How did you (YES, YOU SPECIFICALLY) pay for grad school?
September 20, 2016 10:30 AM   Subscribe

The "how to pay for grad school" articles that pop up in a Google search are WOEFULLY LACKING in specifics. I'm looking for actual, specific tales of how real people out there in the world financed their Masters degrees. Feel free to get brutally honest.

Grad school is super expensive. How the heck did you do it??

I am looking for an accurate snapshot of what going through and paying for grad school looked like for real people just trying to further their education in the middle of their busy, busy lives.

I would expand this even to ask not just how you located the funding to attend grad school, but what other tolls beyond the financial it exacted on you in the process--socially, emotionally, physically, etc.

Ultimately: what did you sacrifice to go to and through grad school?

I would be particularly interested in hearing stories from part-time or remote students, but don't let that stop you from sharing your story if you don't hit that criteria.

For the record: I've just started an online, part-time Masters program in Library & Information Science. I'm mostly interested in personal stories here, but obviously if you have specific MLIS-centric advice, I am ALL EARS.
posted by helloimjennsco to Education (83 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I paid for my MS by working full time and using my employers education benefit to pay for it. One class a quarter for two and a half years.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

I went full-time-ish to an in-state library school which had very low tuition for residents. I didn't even look at other schools. I had a part-time job at the school library system while I went and paid for it with the job $$ and savings. I lived in a cheap apartment with my then-spouse who was delivering pizza with his PhD from the same university. We got food stamps. I piled on the credits and wound up taking a year off in-between the two years of the program when my ex got a job teaching in a foreign country. I wound up getting some good job experience while I was away. I also ran for student government and was involved in the state library association and ALA which had cheap/discount rates for students. I think all of those things (the job experience, the unusual experience, the government stuff) helped with job prospects when I got out. I did not worry too much about grades but did try to do good work. It's my feeling that having good tangible things on your resume is more important than As in all your subjects.

As far as sacrificing, I don't know. The school I went to (UW, Seattle) was not that great at the time but is now thought of as a good school so I sort of lucked into that from a status position. The big deal with online stuff is to have good boundaries, meet deadlines, and not let it take over all of the rest of your online time to the point where you are always sort of half working and half not working on school stuff. Good luck, email me if you want to chat library school more.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Hmm. My grad school was 1) a MSc that I completed and 2) a PhD that I did not. I paid for both the same way, though -- loading up on teaching assistantships, sharing living accommodations, walking everywhere, and ruthlessly scrounging for food (at one point, I was washing my housemates dishes in exchange for their leftovers). It was a marginal existence, but I was young and didn't know any better. That being said, this was in the 80's, when tuition was a lot lower than it is now. Not sure if it would still work.
posted by Mogur at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2016

I paid for my MLIS thusly:

* I worked 30 hours a week as a bank teller while in school. My post was in the Autobank, which at our branch was a little fishing shack type building in the parking lot. It was completely separate from the rest of the bank so I was able to study while working. I honestly think that the only way I got through the two years of school/work was being able to study WHILE at work in the Autobank. Otherwise I would not have had the time to do both. This was in 2003-2005 and I think I made about $12.50 an hour doing that.

* I had three graduate assistantships while I was a student. Each lasted a semester and each was about 10 hours a week and I got paid $10 an hour.

* I also worked a variety of random gigs: selling flowers at graduation ceremonies, working as an usher at the on-campus theater, working weekends at a coffeeshop, wrapping presents at a gift shop during the holidays, etc.

* And, after all of that, I took out student loans. Together with my undergrad loans, that added up to about $26k.

Eleven years later I am still paying off those loans but will be done by 2020.

I spent what could have been the glory years of my mid-20's working my ass off and having no life other than working and going to school. It was hard and I don't think I could have done it at any other time in my life (I had the energy and drive to keep going back I would have noped out after the first semester).

I got through it quickly as I could (two classes a semester, including summers) and I jumped at every opportunity for assistantships as I could. I lived frugally and took advantage of every little perk offered by being a student (gym membership, health services, etc). I did wind up with a library job (tech assistant at a University library) my last semester of grad school, and I kept that job for a year after graduating. Then it was on to being a librarian, which I have done for the last 10 years.

I would recommend not going into debt over an MLIS. I would recommend getting work in a library - ANY library - while you are working on your MLIS. Good luck!
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:51 AM on September 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

You could be on active military duty for three years like I was, but I suspect that's a bridge too far.
posted by Etrigan at 10:51 AM on September 20, 2016

I got a full time job working for the school, and then was able to take classes for free.
posted by fings at 10:53 AM on September 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Did a phd in math at a state school in the USA, I was relatively poor, but all funding came through TA and RA-ships. The 'hard' sciences usually offer a way to get paid trough school, math is a little easier than some others due to the very high demand for for cheap instructors.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:56 AM on September 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I spent a year working full time plus tutoring high school students evenings and weekends. I lived with my parents for that year and saved everything. Then I went to grad school. I got a scholarship, research assistantship, was a TA then moved up to actual teaching. I shared a tiny apartment with a roommate and graduated with savings. I am also in a STEM field, so ymmv
posted by Valancy Rachel at 11:00 AM on September 20, 2016

Another MLIS done part time here: I worked full time while getting my degree. though mostly at a (library) job that did not pay much, so it was more 'keep myself going' rather than be able to pay toward tuition, but at least only having to deal with loans for tuition, not living costs.

My mother helped me a little with tuition (I think it came out to about two semesters out of six, though it was a 'some money in more semesters than two' thing). My loan total was about $15K, I got my degree in 2007, and I considered that a reasonable investment in a profession I really wanted to be in. However, I didn't have any debt from undergrad, and it's also going to be a while before I have it paid off though I am slowly chipping away at it.

I took a few years off in the middle, and when I went back, money was even tighter, and I managed mostly by ruthlessly cutting everything I could as far as I could, being in not-so-great living situations for part of it, and a lot of "This is a temporary thing to get somewhere I want." about it. Also making the most of opportunities to develop new skills that applied to library work, trying new projects at work, etc.

Real tolls: People just did not understand I had homework. I got a lot of grief for not spending time with my housemates. I got grief for not being able to go do social things or spend time on projects that in other years I'd have had time for. I had to be really ruthless about getting stuff done.

I also had to spend a lot of energy on questions like "If I work until 4, and I have class at 6, what can I eat for dinner that is as cheap as possible, and will still give me 30 minutes in the library to look X up so I don't have to go back over later in the week without leaving me starving half way through class" which mostly ended figuring out what to eat in the car. (This issue doesn't apply online, but "How do I get the household necessities to be as efficient as possible so I can do homework" is a thing.)

