A PhD student at a top program writes:
I'm finishing up the 2nd year of a program that I expect to finish in 5 years total. I'm married; we've got a young child; and we'd like to have another in the next couple years. As an undergrad, I took out about $15,000 in student loans (which, as I understand things, is about average). But for each of my first 2 years of grad school, I've had to take out a HUGE loan. My wife is well educated and could work a full-time job, but if she were to do so, we'd have to pay for child care. Decent child care is absurdly expensive in this area (and extremely difficult to come by); and even if we could afford it, we'd rather avoid it (for personal reasons). So she works a part-time job, and stays at home during the days with our child. So it's looking like I'll have to take out yet another HUGE loan this summer (and, if conditions remain the same, the summer after that and the summer after that). And by the time I actually earn the Ph.D., we could be looking at student loan debt well into the six figures. I'm at a wonderful, highly-respected program, so I'm confident (relatively speaking) that I'll find a job. But then, from what I hear, my starting gross yearly income might be LESS THAN HALF of what I owe in student loans. I've always heard that student loan debt is "good debt," especially if you're in grad school, but that no longer makes me feel any better.
My questions are these: Is this anywhere close to normal (for other grad students similar situations - married, with children, etc.)? Should I be thinking about possible new career paths, or will that sort of student loan debt be manageable as a philosopher? Any idea what sort of monthly payments I'll have to make?
I'd really, really appreciate hearing some advice, testimony, etc., from others around the discipline ... and I imagine that there are many other grad students that could benefit from such a discussion.
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