Date: 2011-05-24 11:45 am (UTC)
Two things--
Yeah, I would strongly recommend anyone go in to grad school educated about what you can expect from the experience. Do not attempt to sort it out after you've started.

The other thing is, the debt from grad school doesn't come from the degree itself. You don't pay for that out of pocket--they pay your tuition in exchange for the indensured servanthood they call teaching, for which they also pay you a "stipend" of $10-15k. The debt comes from having to take out loans to cover the rest of your expenses, because one cannot live on $10k a year. That or get a third job (the first being school and the second teaching), which slows degree progress, which contributes to debt.

Another way to think of it is in lost earning potential: for every year you are in grad school, that is a year's of potential income you have lost, and money towards retirement you don't make. I've been in grad school ten years. If I had gotten a job that made a modest $40k/year, that's $400k I have not earned, and a significant amount towards retirement I now have to make up. Can you afford not to make money for the years it will take to get the PhD? What if you were to get a PhD but didn't get an academic job? What kind of work would you do that would help you make up for lost time? I would strongly recommend not ignoring these questions. I am facing them now myself, and I wish I'd had a clearer sense that these questions even existed before I started!
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