If you have classes which have synchronous pieces, I had a lot of trouble with being in class until 9, not getting home until 9:30, needing two hours to unwind and do prep for the next day and then having to get up at 6 the next morning to be at work on time. (This got much easier once I realised this, and aimed for weekend classes, which worked so much better for me. Figuring out your optimal time to do work on classes is worth the time investment.)

One piece of advice: see if there are reference assistant or evening/weekend library jobs that might be a fit for you, even on a sub or occasional basis. You'll get some great experience, and often it's quiet enough you can do a bunch of homework. (I had a part time job babysitting a computer lab at my grad school in my first round of classes, and it was almost always 'add printer paper a couple of times', 'help with one or two questions', and otherwise spend 3 hours on whatever I was doing, with a bonus that I was on campus so some assignments were easier.)
posted by modernhypatia at 11:00 AM on September 20, 2016

I saved up a load of money by working a decently-paid job and being frugal. When I quit to go to grad school, I set myself up selling used books on Amazon. I sold my own books but also, when I needed a break from studying, I went round to all the thrift stores in the neighbourhood and bought books which I then sold. I lived frugally and with housemates to save money.
posted by hazyjane at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2016

I paid for grad school by working as a classroom teaching assistant, taking little freelance consulting gigs where I could, taking out approx. $30k in student loans, and selling a paid-off car to convert it back into some cash and lower my cost of living. My program was not a "hard science" (it was urban planning) and there aren't many scholarships out there for middle-aged white guys in such programs.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2016

The company I was working for got acquired and I had a small amount of stock in it so I got $100K cash. A couple years later I used that to go back to school for a one-year master's degree.

Now, I know that sounds like I had it easy, but I was married with two kids, so we had to budget pretty tightly and when school was over I was running out the clock watching the last few thousand dollars disappear from my bank account as I hustled to get a job.
posted by GuyZero at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2016

I did a full-time MLIS degree by getting a $10K scholarship the first year, taking out student loans, and running up bills on my credit card for the rest. I had a part-time job through the department for one semester, and various unpaid internships, and a mother who likes to give me cash gifts. Then the card and the mother financed me while I was unemployed for most of a year before I landed a job. It took me 10 years to pay off the loans and 5 years to pay off the credit card . Do not recommend if you can avoid it, but I have such trouble managing time (ADHD) that I cannot do a full-time job and part-time school simultaneously, so I went all-in on school to knock it out as fast as possible and get onto the job market ASAP.

I should note that the loans were extra-large because I had a previous MA at a private university, which I funded in much the same way, minus the scholarship, and so had a large student loan bill to start with. The job with a livable wage that I'd expected did not materialize, and after 6 years of paycheck-to-paycheck living I went back to school for the MLIS. If I'd skipped that and went for the MLIS to start with, presuming I got employed afterwards, I'd have paid the loans off in more like 4 years instead of 10.

I have a friend who paid for a masters' degree by writing fetish porn in between classes and selling it on Amazon under a pseudonym, and thus avoided debt. It seems a far more sensible solution than mine.
posted by telophase at 11:02 AM on September 20, 2016

I have a STEM field MS, so with that caveat ...

Money-wise: I did my MS as part of a PHD that I did not complete. I "got" the MS when I passed my quals. So it was fairly passive, compared to the PHD. I was funded by fellowships from a major federal institution, so I did a little teaching but mostly research. This was at an Ivy League. I had a stipend. It wasn't very much, but I also had subsidized housing, healthcare through the school, etc. So I didn't save much $, but I never worried about it. (I also didn't have to support anyone other than myself at the time.)

Sacrifices: Mental health, alas. Academia is a weird and sometimes abusive world. I did not understand this when I started out and I fell into pretty much every trap possible. I am still working on myself to shed some of the toxicity that I was exposed to, and sometimes bought into. I was not in a good place when I left (without completing the PHD).

But I will say, having worked through my own issues, and worked hard on my career, graduate school has become a net positive.
posted by aperturescientist at 11:03 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I completed my MBA through a weekend program at a local university. Classes were Friday evenings and Saturdays. My employer paid the tuition, in exchange I worked 40 hours per week (M-F, 8 to 5) and signed an agreement that I would remain there for 2 years beyond graduation.
posted by LightMayo at 11:03 AM on September 20, 2016

I paid for my library school degree with a fellowship, where I could attend full-time each semester for free but had to work in the tech lab helping students part time. Outside of the school semesters I had to work full time at the tech lab, which included the summer session. Obviously this meant I didn't take any remote classes at all. I finished the degree in one year to save money, which I now regret as it meant I skipped a lot of the things grad school is good for, like networking and working in internships, etc. I still ended up taking student loans because it was hard to fit in another job around the part-time tech lab, full-time school. And I am still paying for those loans 16 years later! Yay!
posted by clone boulevard at 11:06 AM on September 20, 2016

My PhD in humanities:

Masters Year: I had a grant from the school for $10,000 which basically covered tuition and fees. I took out a loan for living expenses for the year.

PhD: had $10,000/year for the first 4 years - just paid for tuition. I made about the same in T.A.'ships every year for the first 4 years.

Starting year 3, I also took a part-time job working 15-20 hrs per week in health care. So from years 3 - 6, I worked, T.A.d and taught one 3rd year course in 2011.

Years 7 & 8 (the PhD tends to drag on when you have to work to eat) I worked full time, finished my dissertation, defended, and dropped the mic.

Oh! And Debt! I have around $20,000 in debt from school.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:07 AM on September 20, 2016

Did an assortment of part-time jobs, mostly in and around the university. I worked in retail for a while but dropped that in favour of more campus-based jobs, which fitted better around my classes. I taught as a TA every semester, I had three different jobs in the university library (circulation desk/shelving books, security desk, and working in assistive tech) and information services, and two years running I worked on a major conference which made up for wages during the summer months when there was no teaching pay.

