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Is having to borrow 40k $ in student loans a good deal for a MEng degree

  1. May 25, 2009 #1
    At an Ivy League Engineering school
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2009 #2


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    I have an MSEE from a top-10 public university which cost me about $10k out of pocket at the time (1991). I paid off my loans within a few years of entering the work force, and I would say that it has paid for itself many times over, not only in terms of better salary and a wider range of job opportunities, but more importantly for me, the knowledge obtained while working on the degree allows me to work on more INTERESTING things - in my case, in the field of signal processing and communication algorithms.

    Could I have picked up the same requisite knowledge on the job or by reading or taking classes at night? In principle yes, but in practice most (but by no means all) engineers are too busy on the job and too occupied with other things at night to focus on seriously learning the core theoretical material associated with a strong master's degree. It's hard, hard work and (in my opinion) you can only do it justice by studying full time. I'm glad I did.

    In terms of both financial and time commitment, I think the master's degree yielded the best "bang for the buck" of my entire academic background.

    Only you can answer this question in your particular situation. But assuming you put that degree to good use once you have it, I doubt you would have any cause to regret it in the future.
  4. May 26, 2009 #3


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    Try to minimize loans by working part-time jobs. That was my approach.

    $40K is a lot of debt for someone leaving university, and it will bite into one's cost of living later on, particularly if one wishes to attend graduate school.

    Having a MEng degree is good, and better if one masters the material as reflected by high GPA.
  5. May 26, 2009 #4
    you have to go to graduate school after getting an MEng? I thought it was equivalent to a masters degree, i.e unless going into research or academia it would be fully sufficient for working as a professional engineer?
  6. May 26, 2009 #5
    No, he thought you were talking about a BS in ME. A master's of engineering is a graduate degree. That said, you aren't able to obtain any funding for your degree? TAing, RAing, anything?

    An MEng is quite sufficient for working as a professional engineer. What type of engineering will your degree be in?
  7. May 26, 2009 #6
    Its Mechanical/Aeronautical. I wanna work for NASA someday:)

    Yeah I do get some funding but my estimations show I have to borrow that much unless parents pay up, which isnt a nice thing to ask i guess:P
  8. May 26, 2009 #7
    What about tuition waivers for TAing or RAing? Those usually come with a small stipend and benefits. $40k is a very large amount of debt. Do you have any debt from your undergraduate schooling?

    Truth be told, I don't think it's worth $40k just to get a MEng from an Ivy League institution. You'll get the same jobs and a very similar salary by going to good public school. And the salary difference will be made up by not being $40k in debt!
  9. May 26, 2009 #8
    If said Ivy is any one other than Cornell, probably not.
  10. May 26, 2009 #9
    No that money includes undergrad+grad. Does the deal get better?:P i read on the NYT that its quite normal for professional degrees students to graduate with 80-90k in debt (undergrad+grad) nowadays?
    And wont the Ivy League label give more perks?:)

    Oh and thanks, your responses are really useful and informative. Appreciate it:)
  11. May 26, 2009 #10


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    If one has an undergraduate engineering degree, then an MS or MEng is good. But still, try to minimize the loans, by working or getting an assistantship (teaching or research). Even getting out of grad school with $40K of debt is undesirable.

    These days a professional should try to obtain at minimum a Master's degree, and in some cases a PhD is preferable, depending on the field of science or technology. Of course, one can return years later for a PhD, but that becomes difficult if one has a family.
  12. May 26, 2009 #11
    So the $40k would cover both undergraduate and graduate school? Like a two-in-one program? $40k for both degrees is not bad at all.

    As for graduating with $80-$90k in debt being normal, I find that hard to believe with respect to engineering and science students. I did not have to pay for graduate school and neither did any of my friends. We were TAs and RAs. Debt from undergraduate school is more common in science and engineering than debt from graduate school.

    The Ivy League label will give perks, sure, but not $40k for grad school worth of perks. It might be easier to get interviews, you might get a slightly higher salary, and you'll potentially have access to some fantastic professors.

    However, it sounds like YOU want that Ivy League label. There's nothing wrong with that, but you should know that going $40k into debt is not something to be taken lightly.

    If you have aspirations of being a professor, the Ivy League label will help more there than in industry. But you're going for what is considered a terminal degree, so it does not sound like you want to enter academia.
  13. May 26, 2009 #12


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    Normally "professional degree" implies a doctor or lawyer, so $80k-$90k in that case wouldn't be too surprising.

    Maybe it's because I'm in California and see so many barely literate jackasses with $40k loans for CARS (not to mention $800k loans for houses, but let's not even go there) that I can't really find fault with a guy investing $40k for a degree - or is it degrees - that will pay him dividends for his entire career, assuming he puts it to good use.

    And my opinion holds even if he has cheaper options at public universities: better in my opinion to go to the school you really want to attend (as long as it's worth it to you), because life doesn't come with a rewind button and you won't get a chance to go back and do it the way you really wanted to.
  14. May 29, 2009 #13
    so how much do you think would be appropriate to borrow in my situation?
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