Now on to the how much to pay for graduate school question:
If we’re talking PhD… the answer is you don’t pay. You do not pay anything for graduate school unless you are independently wealthy and you’re doing grad school as a leisure activity rather than as a way to increase earnings potential or get a specific job. There is a strong correlation between you getting a stipend, or at least someone paying your tuition and your ability to get a job using the PhD afterward. High quality students get money. Fields in demand give money. If you’re not offered money then either you’re not one of the top students or you’re in a field with a lot of competition (and you’re not one of the top students). Take another year to figure out if this is really what you want to do and improve your CV while you’re at it.
Professional schools. These are a bit different. These actually do increase your earning potential OR they’re necessary for a specific but often low-paid job (like social work) that public service oriented people sacrifice themselves for because they’re good people. The heuristic I like best for this is from Liz Pulliam Weston– borrow no more than the one year average salary of a graduate from the program you are considering. I’m fairly sure she includes the zeroes of people who don’t get jobs in that average salary. Now, if this is something you really want to do and you’re already good at managing money, maybe you can go into a little more debt, but in general it’s a good heuristic.
And really that’s it. I had stipends 4 years of graduate school and a TA-ship the remainder. I didn’t make much, but it paid the rent and barely covered other expenses.
Anything to add, #2?
Yes: don’t pay for a Ph.D. You have to pay for other things such as a master’s degree or professional degree. But that seems… hard. I don’t have a lot of experience here; my PhD was funded.
#1: You don’t always have to pay for a master’s. It may be worth it to pay for the master’s, but sometimes you can get funding through teaching and/or scholarships. Companies will also occasionally pay for MA courses and there’s the night course option if you don’t mind taking a while to get your professional degree. These degrees will be of varying quality, but if your company is paying they may value those skills and certifications. But still, it might be worth taking out loans for depending on the situation.
Of course, I’m not going to touch the MFA with a 10 foot pole.
Did you pay for graduate school? Was it worth it?