It was tiring. I was usually doing two or three together alongside studying, so my days would often be 8am-10pm on campus. I didn't have a lot of free time and I had pretty much no disposable income. It wasn't awful - I was happy with it for a few years, and I was at a point in my life where I was single without any outside commitments and could put those hours in. Plus I got to work on my thesis at quiet times on the circulation desk (with my boss's permission and encouragement). But God, it was tiring. I wouldn't do it now.
posted by Catseye at 11:08 AM on September 20, 2016

My biggest benefit rolling into grad school was coming out of undergrad without any debt (thank you cheap school and generous parents). I suspect I have a degree from the same school you're embarking upon, but it was a lot different then...
1) I lived at home. I went directly from college, and moving back home HURT as far as independence went, and as far as my commute to the school went, but I was also fed and housed.
2) I worked retail, as many hours as I could fit in around my class schedule. I also started applying to library jobs while I was still in school, and ended up doing part time work in my local public library system. (I also commuted with a fellow classmate/coworker, which was a great emotional support.)
3) I took as many loans as I possibly could take.

My regrets being a commuting student (and one tied with a classmate carpooler) was that it made putting the time in on campus, both for group projects but also socially, very difficult. The telecommuting option wasn't there for me, so I had at least a 45 minute drive (on a good day) to campus. The flip side of that was that it opened up a whole additional world for field placements - I wasn't tied to the city proper like a lot of my classmates were. (But hey, it looks like you're local, so feel free to MeMail me. I'm still pretty active in the local SLA group and we love new faces at our events. No shame in starting to work a network early.)
posted by librarianamy at 11:10 AM on September 20, 2016

I had a grandfather with the means to finance my sister and I. He also valued education, particularly for girls and women. He made a deal with my sister and I: he's finance an undergraduate degree and one graduate degree provided a) we lived on fixed budget (we had $10K USD/year and had to make it last), and b) we did not work while studying - this was meant to be our full time job.

Tuition in Canada as the time I went was much less than it is now and this annual income wasn't difficult to live under. My MSc in the UK was a bit more difficult: I returned home with less than $200 CAD to my name. The sacrifice was that I didn't socialize a very large amount (maybe one outing a month or so when I was student). The pay off is that while many of my public sector colleagues are still working at paying off student loans, my only debt is a mortgage.
posted by Kurichina at 11:13 AM on September 20, 2016

I had a scholarship and then a graduate assistantship. The pay was just above poverty level, but that was more than I'd ever had, so I lived well within my standards. Tuition got covered, and I was able to defer my undergrad student loans until I was done, and then pay them off quickly by maintaining the same lifestyle while making Grown Up Money. (Ph.D. in engineering)

Husband lived in-state long enough to get in-state tutition, and had a part-time assistantship that covered tuition after the first semester. He got lucky on the assistantship; the window to apply was very narrow and about two weeks before the semester began. Because we lived in town he was able to go over there in person and got it. He had some loans from that first semester, but less than I had for undergrad. (MLS)
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:15 AM on September 20, 2016

I got my MLIS eight years ago. I got free tuition and $10/hr for working as a graduate assistant. The first semester I worked for a particular professor, the rest of the time I worked in the university library at the reference desk. (Concurrent with that, I also had a paid internship for one semester at the local US Geological Survey Office.) I had some savings and minimal expenses but ended up taking out student loans just to be sure I had a cushion until I got a job, and enough to be able to rent an apartment wherever I ended up.

The economy tanked, I got offered jobs, then those offers were rescinded. Eleven months after graduation I had a job. My graduate assistantship in the university library combined with the fact that I had other graduate degrees and college teaching experience definitely helped. I've been paying back the student loans and they will go bye bye once I've put in ten years at this state college. (Federally subsidized loans, public service loan repayment.)
posted by mareli at 11:17 AM on September 20, 2016

I worked for the university so my tuition was super-cheap (not free, but maybe like $500 per quarter).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:17 AM on September 20, 2016

I paid for my library degree by attending full time on campus and getting a graduate assistantship that covered the bulk of my in-state tuition and provided a modest stipend. I lived cheap and covered the rest with savings. My school does offer a very popular online option that I considered, but ultimately the opportunity to have the tuition covered and to work in a job that was exactly the same kind of job I'd be looking for at graduation made that the best choice for me. I took a full course load and worked 20 hours a week at the assistantship, so I was fairly busy, but not overwhelmingly so. I got done in one year, with no additional debt.

A couple things that made this possible: I didn't have a job I was attached to nor did I have a spouse/kids that needed to be considered, so pulling up stakes and moving a couple hours away was not that big a deal. It was disruptive, though - I left a city I loved for a series of cities I didn't, though with my niche specialty that was probably going to be the case however I did grad school. Also moving around a bunch in your mid-late 20s as other people are settling down is kind of hard socially.

Ultimately it all worked out - the assistantship meant I had multiple offers at graduation and I'm still working in the field some years later.
posted by colbeagle at 11:19 AM on September 20, 2016

How I paid for my MLIS/MSIS: Worked full time (in a library) and loans. It also helped that at the time my school (Drexel) had a tuition discount for members of my professional association (SLA). I was going to school full time each quarter.

My loans covered tuition with a little extra for books and a computer. Most of them were federal, though I had a couple thousand in private. I can't recall exactly how much they all were (approx $30k?), but I should be done paying them off in 3 years. (They were 10 year loans.) I probably could have gone to a cheaper school, but I liked this program.

In hindsight it did really suck going to school and working full time (oh and getting really sick!), but I'm also happy I did it and have moved on with everything. I was also very fortunate to get a professional job when I graduated so paying off my loans hasn't been too onerous.
posted by kendrak at 11:19 AM on September 20, 2016

I was hired as a research assistant and given a tuition waiver because... I don't know, I guess they liked my application letter, references and test scores. I used the money from my RA job ($9/hour IIRC) to pay for books and miscellaneous fees. I lived with a partner who paid most of the household bills.
posted by AFABulous at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2016

Another MLIS person. I went to school full time, worked full time, and took out $100k in loans (federal and private). It was brutal, I will be honest. My degree program was very demanding and usually involved 4+ hours of homework every night including weekends, and my commute to my job was an hour each way. I got very little sleep those two years. I graduated with a ton of debt, but also with a degree that got me a well-paying job so I am now slowly working on paying off that debt. I don't regret it.

