Performancing Metrics

The War on Grad School

War on grad school

War on Grad School

Share this graphic on your site!

An educated population is necessary for a country to remain competitive in the global marketplace, but often personal and societal decision making doesn’t align with that goal

Who’s Going to Grad School?

In fall 2016, 1.8 million graduate students were enrolled in master’s, graduate certificate, or doctoral programs in the U.S.

Over 40% of college freshman intend to pursue a master’s degree

Growth rate of graduate applications is flattening:

1.2% growth between Fall 2015 and Fall 2016
5.7% average annual growth between 2006 and 2016

Master’s degrees awarded:

2015: 758,708
2014: 754,582
2001: 473,502

Doctoral degrees awarded:
2015: 178,547
2014: 177, 587
2001: 119,585

In 2015-16, schools awarded:
82.5% master’s degrees
11.3% doctoral degree
6.2% graduate certificate

Graduate programs with the most applicants, Fall 2016:
Social and behavioral sciences
Biological and agricultural sciences
Physical and earth sciences
Arts and humanities

Demographics of graduate students in Fall 2016

Women are leading the way in first-time graduate achievement:
57.4% of master’s degrees
52.1% of doctoral degrees
63.1% of graduate certificates

First-time graduate enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents: 81.1%
60.7% White
11.8% Black/African American
10.9% Hispanic/Latino
7.1% Asian
5.9% Unknown
3.0% Two or More Races
0.5% American Indian/Alaska Native
0.2% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific islander

First-time graduate enrollment of international students: 18.9%

There’s no doubt an education is necessary, yet when it comes to grad school, for some the cons outweigh the pros

Who’s Fighting the War on Grad School?

Political Reforms

Tax Reform Act of 1986:
Payments for teaching and research assistantships no longer applied to scholarship and fellowships income exclusion

Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act of 1988:
Restored previous exclusion but living stipends were still taxable

College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007:
Decrease in interest rates on subsidized Federal Stafford Loans for undergrad students
No change in interest rates for grad students

Budget Control Act of 2011:
Grad students no longer eligible for subsidized Federal Stafford Loan
Only eligible for
Unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans
Federal Grad PLUS loans

Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013:
Grade students saw a hike in interest rates
1.55% on Federal Stafford Loans
2.55% on Federal Grad PLUS Loans

2018 Tax Reform:
Originally proposed taxing the income of college endowments
Fierce opposition resulted in legislation that doesn’t tax tuition waivers

Are the critics right?

Reasons not to pursue a graduate education:
Looming financial debt
In 2012, master’s degree student debt average was:
$42,000 Business
$50,879 Education
$50,400 Science
$58,539 Arts
$140,616 Law
$161,772 Medicine and Health Sciences
$55,489 Other

At graduate level, high competition for fellowships, research/teaching assistantships

Ultimatum: Are grad students willing to live under a cloud of debt for decades?
Wreaking havoc on relationships
Demanding family responsibilities
Strained relationship with significant other

Ultimatum: Which is more important: grad school or love life?
Opportunity cost
Graduate students must give up:
Work experience

Ultimatum: Will students regret time spent on grad school?
Reasons to pursue a graduate education:
1) Higher salary
The wage premium for those with a master’s degree over those with a bachelor’s degree can be as great as:

Financial services sales agents
89% increase
$80,000 difference

Physician assistants
44% increase
$29,000 difference

Education administrators
44% increase
$23,000 difference

2) Gain access to more job opportunities
Entry-level jobs that require a master’s degree
Librarian (See 50 Best Online Master’s in Library Science.)
Health care social worker (See 50 Best Online MSW Programs.)
Mental health counselor (See 50 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs.)
Urban and regional planner
Political scientist

3) Make professional connections
Access to school alumni
Develop network of peers

The private business sector has weighed in and offered their two cents with tuition reimbursement and MOOCs

Making Grad School Work

Explore financial options

Employers offer tuition reimbursements:

Up to $25,000 for graduate expenses

Bank of America
Up to $5,250 for job-related courses

Best Buy
Up to $5,250 for graduate coursework

Up to $700 per college credit
100% of cost of textbooks
$100 per course for materials

Up to $5,250 per year and lifetime maximum of $25,000

Up to $8,000 per year for full-time employees, $4,000 for part-time employees

Up to $2,000 per Walmart Fiscal Year

Wells Fargo
Up to $5,000 per year

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and gain access to:
Federal Perkins Loan Program
Graduate students can borrow up to $8,000 per year

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program includes the following types of loans:

Direct Unsubsidized
Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per year

Direct PLUS
Requires a credit check

Direct Consolidation
Explore alternative education options

Massive open online courses (MOOCs)
Offered by 11.3% of higher education institutions in 2015

Benefits include:
Greater specialization
Highly relevant courses
Free or low-cost education

Top MOOCs include:

Online degree programs
The same program offered on-campus can be thousands less if taken online
Large class size reduces costs to institution—and students
Fewer instructors
Automated grading
Enrolling in an international school abroad
Though living expenses can vary, the actual degree can be cheaper
Inexpensive programs offered abroad:
University of Vienna tuition is 726.72 Euros, or ~$800/semester
University of Oslo tuition is free, semester fee is ~$75

While the jury is still out on grad school, alternative higher education options are taking the spotlight

What’s your verdict?

War on grad school


Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor