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How much debt are you willing to take on for your degree?

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I'm struggling with the idea of taking out big loans to pay for an MPP, but I'm curious about everyone's perspectives.

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It you do, you are better off going federal and getting the repayment plans and loan forgiveness plans.  That being said, do not take out more than you need. Apply for scholarships, paid internships, and fellowships.  Take into consideration the cost of living and the cost of attendance as the total cost of the MPP and do a cost benefit analysis. 

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I only got a small amount of funding for Fletcher and none for Elliott school and American,  but still happy to get into most schools, including my first choice Georgetown MSFS.  I'll have to take on serious debt regardless the program (even UCSD IR/PS) but it will obviously be the better move for the future as I cannot make much and cannot get into my career of choice in my current status.  I plan to apply for outside scholarships and academic/off campus employment to take less loans once in school again.

 

I have a question for everyone though.  Would you take on more debt to go to a school like Georgetown (highly regarded as the best IR program alongside SAIS) or go to a school like Fletcher, American, or GWU Elliott for less money (they're not significantly cheaper as I didn't got 0-minimal funding)?  If I'm still paying close to full price for GWU or Fletcher but they are a little bit cheaper.  Fit-wise, I am all for Georgetown, but is it worth the discount to go elsewhere and sacrifice fit and also the Georgetown brand/prestige?

Edited by 2012latam

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Alright, I'm not sure this place is exactly representative because, at least from my perspective, this forum is EXTREMELY cost and risk averse.

 

There are so many people on here that fret over the financials and debt and rightfully so. But, at the end of the day, you have to decide whether you're going to make decisions based upon saving money or taking risks and actually going for what you want. Those who are married, have kids, have large debts from other sources- those are different circumstances. But if you're moving to either DC or New York and you've got the option to go to your dream school then just DO IT.

 

Y'all gotta believe in yourself more. Go in with the attitude of "I'm taking on this debt, but I'm gonna work my ass off, get a killer job, and in time I'll pay it off. And I'll know that I did things my way." And, you know what, if things don't work out exactly to plan, I'm sure you'll find a way to make it work.

 

This forum is filled with extremely smart people and the last thing I want to have at the end of the day are a bunch of people, 10 years down the line, wondering what could have been if they just went for it.

Edited by DCB

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I only got a small amount of funding for Fletcher and none for Elliott school and American,  but still happy to get into most schools, including my first choice Georgetown MSFS.  I'll have to take on serious debt regardless the program (even UCSD IR/PS) but it will obviously be the better move for the future as I cannot make much and cannot get into my career of choice in my current status.  I plan to apply for outside scholarships and academic/off campus employment to take less loans once in school again.

 

I have a question for everyone though.  Would you take on more debt to go to a school like Georgetown (highly regarded as the best IR program alongside SAIS) or go to a school like Fletcher, American, or GWU Elliott for less money (they're not significantly cheaper as I didn't got 0-minimal funding)?  If I'm still paying close to full price for GWU or Fletcher but they are a little bit cheaper.  Fit-wise, I am all for Georgetown, but is it worth the discount to go elsewhere and sacrifice fit and also the Georgetown brand/prestige?

 

I feel like brand/prestige are good things, but the real question to ask yourself is what value you're deriving from a given program.  You could go to any school in the DC area and do well for yourself by virtue of the networking opportunities that will be available by being in such close proximity to major federal government and non-profit entities.  I would think it should depend more on what your end-goal is in terms of career, and what the professional background/experience of your future professors is so that you can gain better insights into how to break into that career field, and also for the networking value those professors will pose to you as they will undoubtedly have contacts in that field and at the places you potentially would like to be working at post-graduation.

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I want less than 30k in debt. I know that's optimistic, but I've had a pretty awful time in the job market. With no guarantees that a master's = better job, I can't put my family through that much debt.

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Alright, I'm not sure this place is exactly representative because, at least from my perspective, this forum is EXTREMELY cost and risk averse.