The main thing that made this work for me is that my employer understood that I was in school full time and was willing to let me work a flexible schedule. When possible I tried to arrange my schedule so that each day would be a full day of classes or full day of work, rather than having both happen each day.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:27 AM on September 20, 2016

Worked full-time, took out loans. Paying them back forever.
posted by nuclear_soup at 11:28 AM on September 20, 2016

I went to the least expensive program for my subject in NYC, freelanced as a writer and digital strategist (my previous career) part-time, and still ended up taking out federal, unsubsidized direct loans. Direct loans up to $20,500 a year are available for graduate students. Income is not a factor, and direct PLUS loans are available if you need more at a higher interest rate. Because it's imperative to have at least one internship, if not more, in my field, I ended up taking out more than I had expected to, as it was mentally and physically impossible to go to school full-time (which I did in the summers as well), freelance, and intern. I'll be paying that off over the next 10 years. If I were younger, I would have saved more and put school off a few years or spread my coursework out longer, but since I entered grad school at 37 and was desperate to change careers, I really couldn't wait.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:29 AM on September 20, 2016

First year the department gave me a practicum which paid my tuition and a stipend. Second year I was a TA for tuition and a slightly larger stipend. I came out debt free. I should add this was in the late 80s.

That practicum, though? I didn't learn until later that the department had promised it to two of us, and gave it to whoever showed up first. I beat her by a day and she was completely screwed over.
posted by acorncup at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2016

Humanities PhD program, "fully funded" which means they pay your tuition and a stipend for living expenses (usually in exchange for teaching while you're in the program), for some set number of years. (Also they paid for health insurance.) For the most part I lived on that stipend money. It was a lowish cost of living area, I had a housemate, lived frugally, didn't drink (which cuts expenses!). I was lucky enough to have savings/family to fall back on for extras like plane tickets home and sudden expenses like a root canal.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:36 AM on September 20, 2016

I financed my information school masters by getting a full scholarship. I mention this because it's very unlikely, but it's possible.

I would not pay real dollars for such a degree today, even though it was intellectually and personally formative.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:36 AM on September 20, 2016

Like several others, worked full time at the university with free classes at night, taking about 4 years for an MBA. Sacrifices: about half of my 20s - didn't do any of the travel you are supposed to do then, or other fun pre-kid stuff, plus a below market salary for my field. There is not much time left over when doing this kind of thing. But no debt, and also good health/retirement benefits and such, so I was not set back on that front.
posted by pekala at 11:39 AM on September 20, 2016

I paid for my MSLIS by working full time second-shift library jobs (3PM to 11PM or midnight, Sunday-Thursday) plus a one-day-a-week second job at a museum, plus taking out loans. And I think my dad gave me some money (like, a few thousand dollars), and I got a few thousand of tuition reimbursement from my job. Also the Lifetime Learning tax credit was pretty great.

The price I paid was basically having no social life at all for the three years (give or take) it took me to complete the degree. Would not do it again! I'm no longer a librarian.
posted by mskyle at 11:45 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got my MLIS from a school where I was in-state and at the time I had a graduate assistantship that paid for all school-related costs (tuition, fees). My boyfriend at the time was in a fully funded PhD program; we lived together, and between the two of us we were able to make rent and not go into debt. We also both worked for a few years before going to graduate school and lived somewhere where our rent was very low, so we had a nest egg to lean on, which we leaned on quite a bit, especially for surprise expenses like visits to see sick family. We did not spend money on anything fun or anything good except food during that time; I don't think I ever once bought new clothes during my master's program (2 years). Then I went to get my PhD at a different school halfway across the country and that's when the real sacrificing began. It's not germane to your question, so I won't get into it in detail, but suffice it to say that a PhD has the ability to literally take everything you love away from you. My master's was a lovely walk in the park sacrifice-wise in comparison.
posted by sockermom at 11:46 AM on September 20, 2016

I got a fellowship that covered tuition and gave me a $13,000 a year stipend for my MPH that I finished last year, no teaching required. We lived off that and my husband's salary. I was a commuter student and pregnant my first semester, took a year off to be with the baby, and finished pregnant with #2 the last semester. It was only doable with lots of help from family and a willingness to only do the degree requirements and not a single thing more. I was able to schedule classes for only 2-3 days a week and picked classes that posted lectures online to avoid being on campus (an hour away by train) whenever possible. I took care of my son on the days I didn't have class and did all school work after his bedtime or on weekends. I geared my internship and final project so I could network in another area (about 3 hours away) that we wanted to move to after I finished school, and it worked out. Sometimes I wish I could have invested more time and energy in school to build my network and experiences, I did what I needed to do to get the degree finished with my sanity and family intact.
posted by wilky at 11:47 AM on September 20, 2016

I got my MLIS in 2004 using student loans. I graduated with honors, networked, did all the right things and never got hired as a librarian. The best I managed was a part-time front desk position that didn't even cover my bills.

I gave up the librarian dream and became a medical coder. I am still paying off student loans from my MLIS and will be for a long time.
posted by ilovewinter at 11:47 AM on September 20, 2016

I work for a city agency. I applied for a scholarship through the city that pays for most of the tuition. My agency reimburses me for 50% of the rest of tuition after I submit my grades. If I leave within 2 years I have to pay my employer back. Also, school just cut tuition and I only take 2 classes at a time.
posted by mchorn at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mine was a long time ago, but it was a combination of:
-- having a working spouse to help pay the bills
-- summer jobs as waiter
-- freelance translation work for a Dutch author
-- teaching assistantship
-- no-interest loan (the university had a special fund I qualified for)
-- free housing in exchange for various chores for a faculty widow
-- frugal living in general
posted by beagle at 11:54 AM on September 20, 2016

Both my husband and I took out loans for our MATs. But neither of us had debt from undergrad, so we weren't adding debt on to of debt. And we staggered our schooling so one of us was working while the other was in school (and I actually did my program part time so I was able to work part time for most of it up until the teaching internship part).
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:56 AM on September 20, 2016

I finished my MSLS full-time, on campus, and took on around $30K in debt because of it. I also worked many hours as a research assistant in our special collections and took on freelance work transcribing oral histories and petsitting. It was, honestly, one of the best times in my life. Living near & working on a major campus (Chapel Hill) was delightful, and it had a lot of similar aspects to my favorite parts of undergrad: having your friends all live and work nearby, riding your bike everywhere, frequent get-togethers, college radio, dance parties, etc.

I suspect a lot of this is due to the fact that the program at CH is pass/fail, and while I'm no slacker, I did not feel pressure to perform at ultra-high levels academically. So I had a lot of free time. And it was AWESOME. I trained for and ran long distance races, I nurtured friendships, I wrote a lot, I maintained a healthy semi-long-distance relationship.

