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What is a reasonable amount of debt to go into for undergrad.

  1. Dec 9, 2011 #1
    For someone planning on going on to 4 years of grad school.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2011 #2
    Low as possible? Depends on the degree.

    Find the list of jobs that people getting that degree get. Weight it by population. Find the net present value for each of those jobs. Calculate the expected NPV for the degree.

    Do the same for the jobs you'd get with no degree, and maybe with other degrees.

    Use one ore more baselines to calculate the net present value of the debt you could reasonably take on for each of your choices.

    There's a lot missing there, but that should get you started.

    OR, you could just take on a massive debt load, get a crummy 30k/yr job and then cry about it later. That seems a popular option, too.
  4. Dec 9, 2011 #3
    Does 10K with the intention of a nuclear engineering ScD sound ok?
  5. Dec 9, 2011 #4


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    I don't think students should go into debt at all for an education. But, in my rosey world, parents start saving for education as soon as they have a child, teenagers get jobs to save their own money for education, undergraduate students get full time jobs for 1/3 of every year and work part time while they are studying, and students seek out and apply for all scholarships and busaries for which they are qualified.

    In reality I know that all of these don't always happen and it's not always the student's fault. Thus in some situations, debt is a necessary evil. You have to figure out the balance in those situations. If you can limit your student debt to under $10k, you're in a good position.
  6. Dec 9, 2011 #5
    0$ is the reasonable amount of debt upon graduation. If you can't get scholarships or funding then work like crazy during summers to pay for tuition at the start of semesters. If you can't find a decent paying job to pay off the debt at the beginning of the semesters then don't go until you've saved up enough.
  7. Dec 9, 2011 #6
    I know a girl who made $3 an hour (moved here from vietnam without knowing about our wage laws) and has paid for her education all by herself, keep in mind international students pay about 5.5x as much as we do. If she can do it, so can you.

    Dont be dependent on the government to pay for you, if you can depend on yourself you can do anything
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
  8. Dec 10, 2011 #7
    Woopy, you're going to have to be more specific than that. Did she go to a state university? Did she get scholarships?Did she live with her parents in the town she went to college? Assuming she works 8 hours a day every single day and makes $3/hr we get ($3/hr)(8hr/day)(365 day/year)=($8760/year). That is simply not enough for most state universites and that is making some serious assumptions about her work time and ignoring school work time. Assuming $4,000 tuiton she can do it financially, but that seems implausible considering it leaves out book costs, housing costs and food costs. Oh and 5.5x as much? Ok so take ($4,000)(5.5)=$22,000, and now that is simply not happening unless she is getting some serious scholarships. Even if she worked 12 hours a day she would still only be to $12,816 so somewhere your figures are wrong or the information is misleading.
  9. Dec 10, 2011 #8
    community college, $7000 a year tuition. She lives here alone and came here at age 19 and has no family here (they have no money to send her either), which means everything is completely paid for herself (living, food, absolutely everything). No scholarships, no student loans, no financial aid, absolutely nothing. She didn't start going to school because she didn't even have $7000 to pay for the first year, so she worked for a year and a half before even starting to go to school.

    And admittedly she wasn't working for $3/hr forever, that was for the first 6 months or so until she learned about wage laws, now earning about $9/hr and works 5 different jobs.

    I pay around $1200 a year for school, the point im making is if she can do it on an international student tuition, this guy can do it too on an american citizen tuition. She is studying electrical engineering too, so it's not some sort of cakewalk major
  10. Dec 10, 2011 #9
    However, the argument that "if X is [something] and can do Y, then Z can also do Y because Z is much better off than X" is not a valid argument.

    You do not know what the OP's life is like. Maybe the OP can't work 5 jobs, or can't work for 1 1/12 years before starting school ( I know I couldn't).
  11. Dec 10, 2011 #10
    as long as it doesn't come out of my paycheck to pay for someone else's education, its fine with me. Unfortunately, money is coming out of my check to pay for someone elses education. This person could also be someone majoring in psychology (useless) and then dropping out, just a waste of other people's money.

    If you want to be self sufficient and disciplined, then you will pay your way through college. If you have the determination to do these things, no engineering degree will stop you from achieving it, because unless you've been at the bottom you don't know what its really like.

    Thats my motivational speech

    edit: if you cant pay for university, go to community college first, it is extremely cheap
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2011
  12. Dec 10, 2011 #11
    The answer of "as little as possible" always applies. You can pay for it now, or you can pay more for it later, but you are going to pay somehow.

    I paid for my own degree by working during the day and going to school at night. Work offered financial assistance that was comparatively pitiful. It paid for my textbooks, and that's about all. I was grateful for every bit of it, but I really wasn't looking for handouts. I took longer and I worked very hard at both work and school. My social life was pretty meager, but I survived. I didn't go to school to socialize, but to learn something.

    You can do it. It's not easy, but it can be done. And afterward, you're free to pursue your interests as a single person ready to take on the world.

    I'd have never been able to afford to get a private pilot license and instrument rating if I had been saddled with lots of school debt.
  13. Dec 11, 2011 #12
    As Locrian mentioned, I think if you're going to borrow you should use a little finance to figure out what you can afford. If you have your loan terms and interest rate, you can at least get a really quick approximation of how much you'll pay each month using a present value calculation. Excel has a nice set of functions you can use to help yourself figure this out.

    Anyway, definitely figure out how much you might be able to stomach in the future if you're going to borrow. Otherwise, you might wind up taking on more than you can ever afford.
  14. Dec 11, 2011 #13
    I've heard the only safe amount of debt to take on, is the amount you can pay back within one year with the job you have.
  15. Dec 12, 2011 #14
    Well I have no savings and my parents are contributing nothing. I get ~16.5K/year in scholarships with the total cost of living and tuition at ~18K/year. I'm also doing a couple of summer sessions in order to complete my degree on time. So I'm expecting 10K in debt when I'm done. Should I bug my research mentor to give me some money on the side if he gets additional funding? Some students at my school make 3K/semester for their research contributions.
  16. Dec 12, 2011 #15


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    Out of curiosity, why don't you get a part-time job to make up the difference?
  17. Dec 12, 2011 #16
    There are state and nationally funded grants for scientific research at the under grad level, ask your school if they sponsor any.
  18. Dec 12, 2011 #17


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    But I live in a country where higher education is cheap and (theoretically) accessible to all. I think the US system is messed up.

    So, the minimum possible amount for a decent education.
  19. Dec 12, 2011 #18
    move to norway its free
  20. Dec 13, 2011 #19
    Well I'm doing summer classes and I take 17-18 credits a semester and do research + multiple clubs so I barely have any free time. But I think it would be a good idea to try to slip in a minimum wage job in the summer to lessen the total so I'll consider that suggestion.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  21. Dec 13, 2011 #20


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    So really it's a question of balance then. It's important to do all of those things. It's even important to have some free time. But they all come with an opportunity cost.

    Is it so important to do research every summer of your degree that you end up going into debt because of it? Is it so important to do classes in the summer? How much do you get out of each club that you belong to? The answer is different for everyone.
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