Job hunters face new challenge: Obtaining a graduate degree

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Peter Morgan | The Ticker

Yesenia Barrios

As of August 2019, Americans owe a total of $600 billion dollars in graduate school debt, making up 40% of all student debt in the United States, according to NPR.

After the 2008 recession, graduate school enrollment became more popular since those with a master’s degree and a Ph.D struggled less than those with only a high school and undergraduate degree. 

People with a master’s degree earn 20% more than those with just an undergraduate degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A research conducted by the Urban Institute supports those statistics reported by the BLS, concluding that people with a master’s degree have higher incomes and more opportunities in their careers and overall in life. 

While having a master’s degree is beneficial, national enrollment has reached a plateau and international enrollment has dropped. Two of the biggest factors for the lack of enrollment has to do with the status of the economy. Many people are entering the work force right after high school and skipping college and graduate school. 

Secondly, those who want to borrow loans for graduate schools have no limits on how much they can borrow. Not only are graduate students stacking up tens of thousands of dollars, they are also being charged higher interest rates than undergraduate borrowers. 

The average borrower owns more than $57,000 for a graduate degree, according to Vox. 

Having thousands of dollars in debt does not often outweigh the salary that having a master’s degree offer. It all comes down to one thing — the profession one chooses.

In some professions such as healthcare, community and social services and education, a master’s degree is no longer an option to pursue their career goals. 

A master’s degree has become the new undergraduate degree, meaning that a master’s degree is an entry level requirement that does not often mean a significant higher income.

In New York State, just like in many other states, people have can choose between private and public universities, and the deal breaker often comes down to how much people are willing to pay and if having a degree from a prestigious school is worth the debt. 

Schools like New York University, Columbia University and Fordham University are some of the most prestigious schools in New York and in the country, but attending these schools can have a hefty price tag. 

According to NYU’s website, a master’s degree can cost $20,000 to $32,000 per semester depending on the field of study and that does not include an estimated total of $35,120 in living expenses. 

Similar to NYU, Columbia costs $29,000 to $37,000 per semester depending on what program enrolled, as its website states. Fordham’s prices are in the same price range, with students paying anywhere between $25,000 to $30,000 per semester. 

The exact prices are often harder to predict since some fees are not included like living expenses or whether a person is going full time or part time.  

In contrast to private schools, the City University of New York costs between $5,545 and $7,500 per semester. 

Layla Abdullah is a 23-year-old graduate student at Fordham University pursuing her M.A. in social work. She is paying an estimated $40,000 a year with $10,000 being covered by scholarships and the rest being paid through loans.

“I don’t think it is worth it but unfortunately, schools that are prestigious have a better look when I’m looking for jobs. Usually, social work jobs in NYC hire people from the top social work schools, such as Fordham, Columbia [and] NYU,” said Abdullah through a phone interview when asked if she thought paying for a prestigious school was worth more than attending a public university. 

According to the Atlantic, Abdullah is right. 

A 2015 research study found that people who attended Ivy League and prestigious schools do not share a significant difference in income compared to those who went to “schools that were in the middle of the pack.” 

Social sciences were one of the few fields that showed the significance of attending a prestigious school.