You should definitely consider the median salary in whatever area you're planning to work, and budget according to the low end. As I'm sure you've heard before, librarians typically don't get huge salaries. So five years later, my student loan debt is not great. But it's also not ruining my life--it's just like, an extra electric bill to pay every month. I'm not in any particular hurry to pay it off by sacrificing today's quality of life, but ymmv.
posted by witchen at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2016

I have an MLIS. I worked full time (35 hours/week) the entire time I was in grad school, as a library paraprofessional. However, because I was young and foolish and didn't understand finances, I went to an expensive program and took out the max allowed student loans. I used my very low salary supplemented with student loan funds to basically live a normal 20-something life involving spending too much money eating out and drinking. I'm 37 years old and will still be paying back my student loans for probably another 20 years. I regret the bad financial decision, but to be honest, I had a lot of fun and lived a good life in my 20s, so I kind of also don't regret it.

School was a cake walk and getting the work done didn't take too much of my time. Admittedly, I was extremely cavalier about grades and caring in general about my performance in the program beyond getting easy As and Bs. It's possible the program has become more challenging in the past 12 or so years, but as someone who has hired regularly for an entry level library job, no one cares what your GPA was in library school, they just care that you have the degree. Live your life, half of what you learn in library school is not going to be practical to help you get the work done in the real world, and having actual library work experience will be the biggest boost to your resume.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 12:07 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I worked full time for the university, so my tuition was free. I got my MS part time, and it was far easier than the bachelor's, in part because I knew more about my thesis topic than my advisors, since online education was a new research area at the time.
posted by answergrape at 12:10 PM on September 20, 2016

In most academic areas, they pay YOU to go to grad school (a stipend, and you student teach/adjunct). And you budget very carefully. I, personally, don't know anyone who has paid for grad school themselves, except for those MBA types... :)
posted by TinWhistle at 12:13 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got my MS in a STEM field by working full time and going to school part time. I used my employer benefit to pay for some of it since it was relevant to my work. The rest I paid for with money I had saved up in the prior few years and I just paid off each semester in full upfront each time. The main thing I sacrificed was time and energy and some of my health. I had no life for 3 years- was constantly working on work stuff, school stuff, or trying to catch up on chores. There were many times when I had no clean clothes because I forgot to do laundry or couldn't find the time. I never cooked meals- was constantly getting take out because I just had no time. My sleep suffered and I felt drained 100% of the time. I barely saw friends or had time for relationships. But I will say it was worth it to me. I was so happy when I finally had the degree and could just move forward.
posted by FireFountain at 12:13 PM on September 20, 2016

MS in engineering. Worked full-time for a university, getting tuition benefits for two classes per semester, six a year. First $5200 a year is free (only covers most of one class here, unfortunately), the rest taxed at a charming 37%, which I pay up front and get most of back when filing. (When I didn't own a house/deduct, it was through lifetime learning tax credits. Now that I'm deducting, it'll be job-related training deduction.)
posted by supercres at 12:14 PM on September 20, 2016

I got a funded place in a professional masters program (not an MLIS) that covered tuition and a stipend. These are not common, but they do exist. I was accepted to several programs, and the one I attended was one of the two best-ranked that I'd applied to, and also offered me by far the best funding. Less impressive programs would have been far more expensive. Lesson here: don't choose a school on sticker price, and don't discount your chances to the point that you don't bother applying (within reason) - someone has to get the money.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 12:17 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I paid for my Ed.M. using a combo of my own savings from 10 years of frugal living + part time distance work (~30%), a gift from my parents (basically cashed out part of my impending inheritance; they said they'd rather see me benefit from it now than later-- ~20%) and the rest were loans (15% subsidized, 35% unsubsidized).

I don't regret it--I loved my program and it gave me exactly what I needed...but then I also went in knowing exactly what I needed out of the program, why that program, and why those professors.

Working in non-profits my entire career, I'm close to reaching the requirement for debt forgiveness programs and am looking forward to qualifying!
posted by smirkette at 12:21 PM on September 20, 2016

I paid for my MBA directly without accruing loans by working full-time at the same time. I calculated tuition rates & determined the savings rate to offset and automatically deducted a fixed amount per paycheck into savings. When tuition was due, I pulled from the MBA savings. A few times I need to borrow from non-MBA based savings to cover a gap in the tab (like when I took more classes than planned).

My employer covered a fixed amount for one year (approx $2800) and my program offered me a 25% scholarship.

Now considering PhD where X number of courses per semester are covered by employer.
posted by countrymod at 12:34 PM on September 20, 2016

I got my MLS through a "weekend intensive program" with in-state tuition. I worked full-time at a call center and my job provided me with $1000 a semester in tuition-reimbursement. I still took out student loans and will finally pay them off in the next few years. My SO and I lived frugally during this time, but it didn't take a heavy toll on our social life. My grad program was honestly very easy and I was able to do most of the schoolwork during down time at my job, but sometimes I had to miss out on fun times. For example, I got married during my last semester and had to write a term paper while on my honeymoon.

If you are in the US - look into the public service loan repayment program. I screwed up and used the wrong repayment plan so I wasn't eligible, but you can have the rest of your loans forgiven after 10 years of working in public service if you do it correctly.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:53 PM on September 20, 2016

I worked full time at a university library while getting my MSIS (distance, at a different in-state university). I had some money in the savings, my workplace had a tuition benefit that brought down some of the costs, and I took out some loans. It took me 3 years, taking two classes per semester. It didn't kill my social life, but it did take up a lot of time--four or five nights a week doing either a synchronous class or homework. I got a lot better at scheduling and planning, though!
posted by zoetrope at 12:57 PM on September 20, 2016

For my MLIS, I was lucky enough to be able to sell a house to pay for most of the tuition, worked two part-time library jobs (one minimum wage, the other more than that but fewer of the hours) for that totaled about 24 hours a week, and took out a small amount of subsidized student loans. The part-time library jobs might not have paid a lot, but were more than worth it when it came to resume fodder and things to talk about in interviews.
posted by kbuxton at 1:26 PM on September 20, 2016

I went to grad school for my MLIS in New York City.

My particular track (school librarianship) was funded by a grant from the Laura Bush Foundation. It was a two-year, part-time program at St. John's University.

I had some savings before I moved to NYC but not a whole lot (probably around $2000). My parents would have swooped in if I was in serious financial trouble, so I'm not minimizing that safety net.

I found a room in a shared apartment in Jamaica, Queens for $490 a month, which was about as cheap as you can get. It was hot and I had three male roommates, who I think were from Poland or the Czech Republic. I worked at a summer camp for local elementary school kids to help them with reading and writing. I don't remember how much this paid but probably around $800 a month.

