OT: Help/Advice with Grad School

Submitted by house of pain on April 24th, 2012 at 3:45 PM

I understand this is very off-topic, but I need another perspective. I was recently accepted to Graduate school at Temple University. I was also accpeted at a smaller state school west of Philadelphia but I have graduated with lots of debt from the loans I took out for the school I had received my BS.

My problem is that Temple is more than double the price of the other school but the education is definitely better. Since  I have to pay for this education on my own,  I will need more loans to cover the price of tution. I don't know if I should go the less expensive route to save me from huge amounts of debt or should I just simply go for the better education and hope it pays off. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



April 24th, 2012 at 3:48 PM ^

Less expensive. No one cares where you got your G degree, just that you have one. I went to a top G school, my coworker went to Walden and though I'm way smarter :) she makes the same. Kind of irks me but whatever.



April 24th, 2012 at 3:51 PM ^

I disagree.  It definitely matters, depending on what your program/major is.  An engineering degree from Michigan is not the same as an engineering degree from Western Michigan -- there are tons of employers that grovel to get into the Michigan career fair that won't even open an invitation from Western.


April 24th, 2012 at 5:04 PM ^

Temple is not Michigan.  If you aren't going to a top tier school in your field, every other program is more or less the same.  I would also think long and hard about paying top dollar to attend a school in a neighborhood about as safe as the worst part of detroit.


April 25th, 2012 at 8:32 AM ^

I have found it doesn't matter beyond the first job you get, after that no one cares where your degree came from, it is simply what did you do at your last job. I have done lots of interviews for positions over the years (engineering) and I could care less about which school you got a degree. I want to see how/what you did at your first job.

Blue in Yarmouth

April 25th, 2012 at 9:05 AM ^

I am involved in hiring where I work and know many people in other fields that do the same. What we all look for when we hire is that the person has a degree in a relevant field, not where that degree is from. 

If I had an applicant that took a G degree from UM and graduated with the same degree as a person from another (less prestigous) school and the one from the lesser school performed better from a grades perspective than the person from UM who do you think I would hire? If ALL things are equal (which they usually aren't) where the degree came from might play a role.

Think of it like a tie-breaker in sports...Two teams finish tied with points so how do we break the tie. There is a set process that employers undertake when that happens. They pretty much know that the people getting to the interview have equal degrees, so what's next? For us the grades the applicant achieved during their degree plays a big role, the interview scores very high, references play a role...only way down the list does where an person actually got their degree come into play. 

Listen, I get it, we all love UM. However, the idea that if you get a degree from UM or any other great school that it will magically get you jobs that you otherwise would have no business getting is absurd and I say that knowing what people look for when they hire. If you can get your degree for less money while working hard and performing better than others how got their degree from a "better" school I will tell you that you won't be held back because of where you got your degree. If you don't perform as well while attaining your degree...well that's a different story. 

My opinion is take the less expensive route so you won't be paying back your loans for the next half century and work your ass off so your grades during your degree will be better than those from other schools and you'll be laughing when it is all said and done.. 


April 25th, 2012 at 11:10 AM ^

Not sure what role you're hiring for, but I'm not sure this is true across the board. Students at less prestigious schools won't even get a look from many consulting firms or high finance roles.

This is probably true in some fields, but don't think you can make this wide a generalization. School definitely matters early in one's career, in my experience.


April 24th, 2012 at 3:50 PM ^

Is your field one in which a Temple degree is going to make you significantly more employable, so to speak, than a degree from the other school?  It seems to matter more in some professions than in others. 


April 24th, 2012 at 4:22 PM ^

Exactly the question I was going to ask.  If you're talking a "technical" profession like medicine, law, engineering (?), etc., a more prestigious degree may mean the difference of thousands of dollars.  You have to decide whether the increase in salary is enough to justify the increased borrowing.  On the other hand, if a degree from the "lesser" school will still put you in the same boat as a graduate from Temple, by all means choose the cheaper route!  School loans are a b-tch to pay off and they all but require you to take a job that might not be your favorite but that pays more to allow you to service the debt for the next 30 years . . .


April 24th, 2012 at 5:24 PM ^

You should try to look into Temple's record of placing their graduates in your field and compare it to the other school's. Statistically there is a strong correlation between people's salaries coming out of school and their salaries a decade or two later, so if Temple grads start out making on average (say) $5k a year more than Nameless U. grads, you would probably recoup the extra cost before too long.


April 24th, 2012 at 4:01 PM ^

I'd suggest you give more detail.

  • What graduate program?
  • What kind of salary range for the expected degree?
  • Is Temple better in reputation, or truly in education?
  • Is there a mentor professor at Temple or the other school who you want to spend a lot of time with?
  • Is there any loan forgiveness if you are in a human service field that rewards a commitment to serve an underserved aware for a certain number of years?

