The Real Cost of Grad School

I am deep in the thick of my third semester of coursework that will, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, lead to a doctoral degree in higher education administration. I am a part of a cohort of students who are typically already working in the field and who are part-time students. Some of the cohort are lucky enough that they get some level of tuition remission from their home institutions. I am not so lucky (though my work is very supportive in terms of time off to attend school, which is no small thing) and am, aside from a small scholarship, paying for school myself.

As I type this tonight, I am sitting in a hotel room, where I have decided to camp out for the next two nights in order to get caught up on school work. I have been struggling with procrastination this semester and have not been managing my time well. I keep thinking I’ll get work done at night after the kids go to bed or over my lunch hour at work, but I don’t. So here I am, away from my family for a few nights, up to my intellectual elbows in Victor Turner and liminality. Good times.

When I checked in this afternoon, I had a brief moment of thinking “hmm, this is one of the grad school expenses they never tell you about…” and then I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out what this whole nerdy exercise has cost me so far. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (I attend a public university):

– tuition: about $12,000

– fees, fees and more damn fees: Nearly $1000, I think? Between online fees and technology fees and “student you are alive and breathing and we charge you for that” fees, it adds up fast.

– books: $700. I’ve lucked out to get some books from folks who are ahead of me in the process. I have paid for a least one book that I never cracked the spine of because I just didn’t get all the reading done. This delights me as much as you might imagine.

– gas, lunches and snacks: $450-500. My program is about a 45 minutes drive away and tends to have classes that meet all day, so I usually end up needing lunch and regular Diet Coke infusions to make it through.

– hotels: $200…so far. I’m anticipating more in this category, especially when it is time to write the dissertation.

– retail and actual therapy: $500..so far. I’ve been struggling with some anxiety lately and have been using a three prong approach (Target, Zulily and trained professionals) to deal with it. It is getting better but I did have to unsubscribe myself from some online shopping websites because I was straying a little far from our budget and entering into the territory where I was concerned I might be spending enough to actually have to have uncomfortable conversations with my husband about the number of boxes arriving in the mail. I don’t like uncomfortable conversations.

– school supplies: $25. I like pretty folders.

I am about halfway through this program so let’s do the math on what the total will be…actually, let’s not. It will just make me want to go to Target.

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2 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Grad School

  1. Gretchen says:

    Not that it makes it OK, but I think you can blame the winter for part of the spending. I’m not normally big on retail therapy but have been shopping online quite a bit lately and impulse-bought myself a Kindle Fire during the worst of my cabin fever. The truth is nice things can give you a little lift, unfortunately! Good luck!

  2. Jesabes says:

    This makes me glad I never added up the cost of my masters (at ISU while working and living in WDM). Obviously it would be less than a doctoral degree, but still.

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