Through an AskMe meetup (!), I met a guy who lived on the Upper West Side in a single-bedroom apartment. He was paying $1300 a month, which was a fantastic price for that hood but a lot for a public school teacher. I moved into his living room and slept on his loveseat for two years for $540 a month. We were very good friends, which obviously helped.

I found a full-time job in midtown doing work for a tutoring company, which paid around $36,000 a year. It wasn't a demanding job but having to leave early twice a week to take the subway out to Queens ended up being a huge pain in the ass. I quit after about two months.

I took a part-time job at a movie theater in midtown (around $8.75 an hour). This was great because I could pick up / give away shifts as needed, and was able to easily trade weekday class shifts for the busier weekends. I worked in the concession stand a lot and made around $10 a night in tips.

I would walk the 40 blocks there and back unless it was really rainy because that meant I saved $5 in subway fare. I was on EBT food stamps because my take-home pay was so little. I think I got around $100 a month or so for food. That was a wonderful luxury. I was the master of the subway + bus transfer combo (if you ride the subway, you get a free bus transfer within two hours) so I would subway out to the cheap grocery store on 125th, hurry up and get a bunch of stuff (using a rolly suitcase), then grab the bus back down Broadway.

Luckily, some of my later classes were online, so I could do them from home (it was literally about a two hour commute to class).

I also was able to get on Medicare (Medicaid??) because I made so little. I very very rarely went to the doctor and was luckily not sick very often.

I didn't go out to eat or go to bars very often.

(and wow, there are a huge number of MLIS grads chiming in here! Guess we are all very very concerned about our finances, ha).
posted by amicamentis at 1:33 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

For me, a combination of the following:
--working as a TA/RA for about 20 hours per week (this got my tuition covered plus a small living stipend during the semesters I did it)
--an NSF grant for a couple of years (not sure if this is applicable to you?)
--living in a house with anywhere from 5-7 other students, not having a car, and otherwise minimizing expenses
--parents helped with some expenses (plane tickets, cell phone bill)
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:45 PM on September 20, 2016

I moved and did my degree (MFA) in a province with lower tuition than my home province and a city with a very low cost of living. I found a job waitering in a bar and worked 2-3 shifts a week and also TAd as much as possible.
posted by Cuke at 2:36 PM on September 20, 2016

I completed my MLIS in 2012. In my particular school, one of the big sacrifices — for just about every single person in my program — was expediency. The degree was designed to be completed in two years or less if you went full-time but virtually no one did because everyone had full-time jobs and attended school part-time; most had kids as well. Some people had tuition assistance from their employers but most took out loans or paid as they went, and scholarships were very rare and were usually only for a few thousand dollars at best. It was exceedingly common for people to take 4-5 years to finish (5 years being the maximum allowed, though you could appeal for an extension if necessary). A lot of my classmates volunteered in libraries or did unpaid or low-paying internships to get experience as well.

I took one class per semester, including summer classes which were on a compressed schedule, so it took me four full years in total. I know myself and I just wasn't willing to take on additional stress or sacrifice socializing, sleep, travel, etc. in order to be done sooner, since the way I was doing it felt mostly manageable. Although a couple super stressed-out moments do stand out in my memory — highlighting articles at stoplights on my way home from work, for example, or when I realized I had 17 school-related items on my to-do list for the coming week, three of them being entire novels to read.

Financially, I'm married and live in a fairly low COL area, so my husband's salary provided for our daily needs and I paid my tuition out of my paycheck, although we lived a lot more frugally during that time and we both experienced temporary unemployment at least once. That's another reason I went so slowly; I was paying out of pocket to avoid taking on debt. The coursework was time-consuming (see above) but not at all difficult; as others have mentioned, your grades are not particularly important in MLIS Land, just having the degree is what matters most. I studied and wrote papers a few evenings a week and always one full weekend day. I was super fortunate to live only 10 minutes from campus; some of my classmates drove almost an hour to classes and any time group work was required was very hard on them.

The program I attended the only one in my state and is probably not terribly well-known outside the area, but given that I had no intention of relocating after graduation, I was fine with that and never even considered other schools. It has a good reputation here and I didn't see the need for the prestige (I guess) and inherent expense of a more impressive institution. In the end, I ended up paying around $30K over the four years (it's definitely gone up since then) in tuition and other expenses. I saved a lot on my textbooks by renting them from or getting them from (where else?) the library.
posted by anderjen at 3:07 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Masters: I was on assistantship for two years, which came with a 10k salary, tuition waiver, and my second year, health insurance. I took out some in loans anyhow, because I had a partner who was off and on employed and couldn't always split the bills like he should have (and even if he could have, $10k over 12 months, plus whatever I could scrounge during the summer, didn't go very far). I taught a class my last semester - we were able to get around the accreditation issues through a mentorship program. I didn't drive at the time, so there wasn't that expense.

Phd: I'm completing my phd at the university I teach at, which means that my tuition waiver covers 3 classes a year. My job this summer is paying for class #4 for the year, and after this, I'll pay for a class a year out of pocket (I could just do 3 a year, but if I do 4 a year, I'm done with my phd in 4 years instead of 5. The money I'll make year #5 in the presumably higher paying job I will get will totally offset the about $3k that I'll be out of pocket). Pros: I'm getting my phd for almost free. Con: I'm working full time while completing my phd, which everyone agrees is pretty freaking nuts. I'm getting by on smoke and mirrors right now. We're hoping to send my wife to grad school in a couple years too, so...
posted by joycehealy at 3:09 PM on September 20, 2016

I paid cash for both my graduate degrees (mostly with income of employed spouse plus a little bit from my pre-marriage savings) but at one of the programs, which was vocational in nature, most people there were on the dimes of their employers.
posted by lakeroon at 3:12 PM on September 20, 2016

Two other things that were a big deal for me

1. no undergrad student loan debt
2. WA state had subsidized health care so I paid $11/month for health insurance because I was low income
posted by jessamyn at 3:32 PM on September 20, 2016

Savings, TA/RA positions, in-state tuition through establishing state residency as soon as possible, part-time jobs. This was in the mid '70s when I could otherwise live on $300/month.
posted by davcoo at 3:36 PM on September 20, 2016

I paid for my master's (professional degree, 1.5 year program) with student loans. Then I got a job after graduating and paid the loans back in a few years.
posted by pravit at 3:39 PM on September 20, 2016

I got a PhD in the biological sciences, where it is typical for many universities to offer TA-ships. So I taught undergrads in exchange for a tuition waiver and a fairly paltry stipend. The rest of the time I was taking classes or working in the lab toward my dissertation.

