With the first semester of my sophomore year coming to a close, I am beginning to feel the pressure of endless postgraduate options. I could go straight into the workforce, take a gap year or volunteer. But, if I’m being real, I envision myself continuing my education with graduate school. At this point in the semester, the thought of three or four more years of going to class, taking tests and writing papers seems undesirable, but nonetheless, grad school is becoming a necessity.
Master’s degrees can increase your wage to as much as 38.3% more than people working in the same fields with only a bachelor’s. Moreover, master’s degrees are becoming the new requirement for jobs. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18% of jobs will require a master’s degree by the time I graduate in 2022. Because of this, just as undergraduate education should be, graduate school should be more affordable, especially given that it can promote economic growth and better welfare among the population.
In general, graduate school is harder to pay off. Graduate students are given the opportunity to apply for FAFSA, but they receive less money and will have to pay a higher interest rate on their student loans. Additionally, Pell Grant scholarships aren’t offered at the graduate level, which can make it difficult for low-income individuals to obtain a higher level of education.
This doesn’t account for the difference in financial aid distribution between students earning a master’s degree and a Ph.D. Overall, doctoral students will receive more funding from the university than any other degree program, as a result of the tuition waiver and stipend some programs have to discourage doctoral students from holding another job. And while a Ph.D. program is a more intensive experience than a master’s, this doesn’t make the work that master’s students do any less important or valuable. Given the increased need for a master’s, addressing this issue will be crucial to ensuring the financial stability of the future workforce and their ability to get the education they need.
Financial aid at all levels of education is necessary because students shouldn’t be penalized for wanting to advance their education. This type of treatment is unjust and unequal, since it inhibits the opportunities of low-income students who aren’t able to make the financial sacrifice necessary for a degree today.
The debate surrounding college affordability and debt is extremely important within the United States. Other countries such as Germany, Norway and Iceland offer graduate programs at either no cost or a rate that is much lower than U.S. universities. This scratches the surface of a more complex political debate, and while the prospects of federally funded graduate education seems implausible, these countries illuminate the hope that affordable college can be achieved.
NYU offers a few forms of financial relief to its graduate students. As of 2018, the Grossman School of Medicine offers full-tuition scholarships to all students regardless of merit or financial need. Additionally, the undergraduate departments of Global Liberal Studies and the College of Arts and Science offer the opportunity for students to graduate with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in five years, with the fifth year’s tuition being half off.
Beyond our community, the Democratic presidential primaries present a perfect platform for this issue, because the lack of financial aid given to graduate students is a federal issue. Furthermore, events like the Democratic debates receive mass media coverage that reaches a larger, diverse audience. So far, only Bernie Sanders has created a plan to relieve the financial stress felt by graduate students.
Education should not be commercialized when it supports economic and intellectual growth on a national scale and becomes necessary for future success. Graduate school students need more support if there is going to be any hope of a stable future for the next generations.
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Email Gabby Lozano at [email protected]