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auhsojsa's avatar

Mathematicians: Is it better to take out loans until I reach my PhD or stop at B.A.?

Asked by auhsojsa (2505 points ) February 21st, 2012

Let’s assume I will live until I’m 75.

I’m 24 years old should receive my B.A. within 2 years time. I’m pretty certain I will have to take out loans to continue my education. My question is, if I’m going to be in debt with a B.A. degree, should I just push it further and pursue a PhD? I don’t even know what kind of numbers I would be looking at (debt wise). I have a general sense that if I do receive a PhD I’ll be making triple what I would with a B.A.? What do you think? Thanks in advance.

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15 Answers

dappled_leaves's avatar

Some of this is going to depend on where you are – are your loans interest-free until you graduate or get a job? Are your interest payments tax-deductible?

auhsojsa's avatar

Free until I graduate. I am from California.

janbb's avatar

My son was fully funded during his PhD years for Computer Science. i know that in the humanities it is hard to get a stipend or tuition waiver for PhD programs, but in the sciences you are usually funded by the school and have some teaching or lab responsibilities. I don’t know whether this applies to math or not; you should investigate. I would caution anyone to not go for a PhD unless you love the field; it is very grueling.

auhsojsa's avatar

@janbb Ah! I failed to mention my intentions are towards the Arts. The reason I have “Mathematicians” posted is because I can’t figure out the numbers at the moment. I think a savvy mathematician might be able to whip up some calculations in a day in which would take me a week. I realize now that there are some missing variables, and maybe I should ask, but is the common amount of debt one gets into while pursuing a PhD.

janbb's avatar

Well, my nephew and niece scraped by in literature programs at Berkeley for PhDs with some stipends and fellowships but I don’t know exactly what loans, costs, they incurred. There is a dearth of jobs for PhDs in the humanities right now and for the foreseeable future. What is your ultimate career goal?

nikipedia's avatar

I second everything @janbb said. Why do you need to take out loans for your PhD? Every program at my university is funded one way or another. And do not be too convinced that a PhD will increase your earnings. When I finish, I will probably make 60–80% of what I did before grad school, at least for the first few years.

Zaku's avatar

Mathematics indicates that student loans are an extremely bad idea in most circumstances, due to compound interest.

zigmund's avatar

I read somewhere (I’m looking for the source) that the college loans will be the next economic bubble to burst. The concept is basically students are taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans that they will never be able to pay back.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Zaku Compound interest is not an issue if the loans are interest-free until graduation. Unless you simply can’t find a job of any kind after graduating.

robmandu's avatar

Well, to do the math, you’ve got to provide more information. Specifically…
– what Arts-related field are you studying (so we can determine average base starting pay)?
– at what pace do you plan to progress thru your post-grad programs (i.e. how many years of school do you have left)?
– what are the tuition rates at your university (how much do you intend to borrow)?
– will you need loans to cover cost of living as well, or just the tuition (how much will you really borrow)?

Here’s a simple loan calculator if you want to plug in the numbers yourself.

Even the medical doctors and lawyers I know seem to regret having paid their college tuition with student loans. They feel overly burdened as they watch thousands of dollars a year being sucked out of their earnings.

For myself, I worked 3 part-time jobs my first couple of years at college and lived at home. Then I landed a full-time job, moved into an apartment, bought a decent used car, and finished up my bachelor’s degree. When I graduated, I had real career experience on my resumé and was already making more money than my peers… with zero debt.

It’s your decision the path you choose. There’s a way through this… there always is. Just be sure that whatever move you make, you’re fully aware of the costs and consequences.

Jeruba's avatar

@robmandu has given a great answer (GA, Rob).

If you’re looking for more than that, @auhsojsa, I suggest you reword your question. It sure sounds like you’re looking for advice on education in the field of mathematics.

Don’t count on people to read the details, never mind the rest of the thread; I’m guessing that about a third of the flutherfolk just answer without reading beyond the boldface question.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Even the medical doctors and lawyers I know seem to regret having paid their college tuition with student loans.

Really? Even if they couldn’t have become doctors and lawyers without that financial help? And they actually think they’d be financially ahead in the long run if they didn’t get the education? Huh.

Zaku's avatar

@dappled_leaves Um, yes, compound interest is often very much an issue for many well-paid and employed people who many years later are still struggling to pay off their student loans. And even if it were not, the risk of not finding work is very real for many people.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’ll take your word for it. Interest on student loans is tax-deductible here.

auhsojsa's avatar

@Jeruba I can understand the confusion but B.A. should suggest I’m already pursuing something in the Arts as opposed to Sciences but I can understand where it looks confusing. Thanks for laying that out @robmandu I’ll apply my variables to what you have provided.

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