 

[...]

 

This forum is filled with extremely smart people and the last thing I want to have at the end of the day are a bunch of people, 10 years down the line, wondering what could have been if they just went for it.

 

I really prefer "cost averse and risk savvy" as a label.

 

But there are different ways to think about this, because it's not black and white, and help you keep it in perspective:

 

1) If you're really torn: there doesn't have to be a rock (boatloads of debt) or a hard place (a less prestigious school). Depending on your age, experience, and career thus far, it might make sense to wait and apply another year. You get better (guarantee of) funding with more work experience; I think that's practically a fact. 

 

2) A less prestigious school could end up being a really good place for you -- it depends very heavily on your own interest and work and what you're willing to do there. I think prestige is fairly overrated, 

 

3) Finally, I've seen some really successful people who don't have any sort of graduate degree. Even though we're surrounded every day by people with postgraduate degrees, I think we ultimately do know that's not the only way to success and that's not for everyone. 

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I have no idea where these people who think "go for your dream, the worry over debt is for people who can't handle risk" are coming from. It is foolish to enter into grad school without creating a provisional plan for financing and the debt repayment options.

 

Do a cost benefit analysis that takes into consideration the cost of attendance and living, compared to opportunities the school affords..  It depends on the opportunities and how the school fits with your interests and goals.  You are screwed if you are attending a school just for prestige, it costs you $120,000 in principle debt, and you didn't excel or get that network that gets you a well paying career. If your dream school will only cost you $10,000 more to attend than the cheaper school that you are not too excited about, it could be worth the $10,000 to attend the dream school.  

 

Like Chocolatecheesecake said, this isn't black and white and s/he gave really good suggestions.

 

And prestige from the view point of whom?  If you have spoken to faculty and employers in the field and they say it is a strong program, then OK.  If other students who applied are saying so, grain of salt. If you are looking at US News and World Report/Princeton Review... as long as the school is top 20, that is all I would use those rankings to check.  They aren't very useful, other than checking for if the program shows up on the radar. 

Edited by WhatAmIDoingNow

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I'm not willing to take on any debt.  Unless the university is paying ME to go to school, I will not be going.  Thankfully, I have secured that type of deal.  For me, grad school (or even college) isn't worth it without substantial scholarships.

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There is a program that my friends in medical school are taking advantage of. Keep in mind most of these guys are in debt $200k-$300k. What they do is they work for non-profits and by doing so they drop the payback period from 20 years to 10 years. After which the loans are forgiven. So if you have a lot of student debt, find your self a non-profit NGO or think-tank, work for them for 10 years and your loans will be forgiven.

 

Edit: yes you must make payments on your loans in that period.

 

It is called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Here is more info: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/public-service-loan-forgiveness.pdf

Edited by kingthearab

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Alright, I'm not sure this place is exactly representative because, at least from my perspective, this forum is EXTREMELY cost and risk averse.

 

There are so many people on here that fret over the financials and debt and rightfully so. But, at the end of the day, you have to decide whether you're going to make decisions based upon saving money or taking risks and actually going for what you want. Those who are married, have kids, have large debts from other sources- those are different circumstances. But if you're moving to either DC or New York and you've got the option to go to your dream school then just DO IT.

 

Y'all gotta believe in yourself more. Go in with the attitude of "I'm taking on this debt, but I'm gonna work my ass off, get a killer job, and in time I'll pay it off. And I'll know that I did things my way." And, you know what, if things don't work out exactly to plan, I'm sure you'll find a way to make it work.

 

This forum is filled with extremely smart people and the last thing I want to have at the end of the day are a bunch of people, 10 years down the line, wondering what could have been if they just went for it.

While I in no way fault people for being concerned with their debt burden, I do agree with part of this assessment. The chance to pursue a graduate degree at a top level institution such as the ones discussed on this board is not a privilege available to many. At the end of the day, I hope that people will only consider finances to be part of the equation in this decision process. 

