Post by William R. Wiener, Graduate Dean
Is it Worth Borrowing for Graduate School?
It used to be taken for granted that graduate education was a good investment in one’s future. Today with high unemployment and mounting student debt, some are suggesting that a graduate degree may not be the good investment in one’s future that it once was. With this notion as a backdrop, I would like to reflect upon a recent study that has come to us from the NACE’s September 2012 Salary Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and taken from a compilation of data derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and a master data set developed by Job Search Intelligence.
According to that survey, master’s degree holders in a large number of fields earn significantly higher starting salaries than those who have not gone beyond the bachelor’s degree. In many fields the difference in salaries between graduates with master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees is at least 20 percent. In some fields that differential is even greater than 20 percent. For example the master’s degree entrance level in elementary education is $48,900 or 30 percent higher than the entrance for those in the same major at the bachelor’s degree. In a similar way the graduate with a master’s degree in computer science earns an average salary of $80,400 which is approximately 30% more than the salary for someone with the bachelor’s degree in the same field. For political science majors, we see an even higher differential. Holders of a master’s degree received an average of $57,700 or almost 43 percent more than those who hold the bachelor’s degree.
While it is true that student debt is mounting, it is also true that the investment in graduate education pays great dividends. Students however should become intelligent borrowers. They should be aware of their opportunities to borrow and the ultimate costs on their post graduate life style. Recently, The Graduate School sponsored a seminar entitled To Borrow or Not to Borrow. As part of this seminar, faculty and staff discussed the sources of funding and the percentages of debt typically incurred by graduate students. It was learned that 56 percent of those entering graduate school have already borrowed money to allow them to complete their bachelor’s degree. It was learned that 27 percent of master’s and 33 percent of doctoral students have no graduate borrowing debt but that 40% end up with a debt of $20,000 or more. The seminar discussed the various types of loans available, the amounts available, and the loan sources that are most and least desirable. There are various repayment options available and students must identify what repayment system is best for them. There are regulations that allow deferment of debt repayment under certain circumstances, but student debt cannot be dissolved and will certainly affect the graduate’s life style. The seminar presented a rough formula for determining how much a student should borrow based upon expected initial earning after graduation.
This seminar will be repeated in the next academic year. In the meantime, The Graduate School is working to put the PowerPoints and audio online for those who could not attend the seminar. One version is available for download from our website: http://grs.uncg.edu/life-dev/