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Paying for Graduate School

  1. Apr 2, 2008 #1
    Hey everyone, I recently was admitted as a master of science canidate to the department of mathematics at NYU. I applied as a PhD student but did not score well enough on my subject GRE to admit me directly (at least this is my theory).

    I did not recieve a fellowship or assistantship

    Question: How common is it not to recieve either? I was under the impression that many if not most graduate students recieve a great deal of financial aid to attend either in the form of grants, stipends, or working for the university directly as a GSI.

    Should I expect to pay most of the tuition myself or through loans due to not recieving these? Is it worth waiting a year and retaking the GRE? (Note: My combined family income is around 40k a year, and I have not recieved my FAFSA/Financial aid package yet)

    Any advice on how I should plan to finance this?
    (I have already e-mailed the graduate financial aid advisor)
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2008 #2
    phd students get funding because they're expected to publish. private schools usually don't fund well anyway though.
  4. Apr 3, 2008 #3
    Personally, I would not attend any graduate school that expects me to pay them.
  5. Apr 3, 2008 #4


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    The availability of support for graduate students varies among departments and among institutions. (How many graduate students in business get support?)

    In physics, one often gets support by way of a teaching assistantship, a research assistantship, or a fellowship. These usually include tuition support and a stipend. In some places, practically all of the physics graduate students get some kind of support. At others, there may be competition for a small number of available assistantships.

    I would say that graduate students get funding (if available) because they are expected to work on their dissertation research (and teach, if given a teaching assistantship). Yes, it would certainly be good to publish.

    I'm not sure how terminal-masters students are supported.
    I would assume that PhD-students get preference.
  6. Apr 3, 2008 #5
    If you ever think about going international, most (or all) Canadian graduate schools pay all graduate students a minimum stipend. A lot of schools even pay international students more to make up for international fees. I have never heard of a Canadian graduate school not funding any of their masters or PhD students fully.

    Also unless you get into a top American school, a lot of Canadian schools are better and more reputable internationally than a joe schmo university in the US
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2008
  7. Apr 3, 2008 #6
    My main question is the importance of fellowships/assistantships. I'm not really sure what the impact it has on my financial situation. Should I expect to pay out of pocket or with loans due to not recieving these or am I still eligible to work as a GSI etc...?

    I guess my main question is if the university expects me to pay the tuition without help?
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2008
  8. Apr 3, 2008 #7

    Let me just say, I got accepted into NYU Masters of Mathematics program as well. I also originally applied for the PhD program.

    I really don't think I am going to attend NYU unfunded. I just do not see how it is a good idea. I think you are better off going back for another semester or another year and working on one of your applications "weaknesses" like a low GRE score or a mediocre recommendation.

    I personally plan on coming back for a 5th year and doing 2 or 3 research projects and retake my GRE math exam. I also plan on brushing up on my linear algebra, calculus, etc.
  9. Apr 6, 2008 #8
    Let me also add some more comments about going to NYU unfunded.

    The tuition will more than likely go up for the 2009-2010 year (the second year of your proposed masters). And you can more than bet that you will have to take out huge loans to pay for all this.

    So for 2007-2008 the cost of attending was approximately $31k with fees, you will probably attend full time, so you'll be done in 3 semesters, so figure you graduate with $45k in debt but with a good masters degree.

    But i'm assuming you ultimately want to be a PhD student. If you transfer to another university, since you were taking Masters courses, you might be entering as a real "third year" PhD student, i.e. you might have to take first year courses and pass the preliminary exams. You might also be accepted into NYU's PhD program, but they do not gurantee funding to every PhD student, this is a fact.

    I'm considering not going and instead reviewing for the GRE's, going over some analysis, algebra, linear algebra in the summer and then doing 2 research projects in the Fall and then reapply to graduate school in December.
  10. Apr 6, 2008 #9


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    if you would not attend any grad that expects payment, perhaps you are not interested in bettering yourself.

    would you try out for a team that did not guarantee you a starting position?
  11. Apr 6, 2008 #10
    There's that, and there's being able to get it without incurring massive amounts of debt. Why hang that around your neck if you can avoid it simply by going elsewhere?
  12. Apr 6, 2008 #11
    It's called doing your homework. For graduate school, either (a) they should pay you, or (b) your WORK should pay for it. Now, if you want to pay for it yourself and go into debt, its your own dumb fault when you graduate and have a second loan on top of your undergrad loans.

    My graduate school pays for me, and I would have turned them down if they said they could not fund me.

    No offense, but your comments really are not constructive nor helpful. Taking consideration of his financial situation is being interested in bettering himself, practically.