 

For my part, I went into this process expecting to take on a large amount of debt. I have been lucky enough to get some offers to help make me more comfortable with my decision, but I do hope that people consider all of the factors related to the program before simply choosing the most affordable option. No offense meant to people that are all about debt shaving, I totally understand that inclination. Each individual case is very different, no doubt. 

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While I in no way fault people for being concerned with their debt burden, I do agree with part of this assessment. The chance to pursue a graduate degree at a top level institution such as the ones discussed on this board is not a privilege available to many. At the end of the day, I hope that people will only consider finances to be part of the equation in this decision process.

For my part, I went into this process expecting to take on a large amount of debt. I have been lucky enough to get some offers to help make me more comfortable with my decision, but I do hope that people consider all of the factors related to the program before simply choosing the most affordable option. No offense meant to people that are all about debt shaving, I totally understand that inclination. Each individual case is very different, no doubt.

Absolutely, and by no means am I against people putting finances at the forefront. And, as one of the above posters mentioned, it isn't wise to turn down significant funding at a Top 10 school in favor of no funding at, say a top 5.

That being said, if somebody has a 10K per year difference between Fletcher and Georgetown and they REALLY wanna go to GU....in that case, thats where I say just go for it. I'm not saying throw all caution to the wind, but if you do your research and think you can swing it if things even go moderately well then by all means, shoot.

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Absolutely, and by no means am I against people putting finances at the forefront. And, as one of the above posters mentioned, it isn't wise to turn down significant funding at a Top 10 school in favor of no funding at, say a top 5.

That being said, if somebody has a 10K per year difference between Fletcher and Georgetown and they REALLY wanna go to GU....in that case, thats where I say just go for it. I'm not saying throw all caution to the wind, but if you do your research and think you can swing it if things even go moderately well then by all means, shoot.

I also think that this forum has an audience of extremely well qualified people. My guess is that lots of people attend these, or less well known programs with no funding at all. But just looking at the recent poll on which IR school people are attending, as I post, 34/37 selected one of the very high quality schools the OP mentioned in the initial post. Only 3 selected other, and those may well be other top rank programs. I think this forum is very valuable, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The funding offers that people post here are not representative of the norm in any way.

Edited by Sjn092

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I also think that this forum has an audience of extremely well qualified people. My guess is that lots of people attend these, or less well known programs with no funding at all. But just looking at the recent poll on which IR school people are attending, as I post, 34/37 selected one of the very high quality schools the OP mentioned in the initial post. Only 3 selected other, and those may well be other top rank programs. I think this forum is very valuable, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The funding offers that people post here are not representative of the norm in any way.

 

That's a good point.  I feel like many of the individuals motivated enough to find an online community like this and utilize the knowledge and experience that can be derived from these forums are individuals that are generally of an exceptional quality, which is why you may see so many great offers for funding accompanying the acceptances reported here.  Also, there is a large community of individuals pursuing PhD programs on this site.  PhD programs really are their own category as many programs can and will offer substantial funding for individuals admitted to them because they are generally far more selective, taking on significantly fewer students than most MA programs.  PhD programs that don't offer funding would represent a much larger financial burden than most MA programs without funding considering the time necessary to complete a PhD.

 

Lastly, I think it's important to note the title of this forum - "Government Affairs".  While I'm sure not that everyone perusing these threads is applying to graduate school with the intention of seeking employment with the U.S. federal government, many probably are as that is a very logical career outcome for people that study things like International Affairs.  Many federal agencies offer tuition assistance to help repay student loan debt for individuals that become direct-hire federal employees, as do many larger companies in the DC area working on federal government contracts.  The price tag on your graduate study doesn't necessarily translate into direct cost to the individual depending on their career outcome.  People seeking employment with agencies like the U.S. Department of State, if successful in attaining a job there, could have their outstanding student debts taken care of without having to make obscene loan payments every month.

