Pursuing a graduate degree has increasingly become a worthy investment and, sometimes, a requirement. A 2014 estimate said that jobs that required graduate degrees were expected to rise by 21.7 percent through 2020. Graduate degrees “provide substantial returns, on average, irrespective of the field,” says Andrew Hanson, a senior research analyst at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
In November of last year, the New York Times published an article titled “The Disappearing American Grad Student”, which discussed that the makeup of graduate programs in the United States was shifting towards a composition of majority international students. Nick Wingfield points out that more American college graduates are entering the workforce directly and viewing graduate degrees as superfluous to achieving their primary career goals, but of particular interest is his comment that, for some students, “the price is just too high when they have so much student debt already.”
The Wall Street Journal pointed out last March that as of 2015, some 47,000 U.S. graduate students were pursuing degrees abroad, a hefty increase from previous years. It might have something to do with the fact that graduate degrees, such as Master’s degrees, are desired in the job marketplace, but that the average tuition rate at a public university is $30,000. Before considering living costs, factor in that many advanced degrees still require a one and a half to two year-long duration of study. So let’s make that figure look more like $60,000. Now factor in two years of living costs, say in the upper range of most on-campus housing plans, $10,000 (x2) = $20,000. Better hope that degree is worth $80,000, in addition to whatever student loans you may have already amassed as an undergraduate. It’s important to keep in mind that these are very rough estimates, and the cost of postgraduate degree is going to depend on several factors including an individual’s savings, (hopefully) scholarship offers, whatever the Free Application for Federal Student Aid decides you and your family should be able to contribute to the cost of your education (with little regard to any debt your family may already be struggling with) based upon yours and your parents income, tax information, etc.
With a scholarship for 30 percent of tuition, attending Boston University for three semesters was estimated to cost me around $80,000, and place me about $110,000 total in debt to the United States Government by the time I graduate with my masters degree. In comparison, the tuition for the University College of Dublin is around €18,000 ($23,000). Factor in a small international scholarship, as well as the cost of room and board on-campus for the year long duration, around $35,000, excluding the initial airfare. To cross the Atlantic Ocean, and live another country for a year costs me less than half of what staying in the United States to attend an out of state university would. Granted, these are not the same exact programs, are not the same duration, and yes, staying in state is cheaper. Fact is, I am beyond excited, as I’ve been in love with Ireland since my first visit to the country nearly four years ago. I am looking forward to my program of choice and the doors it may open for me to continue my immersion in humanitarian work and journalism, but part of me is also angry that it is more affordable for me to separate myself from everyone I know for a year, forego seeing my parents so as not to add plane tickets to the cost of attendance, etc. all in order to get a degree that half of the world is telling me is necessary without wondering if selling my kidneys or eggs is a viable way to start making loan repayments so I can ditch them before I’m forty.
Let’s consider the case of some of the top universities in the world. The cost of attending Harvard University is around $46,000-47,000 in Tuition, while the cost of Oxford came in at around $11,000. It’s a hefty disparity that leaves many students feeling cheated or undervalued by their government and schools, but the root causes are varied and may be less transparent than they appear.
I’m not telling you to pack your bags and get ready to ditch the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, the first chance you get. If you’re at the place where you either feel that you need to attend graduate school to further your career, or that you just love what you do and want to continue your research, however, perhaps consider looking beyond national borders. Especially if cost is likely going to be one of the deciding factors for you. Don’t forget to look at which degrees transfer, depending on your field, as different areas of study may value an international degree more than others, and take travel costs into consideration. But if you’re in a position to look at gaining a graduate degree for less, or even for free, it could be an invaluable opportunity, both to get a degree and experience living abroad.
Student Loan Hero and the New York Times’ article may be a good place to start if going overseas is something you are considering.