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Unemployment, loan debt make graduate degrees less appealing to some

With unemployment still unsteady and student loan debt at its highest ever, students are questioning whether graduate school is a benefit or a burden.

Rebekah Alexander, Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences assistant director of admissions and financial aid, said despite the cost and job market difficulties, a number of students find graduate school necessary.

“More and more people are coming into this school with debt but feeling that they need to get the Ph.D. in order to teach someday in the academic arena,” she said. “It’s [graduate school is] a necessary evil.”

The average student loan debt was $26,600 per borrower for seniors who graduated in 2011, according to Oct. 18 statistics released by The Institute for College Access & Success.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders and higher over the age of 25 was 3.8 percent in October, according to a Nov. 2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics release. The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate for October was 7.9 percent, according to Nov. 7 Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

For the 2012-13 academic year, the tuition for full-time GRS students was $42,400, according to the GRS website.

Andrew Linscott, a School of Theology Admissions Officer, said many students benefit from attaining a degree.

“A lot of students are applying here to go into professional ordain ministry in which case the credential is actually required for most denominations, so in that sense its a very practical graduate degree,” he said.

Linscott said a number of graduate students are attaining a graduate degree to make a change after spending time in the workplace.

“We have a significant amount [of students] who are several years out of school, have worked a little bit,” he said. “We also have a lot of second-career folks, people who have been in the job market for anywhere from 10 to 20 years who have decided upon a career change, who are also studying here.”

While the post-college employment climate may be difficult, a number of students said a graduate degree will be advantageous.

Eric Falde, a third-year biomedical engineering graduate student, said a graduate

degree will help him find a job.

“I actually did a co-op during my undergrad and worked at a biotech company for

six months,” he said. “I saw the not very great jobs that engineers with bachelor’s

[degrees] got and that was a final ticker that convinced me that I wanted to go to

grad school.”

Bekah Heath, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman, said cost is a huge factor but worth the benefit of a graduate degree.

“A lot of times people think that having just an undergraduate education is going to get you a job,” she said. “These days it’s just hard enough to get a job with that [undergraduate degree], so I think personally for me it’s very important that I get one [a graduate degree].”

Jana Levin, a College of Communication junior, said she does not intend to attend graduate school.

“I’m definitely not going to get myself into that much debt at 22 years old,” she said.

She said she does not believe graduate school is worth the cost.

“A lot of jobs these days, you don’t necessarily need another degree, but they want experience, like internships,” Levin said. “Other than the jobs that are necessary to have graduate school, I don’t really think it’s worth it to come out with a debt like that.”

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