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There's no way in hell I'm going through this process again-funding or no funding. Recommendation letters, studying and paying for GRes, SOPs,application fees, waiting.What...? I remember when I first started applying and then joined this site, I was paranoid as hell about funding. Now, its whatever. I'm lucky to have gotten into somewhere straight out of undergrad.Its doesn't have to be the top school...just somewhere that I will give me opportunity beyond the classroom. I know people who came out of undergrad with debt of 80+k because they were determined to get into a 'top' undergrad institution. Some were able to pay it off in 4 years since they had attained 6-figure jobs. I guess at this point I am thankful to have gone to a less known and cheap undergrad program where I will come out with minimum debt. Then, since I plan to work a career in the federal government, there's that Loan Forgiveness program. I also have no other obstacles hindering me from taking on loans at the moment.

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Here's the info for me. Expenses includes cost-of-living

 

UW: Funding, but still expensive

UT: No funding, estimated cost $50,000 ish

IU SPEA - Funding but still going to cost about $50,000

UM Ford School - No funding

UC Berkeley - Waitlist

U Maryland - Funding - Cost of about $30,000

 

My top two choices were IU SPEA and UT. IU SPEA because of their reputation in environmental policy and UT for their Austin and Texas network. As a current resident of Austin and someone who wants to make a life in Austin, UT is my best choice, even if U Maryland is cheaper. U Maryland doesn't have the Texas network or the Enviro program. Many many UT grads find jobs in Austin and even at the EDF branch in Austin, there are many LBJ folks employed.

 

While I didn't receive any funding at UT (they reserve most of it for out-of-state folks) I should be able to get a job here to cover tuition and if I am lucky, provide a stipend. This will allow me to build my network!

 

The idea of not ever paying for grad school is a luxury. Only 30% of LBJ students receive funding. Funding has declined at most schools and now that the Masters is the new Bachelors, schools have to make their money somehow.

 

Even though $50,000 looks really scary, I think I can find a part-time job that helps me build my network and pads my budget. Everyone needs to make the decision that is best for them, but keep in mind that starting salaries are not wildly different.

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Here's the info for me. Expenses includes cost-of-living

 

UW: Funding, but still expensive

UT: No funding, estimated cost $50,000 ish

IU SPEA - Funding but still going to cost about $50,000

UM Ford School - No funding

UC Berkeley - Waitlist

U Maryland - Funding - Cost of about $30,000

 

My top two choices were IU SPEA and UT. IU SPEA because of their reputation in environmental policy and UT for their Austin and Texas network. As a current resident of Austin and someone who wants to make a life in Austin, UT is my best choice, even if U Maryland is cheaper. U Maryland doesn't have the Texas network or the Enviro program. Many many UT grads find jobs in Austin and even at the EDF branch in Austin, there are many LBJ folks employed.

 

While I didn't receive any funding at UT (they reserve most of it for out-of-state folks) I should be able to get a job here to cover tuition and if I am lucky, provide a stipend. This will allow me to build my network!

 

The idea of not ever paying for grad school is a luxury. Only 30% of LBJ students receive funding. Funding has declined at most schools and now that the Masters is the new Bachelors, schools have to make their money somehow.

 

Even though $50,000 looks really scary, I think I can find a part-time job that helps me build my network and pads my budget. Everyone needs to make the decision that is best for them, but keep in mind that starting salaries are not wildly different.

Is your SPEA cost including cost of living? Their baseline tuition is only about 26.5k/year.

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I'm not willing to take on any debt.  Unless the university is paying ME to go to school, I will not be going.  Thankfully, I have secured that type of deal.  For me, grad school (or even college) isn't worth it without substantial scholarships.

"Cancer Biology PhD Applicant"

 

That makes sense coming from your field. STEM tends to have the funding... Especially PhD. This really depends on the field, and of course what field you chose depends on so many factors itself...