Not needing to pay tuition, I used my ~$900/mo (~$450 in the summer months) to live on, buy textbooks, etc. I had no idea that I qualified for loans since my tuition was covered. I found out later that most of my cohort had taken out loans to supplement. I don't remember anyone having parental money, but a few people were married to someone with a regular job.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:48 PM on September 20, 2016

I did a math PhD. The department's standard funding was about $15-6k in salary, a tuition waiver and health insurance in exchange for (in theory) twenty hours of teaching a week. We had to pay "fees" to the tune of several hundred dollars per semester. There were a few semesters where I was funded as an RA, which, for the grants in question, meant "do you own research" not "do someone else's grunt work". This was more common in applied math, where grant money was more plentiful. Funding was guaranteed for six years (this was unusual--everywhere else I applied was five with "we find money for year six"), but it might be down to five now.
posted by hoyland at 3:52 PM on September 20, 2016

I did 25% of my MPH for free while working full-time at the university, paid for 25% out of pocket while working full-time in a better paying job, did another 25% on scholarship as a full-time student, and paid for 25% out of pocket while studying full-time and working about 30 hours per week. I finished in 4 years (2 years part time, 1 year break, and 1 year full time).

I got an awesome job immediately after graduation and have zero regrets, though things did get a little crazy that last year when I crammed in 60% of my coursework, a thesis, and two part time jobs.
posted by Maarika at 4:19 PM on September 20, 2016

I've just started an online, part-time Masters program in Library & Information Science. I'm mostly interested in personal stories here, but obviously if you have specific MLIS-centric advice, I am ALL EARS.

You asked, so I'll tell you that I did a semester of an MLS program, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I quit when I found out what the job market was like. A local library system in the Bay Area had 85 applications for three jobs. My understanding was that the other systems were similar. I was told by folks in the industry that if I wanted to move somewhere really rural, I wouldn't have too much problem finding work. If I wanted to stay where I am now, or somewhere similar, my chances were poor. No offense to anyone in the industry. People make this work every day. I would have loved to do it, but I wasn't willing to make the sacrifices it required.

I know folks with Master's degrees who used both private and Federal student loans to pay for them, and it will take them something like 15 years of large payments to pay them off, and that's including PSLF.
posted by cnc at 4:24 PM on September 20, 2016

Man, you all sound so much more responsible about grad school than I was! I made a highly emotional and poorly thought-out decision to get an expensive MUP in an expensive city. My parents contributed $10k for bribes tuition and paid my rent for two years, I took out ~$75k in loans for the remainder. Grad school turned out to be really rough for me (hello late-diagnosis ADHD!), I almost quit after the first year but convinced myself that one more year of misery and a diploma was probably better than $40k of debt and zilch. Still not sure if my math was right on that one.

I definitely borrowed more than was strictly necessary because I couldn't manage stressing about finances and figuring out how the fuck I was gonna graduate at the same time. A lot of sanity-preserving luxuries got charged to "future-yeahlikethat" i.e. I maxed out my credit card on 'emergency sushi', paid it off with next semester's loans, and hoped to hell I'd actually get my degree and enough job to make my loan payments (which I did! so there's that at least...)

The two saving graces are that I didn't have any debt from undergrad and that all of my graduate loans qualify for PSLF. I've made four and a half years of PSLF payments so far and I expect to stay in the nonprofit sector until my loans are forgiven. The day-to-day financial burden now isn't terrible and I don't find the nonprofit requirement to be overly restrictive, but my program wasn't a great fit and I'd be a lot less bitter if I felt like I'd gotten more out of it.
posted by yeahlikethat at 5:36 PM on September 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was a long time ago, but I did what colbeagle described above when I got my MSLS. I chose the University of Illinois because I received a 20 hours per week graduate assistantship that also covered tuition. I lived in the graduate dorm that didn't have AC, because it was cheaper. No car, of course. In the summer, I didn't have a meal plan, so made do with what I could fix for myself with a cube refrigerator and a toaster oven.

About 20 years after that, I went back to school for a second masters (master of theological studies). I commuted and went half time for two years while working full time. The last year of my program I attended full time while working full time (and burning through my annual leave). It was pretty brutal, but I completed the program with no debt (same as when I did the MSLS). The not taking on debt was vital for my peace of mind (and I'd done the same as an undergraduate--working and living in extreme frugality--so I was familiar with the drill).
posted by apartment dweller at 6:41 PM on September 20, 2016

I was single, used some savings, worked full time at an OK salary and took a full graduate course load each quarter with mostly night classes (my employer let me flex hours for a few day classes.)

I lost 50 pounds and was suicidal for a while in the middle of all this. But I got done.
posted by ITravelMontana at 6:58 PM on September 20, 2016

Not sure if you are stuck in your home city or are willing to move — if not stuck, check out other countries.

Canadian grad school tuition is significantly cheaper than US tuition, and some schools don't have an international grad student fee differential. I'm actually surprised that we don't have that many Americans in Canadian grad schools. (My university is $1800 CDN per term for tuition, domestic or international.)

I did my master's for free because I work for the university and free tuition is a perk.
posted by wenat at 7:00 PM on September 20, 2016

I'm a Canadian living overseas and have just started a Master's of Education program through a Canadian university. the program is all online with the option of doing some courses in person if I were near enough to the university. when I was looking into Master's programs, I made a chart to compare programs based on:

- length of program
- start date (and application due dates)
- expected end date
- online only or in-person components required
- cost

I knew I wanted to do a program that was either completely or mostly online because I am working full-time and couldn't know for sure whether I would be able to be in a certain place at a certain time for more than a week or two if I needed to be there for a class. coincidentally, the program I liked the sound of the most was the most affordable option. I think once everything is said and done, the 2-year program will cost me about $17,000 Canadian. this amount is due in 6 different installments over the 2 years so I don't have to pay a huge amount upfront. I am paying for it by working full-time, and I am extremely fortunate to have housing paid for by my employer so I don't have to also pay rent or a mortgage at the same time. I don't have children, I have a very supportive partner, and we have some savings if I needed to fall back on something to help me out while I complete the program. if all goes according to plan I should graduate with my MEd in mid-2018, debt-free.

