Bitch Ph.D. links an interesting op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the challenges of being a single parent and paying for grad school. Given the academia/parenting discussion we’ve been having here, I figured this was another relevant issue to consider.
I’ve mentioned before that the standard practice in science Ph.D. programs in the U.S. seems to be that students get tuition plus a stipend that, depending on the local cost of living, ranges from barely-adequate to almost-comfortable. There are also a good number of U.S. Ph.D. programs in the humanities and social sciences that offer the same deal to their students, although the stipends are frequently less than those offered by science programs and the number of students admitted to such Ph.D. programs is smaller. (At the same university, my Ph.D. program in chemistry enrolled 56 students the year I entered, while my Ph.D. program in philosophy enrolled 7 of us.)
But, some of the comments on the Bitch Ph.D. post make it look like there are a good number of students in Ph.D, programs who are not getting this kind of support — and thus, are either relying on parents or partners for financial assistance or are going into debt. Also, students in masters programs and professional degree programs (M.D., J.D., etc.) are usually presented with a bill rather than support.
How do these funding patterns (i.e., whether you have to come up with the money to go to school or whether the school covers the costs) affect the choices you’ve made (or are anticipating) about what kind of education and career path to pursue?
Here are some other related questions:
- How do you feel about universities using terminal masters programs as money-makers? The university where I teach doesn’t offer anything beyond masters degrees, and, as a public university, the masters tuition is much more affordable than the masters tuition at the private university up the road — but our masters students are definitely used to pump cash into the system in a way our undergraduates are not.
- There are some schools that offer a Ph.D. track and a terminal masters track in the same department. In many, if not most, cases, the Ph.D. students get the full ride and the masters students get to come up with their own tuition. But, it’s not unheard of for some of the students who start out in the Ph.D. program to leave with a masters — which they only had to pay for in their time and sweat. Is this a problem?
- Are there many fields where there’s an expectation that students applying to Ph.D. programs will have done a masters somewhere else first? Even if there’s not an expectation, does this confer a clear advantage to the applicant to the Ph.D. program? (Does this mean you have to spend money to get money?)
- What if a program offers its students tuition and a stipend for fewer years than it realistically takes to earn the degree? Is this better than nothing, or does it seem like a bait and switch?
- How much does it matter where the money is coming from? Some of the Bitch Ph.D. commenters describe programs where the advisor, rather than the department or the university, is expected to scrape up the money for his or her students’ tuition and stipend. But when grant proposals aren’t funded, what happens to the students? And beyond the financial issue, how does this affect the student-advisor relationship?
- How heinously high are international student fees? Are they about the same regardless of the degree program (undergrad, masters, Ph.D., professional), or are they noticably higher for some?
I’m really interested to hear what things are like out there. And, if you have tips to share with starving students or those considering the starving-student track, lay them on me!