Edited by Saila09

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Here's the info for me. Expenses includes cost-of-living

UW: Funding, but still expensive

UT: No funding, estimated cost $50,000 ish

IU SPEA - Funding but still going to cost about $50,000

UM Ford School - No funding

UC Berkeley - Waitlist

U Maryland - Funding - Cost of about $30,000

My top two choices were IU SPEA and UT. IU SPEA because of their reputation in environmental policy and UT for their Austin and Texas network. As a current resident of Austin and someone who wants to make a life in Austin, UT is my best choice, even if U Maryland is cheaper. U Maryland doesn't have the Texas network or the Enviro program. Many many UT grads find jobs in Austin and even at the EDF branch in Austin, there are many LBJ folks employed.

While I didn't receive any funding at UT (they reserve most of it for out-of-state folks) I should be able to get a job here to cover tuition and if I am lucky, provide a stipend. This will allow me to build my network!

The idea of not ever paying for grad school is a luxury. Only 30% of LBJ students receive funding. Funding has declined at most schools and now that the Masters is the new Bachelors, schools have to make their money somehow.

Even though $50,000 looks really scary, I think I can find a part-time job that helps me build my network and pads my budget. Everyone needs to make the decision that is best for them, but keep in mind that starting salaries are not wildly different.

Cost of living at Indiana would be the lowest, And may make it the cheapest overall. I have a hard time believing you can live at Maryland for $30,000 for the whole degree plus what ever tuition you would pay. Edited by WhatAmIDoingNow

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I'm struggling with this. To the extent I seriously weighed deferring and applying to a couple mid ranked programs. Right now I'd be about $46K in debt after so I'm trying to knock off another $5-8k to get to where I'd be comfortable. 

 

I am not of the opinion that it's okay to take out up to your expected salary - but that's because I want to be able to pay it off in less than 10 years and sock money away for more fun things (if you can call it that) like a mortgage or retirement or child care. 

 

That being said I have a fully funded offer, in Europe, for a program that is dramatically different from any of the schools in the US I'm considering, that I expect to turn down. There's already a high opportunity cost to getting a two year degree - in the scheme of the next 25 years of your career, you better be 100% sure that you're going to get what you pay for, not just in money but also in time. 

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I'm struggling with this. To the extent I seriously weighed deferring and applying to a couple mid ranked programs. Right now I'd be about $46K in debt after so I'm trying to knock off another $5-8k to get to where I'd be comfortable. 

 

I am not of the opinion that it's okay to take out up to your expected salary - but that's because I want to be able to pay it off in less than 10 years and sock money away for more fun things (if you can call it that) like a mortgage or retirement or child care. 

 

That being said I have a fully funded offer, in Europe, for a program that is dramatically different from any of the schools in the US I'm considering, that I expect to turn down. There's already a high opportunity cost to getting a two year degree - in the scheme of the next 25 years of your career, you better be 100% sure that you're going to get what you pay for, not just in money but also in time. 

 

What programs are you applying to, and what are you career goals?

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I graduated with approximately $50k in debt 3 years ago and I am doing fine.  Do your research on IBR and public service loan forgiveness - these programs really help.  That said, if you are looking for an amount of debt that is reasonable, I think that one way to look at it is to think about how much interest will accrue on the loan every month.  That is the amount you need to pay just to keep your loan balance from going up.  For some people I know, that number is $500+, which is a ton to pay in interest every month.

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After reading this thread I feel bad about the debt-load I was considering  :unsure:

 

After accounting for funding, Sanford and Heinz would still cost me ~$89k and ~$79k respectively (assuming I can't work/get an assistantship, and assuming my cost of living will be ~$20k a year in Durham and Pittsburgh).

 

I guess if I want to go I'll have to suck it up and rely on IBR and public service loan forgiveness. I just hope I'm not making a devastating mistake.

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