If your anticipated degree doesn't have the kind of salary with which you can pay off your debt, I would be very reluctant to go for the better education. On the other hand, in some programs, a single professor who is strong makes a huge difference. Even at Michigan, a select few professors in my field made a huge difference. Also, as mentioned by other posts above, some programs greatly increase your employability.

If you are in a field where you will likely be employed regardless of where you received your degree, and where your school choice won't greatly affect your salary, and where you will learn a lot of the same information, albeit at a lesser school, well, it would be hard for me to justify spending money you don't have and incurring loans you can't pay.


April 24th, 2012 at 4:06 PM ^

Do you want to work in PA after graduation? A Temple degree may give you more mobility, depending on the field you're in. A computer science graduate of Michigan may make the same amout of money as a computer science graduate of MSU if they both stay in Michigan, but the Michigan grad would have a much easier time landing a job in California than the MSU grad.  

Cville Blue

April 24th, 2012 at 4:01 PM ^

It depends on what the program is for and what you want to do in your career.
If, for instance, it is an education program just to certify you to teach, it doesn't make a huge difference.
If you are planning future grad work, or for other fields, prestige can make a huge difference.

a non emu

April 24th, 2012 at 4:03 PM ^

If it's engineering, the bigger/better your program is for the particular field the better. Also for engg programs it is possible to fund it by getting an RA/TA, and usually there are more opportunities for those at the larger schools with more research. Also, opens way more doors, and the student quality is better.


April 24th, 2012 at 4:06 PM ^

So many variables: Do you plan on working locally? Then the big school won't matter as much because if employers still know the local smaller school, hell maybe even they went there, they won't care where the degree came from and may prefer the smaller school degree?

What's your major? Are you going into a field that has lots of competition or do you have connections you'll have to use and your degree will matter less anyway?

Graduate high from the smaller one vs. graduating middle of the pack from the smaller one?



April 24th, 2012 at 5:31 PM ^

This definitely plays a role in the decision, or at least, it did in mine.

When I got into Eastern Michigan's MBA program, I already had the fortune of working for one of the region's larger employers, and in Southeast Michigan anyway, Eastern Michigan has a pretty good reputation as MBA programs go, but of course, it is not nearly up there in national circles like Michigan. Had I planned on going elsewhere in the country, I probably would not have gone to Eastern admittedly, but to be successful where I am at, this will more than suffice. 

If you're going to stay local, there are probably more options that will lead to similar success in the long term (since more than likely, you'll find connections to the less prominent school in a given field), but if you  plan on moving elsewhere, a school with an appropriately-sized reputation in your field of choice would definitely be the better bet. Mobility is definitely a consideration. 


April 24th, 2012 at 5:41 PM ^

Agree.  Reputation is everything.  This is what the decision should be based on IMO, because it's what's going to help determine whether or not it's worth it to pay the extra money.  Is the "smaller state school" well-thought-of in the Philly area?  Is that where you want to get a job?  If yes and yes, I see no point at all in paying the extra money.  I would echo those who say if you want to get a job anywhere in the country, a national name is important, but if you just want a job locally, a local name is fine.  This is the thinking that led me to UDM for my MBA, and so far, job-wise and everything else, it's worked out exactly like I wanted.

Mitch Cumstein

April 24th, 2012 at 4:10 PM ^

I would recommend getting a job now, pay off some, if not all of the debt, and then figure out if you still want to pursue a graduate degree.  Either that, or go for a PhD in a funded program (in other words find a way to go to school for free/get paid).   Unless you're going to med school or engineering or something that will allow you to definitely pay off the loans, I'd recommend against it.  Also, if going to school part time and working part time is an option look into that. 

You really don't want to finish a graduate degree and have no realistic way to pay off your loans. 

Mitch Cumstein

April 24th, 2012 at 4:20 PM ^

I was originally considering a masters, but realized that I could have my tuition covered and get a stipend for going the PhD route (basically being paid for research).  It took longer, and was very challanging, but I agree it was worth it to not have the cost attached.   I would recommend the OP look into options along this line.

Cville Blue

April 24th, 2012 at 9:10 PM ^

I've already said something similar, but I feel that I should add this. Finding a job for yourself related to your field has several advantages. Being able to pay for some or part of your tuition up front is obviously great. More importantly, when you finish you will not only have another degree, but also some relevant experience. It took me extra time to finish, but I also "paid my dues" in the workforce while finishing school. I also made connections in the field and through my grad program. The fact that they ended up overlapping was huge. Hope this helps.

house of pain

April 24th, 2012 at 4:13 PM ^

It's a MS in Kinesiology. With a certificate in Athletic Training. I'd like to stay in Philadelphia, after I graduate since it is in my comfort zone. But it isn't necessary. It is a very competitive field. It is a good tough decision to make.


