Students debate adequacy of grad school funding
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
In the upcoming weeks, hopeful undergraduates will hear back from various graduate admissions offices, telling where students will continue their studies. Though students of all fields apply to graduate schools, senior English major Sarah Meadows said not all fields of study are created equally in financial terms.
Meadows, who plans on going to graduate school for a certificate of business essentials and a master’s degree in business administration, said she is waiting to hear back from schools and is unsure of how she will finance her degree. Receiving little to no financial assistance, Meadows said it is likely she will need to work and take out loans unless she gets a campus work study job. From her observations, she said she noticed that other majors are more likely to receive funding.
“I think some areas probably get more aids and scholarships, especially women engineers,” she said.
Although Meadows said she thinks financial aid that students receive depends on the field of study they pursue, Louise Bank, director of graduate admissions, stated in an email message this is not necessarily the case.
At a time of nationwide financial stress, Bank said all universities are distributing less money to graduate students across the board.
“All students, regardless of field, are finding it difficult to stay in their programs related to the economic climate,” Bank said.
Though Meadows is unsure of how she will fund graduate school, she said the cost has not deterred her from applying since she believes it will help her in the job market.
“Regardless of whether or not you can pay it, students should at least look into graduate schools,” she said.
The application process for graduate school is easily one of the most stressful experiences in life, senior Leanne Keller, who is applying to Ph.D. programs for clinical psychology, said.
“Every stage is more complex, applying, visiting and waiting for responses is not the same for graduate school,” Keller said. “They can be very selective; some programs will only take 15 of 650 applicants.”
Keller has applied to 15 graduate schools, and is still waiting to hear back from a few of them before making her final decision. Application fees alone have cost between $1,500 and $2,000 for Keller.
The programs that Keller has looked into for clinical psychology are fully funded because of the additional work students take on, such as work for a lab at the same time as taking courses for forty or so hours a week.
Though graduate schools are competitive and costly, Keller said they are worth it in the long run.
“It’s worth the money because once it’s paid off, you’re only making money from then on,” Keller said.
The disparity between students applying to graduate school for humanities, and those applying for math, science, or engineering is a big assumption that is not necessarily true across the board, Bank said.
If anything, Bank said the only students who may be seeing funding inequalities are those students in interdisciplinary fields.
Katelyn Ludwig, a senior at State University of New York at Geneseo, is majoring in biological chemistry and applying for Ph.D. programs in the field.
Each Ph.D. program has offered a stipend ranging between $22,000 and $28,000, depending on the cost of living in the area, Ludwig said. Most programs require teaching assistant duties with the stipend but health insurance is included in the financial award and the cost of tuition is waived.
Ludwig called the application process “stressful but manageable.”
“Many of the applications had a lot of overlap, and I tweaked my personal statement to fit each program instead of writing a new essay for each,” Ludwig said. “Professors also easily changed their letters to match each school.”
After submitting applications, Ludwig visited the schools, which covered travel, lodging and food expenses, to attend five or six interviews at each.
Ludwig said she choose the seven schools to which she applied based on her interest in the universities’ research. Since she has gained admission into six programs and is waiting to hear back from one school, she said she is still undecided but her top choices are University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas and Notre Dame University.
“I have already visited UT Southwestern and got a good feeling from the campus, and I’m visiting Notre Dame University this weekend to see the campus and talk with the faculty,” Ludwig said.
Senior Jess Kradjel, a psychology major, is applying to School Psychology Educational Specialist programs, which are three-year programs to gain certification to work as a school psychologist. The application process has been exhausting and expensive, though not unlike the procedure for undergraduate applications, she stated in an email message.
Kradjel said tailoring her applications for each school was time-consuming and stressful.
“During the process last fall, there were times when I wished I had taken a year off before applying just because there were never enough hours in the day to get my school work done and work on my applications,” Kradjel said.
Kradjel has so far been accepted into half of the six schools to which she applied, but most have not committed to granting her scholarships or financial aid.