood of $30K), but every little bit counts.


As you might imagine, I'm reluctant to go into a whole lot more debt. This is why I've turned down BC, despite its being the #10 ranked MSW program in US News. Sigh. But Simmons is ranked #33, and Salem is ranked #104, and is the difference between $23K and $33K so huge, if $33K gets me better opportunities? 


I'd love to hear from students and alumni from both programs, and from people who hire MSW graduates.



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I don't know that Simmons will get you better opportunities necessarily. Especially if you choose to leave Massachusetts. You have the ivy on your resume already. I think that's quite sufficient. If Salem State would work better for your wallet and your lifestyle, I say go there. All 6 of the schools I turned down for my MSW are ranked higher than the one I decided to go to. Money and happiness are two things I just couldn't gamble with.

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I think you need to also consider whether rankings really matter here.  U.S. News ranks programs to sell magazines.  Their rankings are based nearly entirely on social work academic program administrators' evaluations of their peer institutions - not on employers' views of the schools.  Furthermore, although this is not my field, I'm not sure that prestige or ranking is actually a factor in hiring social workers.  I think it's your skills and experience that's going to get you hired.  Sometimes prestigious schools of social work can have "better" fieldwork assignments, but not always.

The difference between $23K and $33K honestly isn't that huge.  Over a 10-year repayment period assuming an interest rate of 6.8%, $10K is about an extra $115/month.  With income-based repayment plans, it may not even be that much.  But there are other compelling reasons for you to attend Salem State, it seems like - it's continuously part-time throughout the program, which seems to be what you are seeking, and it'll be easier for you to keep your job.  Your job isn't just an 'every little bit counts' situation - it's how you feed yourself and house yourself.  How will you do that if you aren't working?  You will have to borrow more money, and the gulf between the two schools will be presumably larger.


So personally I would be leaning towards Salem State, but do some investigating.  Where do Simmons grads end up, and where do Salem State grads go?  Are there large differences in the unemployment rates between the two schools?

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