April 24th, 2012 at 5:04 PM ^

from Temple vs. TOS (the other school)? By better, I don't necessairly mean more money, but a better starting path for your career? Also, how is the alumni network for your program in each school? Do the premier employers in Philly like one school vs. the other? What about the premier employers around the metro area?

I would suggest that Temple is likely a better fit, given the scale of the school and their athletic department. You just have to figure out how much more you will make in your first 3-7 years and see if it's worth it. After that, it'll likely be based on your experience vs. grad school.


April 24th, 2012 at 6:10 PM ^

I'm sure you know a lot more about how competitive the field is than I do, but FWIW, I've heard that the demand for athletic trainers is expected to steadily grow over the years, much like the majority of health care jobs. A big reason for this is because PTs and orthopedic surgeons are starting to incorporate ATs into their practices. Orthopedists, for instance, will hire ATs to do things like the initial patient interviews and physical exams in order to free up more of their time.

So if the exact type of athletic training job you want to do is a highly competitive one (such as working for a college or pro sports team) and Temple gives you a better shot at it, I'd probably go to Temple. But if you are interested in a type of AT job with higher demand, you might want to consider the cheaper school.


April 24th, 2012 at 8:12 PM ^

You can't bill for a trainer obtaining your history or physical.  Only the billing physician can obtain these to qualify for valid reimbursement under Medicare guidelines.

Trainers can be an extender for coverage at high school, middle school athletic events...but of limited clinical utility (AT's can't bill independently unlike physician assistants or nurse practictioners) in an office setting.

Physician, in an orthopaedic group.  We're hiring physical therapists like crazy, two of our orthos do high school game coverage, but we're not hiring trainers.


April 24th, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

Apply to grad school as an aid in a school that offers the program.

I was at Central Michigan and the TI were all in the masters program.  They taught and received their education for free.  Check programs out.

You don't need more debt because you are not in a high income tier career field.  Do anything you can to work at a college and get the classes for free.


April 24th, 2012 at 4:16 PM ^

Most academic programs will fund you and therefore cost nothing, so I'm guessing you're talking about a professional degree, in which case you've got a dilemma. JDs and MBAs are dime a dozen, so your employment opportunities will be vastly greater with a prestigious degree, but you need to balance that against expected debt/earnings ratio. More information would be helpful.


April 24th, 2012 at 4:23 PM ^

It depends as outlined by SRK.

This recommends that you go back to Temple and tell them of your dilemma. Ask them about the possibility of partial scholarship money.

It is good to have a choice.

Best of luck.


April 24th, 2012 at 4:25 PM ^

I actually attend Temple University and I would agree with the sentiments of the majority of the blogosphere. Obviously, it depends on the nature of your program as to attending at TU or a smaller state school.

It is a major issue about credibility of degree at the graduate level. If you are intending to do further grad work, work internationally or seek faculty work (for example) then the Temple degree is your better option (given your likely enhanced earning position). Some schools at Temple are going to offer you a much better return than a smaller local state school (i.e., Fox School of Business, Health Professions)

If these factors don't speak to you then a different school is probably more ideal. I can tell you that TU is certainly not inexpensive $1004 per hour right now but not as bad as some...

Feat of Clay

April 24th, 2012 at 4:27 PM ^

Loans suck.  They do.  While I was racking them up (for the few years of grad school when I had no funding) the total was pretty abstract to me.  It wasn't real.  And honestly, my loan total wasn't that high. 

But then my family went through some job changes and now that payment every month is a lifestyle-dampener.  Unless you're pretty certain that the Temple cachet will make an impact on your career, why add to your loan burden?


April 24th, 2012 at 4:28 PM ^

It shows how much respect and intelligence there is on this board. I just recently turned down a school due to not receiving funding, even though it probably means needing to apply again next year. I know what you're going through and wish you luck.

Magnum P.I.

April 24th, 2012 at 4:57 PM ^

There's a growing higher-education bubble that, in the very near future, will be as destructive to individuals and to the larger economy as the recent housing bubble was. Too many young people still have the mentality that grad school is a safe harbor, when in reality it's often just the opposite. Can't figure out what to do with your life? Shoot, I'll go to law school! I know a lot of MA/MS/JDs making $35K a year with $100,000 in loans. You know how long it takes to pay that off in that scenario? Institutions of higher ed know that they're selling a bill of goods with a lot of graduate programs right now, but they have no choice if they want to stay afloat. The whole system is in for a shock, though, soon.