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Grad School Is a Debt Machine

Grad School Is a Debt Machine
Thu, 3/27/2014 - by Hamilton Nolan
This article originally appeared on Gawker

America's student debt burden has been on the rise for years, along with America's class of incredibly well-educated retail workers. A new report reveals who's driving the train to debt hell: grad students. Don't do it!

Do you really need to go to grad school? For the vast majority of those of you considering going to grad school, the answer is "probably not." So consider this a bit of data to encourage you to skip it. Take a year off. Travel the world. Hitchhike. Join the Peace Corps. Be a bartender. Huddle in a remote cabin and write your novel. Learn the trombone.

All of these are good, affordable activities to pursue as you consider the findings of a New America Foundation report, which shows that the increase in the debt load of graduate students in the past decade makes the student debt load for undergrads look paltry by comparison. From the Wall Street Journal:

The typical debt load of borrowers leaving school with a master's, medical, law or doctoral degree jumped an inflation-adjusted 43% between 2004 and 2012, according to a new report by the New America Foundation, a left-leaning Washington think tank. That translated into a median debt load—the point at which half of borrowers owed more and half owed less—of $57,600 in 2012.

The increases were sharper for those pursuing advanced degrees in the social sciences and humanities, versus professional degrees such as M.B.A.s or medical degrees that tend to yield greater long-term returns. The typical debt load of those earning a master's in education showed some of the largest increases, rising 66% to $50,879. It climbed 54% to $58,539 for those earning a master of arts.

Important to note here that the the cost of grad school degrees that will not earn you any money have increased more than the cost of grad school degrees that—while expensive—will eventually earn you money. At this rate, the cost of graduate degrees that exist primarily to give driftless, artistic-minded people in their late 20s something to do for a couple of years while they figure shit out will eventually catch up to the cost of graduate degrees that exist primarily to give driftless, money-minded people in their late 20s something to do for a coupe of years while they figure shit out.

If you really want to shudder, take a look at the six figure debt loads carried by grad students in the 90th percentile of debt. There's a one in ten chance that could be you. Every motherfucker in the world thinks they have a shot at hitting the lottery, which has odds of one in 259 million, but the best-educated students in America do not believe that they are signing up for several decades worth of debt slavery when they enroll in grad school, even though the odds of that are better than the odds of your art history degree landing you that curator gig at the Met.

The only graduate degree that has not significantly increased in cost in the past decade: a business degree. Probably because business students can do math. (This should not be interpreted as advice to go to business school.)

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