    Put another way, if I tried out for a team and got in, your damn right I'd want starting position.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2008
  13. Apr 6, 2008 #12
    That is a good point. But the debt just seems to be too much. You don't really owe anything by taking a bench position, but going to a grad program unfunded is a huge risk. Getting in 50k of debt is a scary thing.
  14. Apr 6, 2008 #13
    My application did not look that great. It had some good parts, my pure physics gpa was a 3.6 but my math gpa was a 2.75. On top of that I didn't do very well on the gre. I applied to 15 programs and got more than one offer. If you reapply next year make sure you hit lots of programs.
  15. Apr 7, 2008 #14
    also mathwonk if the poster is anything like me in his finacial situation then he could have upwards of 50-70k in debt during two years of nyu masters, that debt alone could rise to 80-90k add in another 50k for the grad school and you come out of a masters with 130-140 in debt. now the interest on that will have gone up to 10-13k a year, now assuming for his phd work he gets fully funded and gets something on the larger ends of stipends 16k a year. he could theoreticly keep the interest on the loans paid and live off of 4k a year but it would be difficult.

    however when he graduates with his phd he will have to start making payments on his debt so he will probably have to pay 16k a year, and be making that payment for the next 20 years of his life, unable to buy a house take out a loan on a car etc. especially considering the average post-doc makes 40k a year leaving only about 15k for a place to stay (8k) car and insurance (6500k) leaving 500 dollars to live off of for the year.
  16. Apr 7, 2008 #15
    Where are you getting these bogus numbers from?
  17. Apr 7, 2008 #16
    the debt comes from my personal number which as I said may not be representative of him, but as I know many people who have debt in that range from undergrad it is possible.

    two assuming interest is compounded anually (which will lead to an underestimate) 70k turns into 80k over the two years. plus the additional 50k that someone else said would be incurred by paying for your own time at nyu masters. leaves you with 130k. at an 8 percent interest (which is usually just below the prime rate, although the rate has been dropping this year and will rise again next year) that 130k will incur 10k worth of interest every year, after checking the websites of a couple of public grad schools, I found that a teaching assistant gets an $8000 stipend and a research assistant makes $16000 (taken from the department statistics of uc irvine, and umass amherst) assuming you get the 16k figure and don't have to pay for housing with that, you could start making payments on the debt while a phd student, but again thats a pretty optimal scenario.

    assuming that you only put in the interest during that time, you would graduate from your phd with 130k of debt.

    from the aip statistics a post-doc position makes 40k on average. taxes in america are about 30%, so when you graduate assuming you are good and get a postdoc straight away you will have 30k to spend for a year, making debt payments on the order of 15k a year as to pay off your debt in a reasonable amount of time, cheap student housing along with cheap food in the amherst, MA area will total up to about 8k a year car insurance is about 1.5k a year, and if you want to drive a good car that you won't have to worry about fixing will leave you with 5k worth of payments every year (numbers taken from friends parents who have good credit and driving records).

    granted you could save some money here and there by getting a dirt cheap used car and expecting a thousand dollars or so of mechanic work every year, thus saving 4k. but never the less you will be incredibly cash strapped for the first 5 years out of grad school, and you won't be able to afford a house or a good sized apartment for at least 10 years.

    not to mention if anything comes up it will be practically impossible to get a loan while your tugging that amount of student debt, so you'd have to be good enough to always be employed and pray that you don't have kids anytime soon.

    granted that is a very long series of assumptions most of which downplay the circumstances for instance most loans are compounded monthly so the debt would have been higher than I mentioned, also I only took off 10k for taxes which is a few grand less than what you would actually pay in taxes on a postdoc salary.

    also after a couple of years you could be getting a professors salary and be making closer to 60k ( I don't know the statistics on this) which would ease the problem dramaticly, or you could go into industry which has significantly higher salaries.

    My point was merely to illustrate why someone would be unwilling to pay for grad school. And also why one should avoid debt like the plague.

    PS. as a note to everyone with sizeable amounts of student debt in the US, the Fed has cut interest rates by a couple of percent this year and it should be possible to get a consolidation loan this summer at a much lower interest rate than you pay now.

    ^just seemed relevant considering were talking about student debt.
  18. May 6, 2008 #17
    Well to summarize I decided not to attend NYU for the fall 08 semester. Instead I will be getting a job/internship for the year and retake my GRE'S for fall 09 which gives me time to brush up on my freshman year math :/. Thank you all for your input, I believe I will have a far better experience next application period since I'll have a better idea of what kind of application I can send in (last time I applied without knowing my GRE scores or letter of rec status).

    I must agree with most of the posters here, except some, that its highly suspect if a school doesnt at least in part fund higher education. Hell, I recieved far more financial aid (from the university) for my undergraduate education with far less credentials then I do now. With my current 15k debt and expected 60k-70k debt from attending NYU for 2 years it didnt seem like a wise decision when I could re-apply in a year and proabably be in a much better situation.

    Thanks Again.
  19. May 6, 2008 #18
    Thank you for this thread. It is very helpful and informative.

    Jordan Joab.
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