I've only been at this for 2 months now so I don't yet know about the sacrifices I might have to make but so far it's just been making fewer social plans after work and coming home to do coursework and readings. it's been fine so far. I hope it keeps up like this for the rest of the program but I know it will probably get a bit harder to balance work, this program, and my social/personal life.

best of luck with your program!
posted by gursky at 7:01 PM on September 20, 2016

I worked full time, took evening classes (1 or 2 per term) and paid cash (equivalent) for courses. 2 year program ended up taking four and perhaps I missed opportunities on the way but zero debt. Am now trying PhD in similar fashion but may be harder to finish without becoming ABD!
posted by bquarters at 7:09 PM on September 20, 2016

I went to a public university 20 years ago, before they jacked up tuition for the professional masters programs. My parents helped, plus student loans, and job/paid internship. And I used the settlement from a lawsuit from a plane crash (thanks, TWA!). I don't recommend that last option.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:23 PM on September 20, 2016

I got my masters in library science three years ago. The school I went to (UNC-Chapel Hill) offered me an assistantship working 20 hours a week. This completely covered tuition (even for me, an out-of-state student) and paid me about $1000/month. I supplemented this by teaching online courses as an adjunct at the university where I had earned my previous masters degree, which paid another $3-6k a semester depending on my courseload. This wasn't fun but I pretty much broke even - my debt from this time totaled only $2000, most of which went toward fees not covered by the tuition waiver.

I don't think I would have gone to the library school I did if they hadn't offered me the assistantship; I was preparing to go to Cheap In-State Program until I got this offer.
posted by kingoftonga86 at 7:32 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I Upwork'd my butt off.
posted by bkpiano at 7:43 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I attended a state university as a resident rather than applying to any private or out-of-state schools. I used my AmeriCorps education award and maxed out on loans each semester after my award was exhausted. I was also married and my partner's income helped cover living expenses and such.
posted by epj at 8:41 PM on September 20, 2016

I did a remote STEM masters over 2.5 years, 10 credits at a pricey private institution while working full time (usually more than 50 hrs/week). I paid for roughly 20% of it with employer tuition reimbursement (spaced out the credits to maximize this). I also started freelancing, moved, and turned the freelancing into a full time business. Since the business was directly related to the degree I was doing, I was able to write the rest of the MS off on my taxes as qualifying work related education expenses. The requirements for this are quite specific, but matched up in my case (I vetted it with an accountant, as well). The amount saved on taxes probably paid for another 20-30% of the degree, but that's only because I had sufficient self employment income to write off against.

All of this moving, job hopping, and insane schedule was brought to you by a) having previous savings and b) having no life / insufficient sleep while working and doing the degree.

My PhD is being paid for like a standard fully funded US STEM PhD: through the university, through my advisor's grants, and through any independent funding I can drum up myself. I have guaranteed funding for six years, and they pay a modest stipend for living expenses.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:04 AM on September 21, 2016

I got my MLIS at a large state school at which I had also gone to undergrad. I just kept going to school and living like a student. My partner upped his share of the rent, I worked 3 jobs and decided that I absolutely couldn't afford unpaid internships. Two of the three jobs were library-related (academic reference assistant and digital libraries underling, eventually also a paid internship at an american history archive) and the other was at a food co-op, which gave me a big discount on our food (and customer service experience, which a surprising lack of MLIS grads lack!) I borrowed for half of my tuition each semester and paid for the other half from my jobs. I also received scholarships to help cover some of my non-summer semesters. I ended up with ~$9k in debt.

Looking back on this, I'm really glad I did this as a young person with lots of energy and a low low standard of living (no car/cheap fun.)
posted by zem at 10:21 AM on September 21, 2016

MBA and doctoral work funded by loans. I went to school full time, consulting a bit in the off hours. I lived cheaply for 2 years, but not cheaply enough. Had to move back in with my parents. Still paying back loans 11 years later.

Looking back on it, for most of the last 10 years I probably have net as much money as I would have had I not gone to school. The extra income I've earned by having higher-titled, fancier jobs has gone into repaying my loans. On the other hand, the jobs have been much more interesting.
posted by bluejayway at 12:35 PM on September 21, 2016

Iam currently in my first semester for part time state school MBA. Program is ~54k , Employer pays about 9k a year . So I plan on extending MBA to 4 years and using 36k and use my savings for the rest. I knew I would be going for an MBA program but didn't know how to finance it. Finally I settled on part time because i cant afford to get into 100k debt for 2 years and not get any income in the meantime.

So short story. Work full time, school part time. Employer pays part, Saving for the rest.
posted by radsqd at 8:52 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

In USA most reasonably good Ph.D. programs are fully funded which means that Ph.D. students get free / waived tuition and a stipend for doing research. Ph.D. candidates at R1 schools usually do great: $40k+ salaries, free tuition, sometimes room & board. Field matters (EEs will make more than History majors).

My personal story: Ph.D. at a high-quality, but state, PhD program in the 1990s. Free tuition, and a stipend of about $8000/year. Was just barely able to pay my rent on the stipend. Struggled along but slowly sinking, wracked up about $50k in credit card debt by the time I graduated. Wealthy and super-fucking-generous parents paid off my tab. (Thanks mom & dad!)

It's not easy, but PhD > Masters for this discussion.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:29 PM on September 22, 2016

I'm enrolled in a M.Ed. program now, which I'm paying for entirely through unsubsidized Perkins loans (and one or two small-money scholarships).

My University offers a tuition benefit for TA/RA roles, but I ran the math on quitting my current job or dropping to half-time and taking advantage of that tuition benefit. Ultimately, I come out ahead by keeping my job and just paying for school directly.

It's a lot of cash out of pocket, but it comes out as the best option available. I'll graduate with about $15k to repay, but I'll still have my full-time salary, so it feels manageable in the big picture.
posted by owls at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ph.D. candidates at R1 schools usually do great: $40k+ salaries, free tuition, sometimes room & board.

We wish. Maybe in cash-rich fields of engineering. Or CS if you factor in summer internships, which don't count as funding. Your bog standard TA/RA position runs about $20k at the high end--$25/hr times 20 hrs/week x 18 weeks/semester x 2 semesters is 18k. (There are some outliers--Columbia pays a cost-of-living allowance on top of the TA wage, IIRC.) I was offered a $30k fellowship and the NSF fellowship is somewhere between $30k and $40k, I think. (I believe some of the quoted amount goes to the department for tuition, though.) That's the only way you're going to get near $40k.
posted by hoyland at 6:22 PM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your bog standard TA/RA position runs about $20k at the high end

Turns out there's a website for this:

My super scientific method (sorting by salary and paging until I hit the middle page) suggests a median of about $24000 across all disciplines.

Of course this same data set includes a $330,000 stipend so I'd take this with a grain of salt.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:05 PM on October 14, 2016

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