My Daughter’s Boyfriend’s $84K Master's Loan Offer

When the goal of high-quality/low-cost online degree programs gets personal.

May 19, 2021

My older daughter’s boyfriend plans to get his master’s degree. His goal is to work in the area of public policy or politics -- public service/mission-driven work to support a progressive agenda. A master’s is critical for career mobility in his field.

In watching his application process unfold, I’ve been amazed by the financial side of master’s programs.

This is a young person who will be supporting himself through grad school. He is entering a good profession, one that he is well suited for. But his is not a career path that will make anyone wealthy.

Below is one of the award packages that he was offered.

What this "award package" amounts to is $84,773 in debt. (He turned them down.)

This particular school is expensive. Private. Located in an urban area. A high-quality master’s program.

Creating impactful, transformative and immersive educational programs is incredibly expensive. Having professors who are writing the books, and are networked into professional circles, is a highly positive advantage for students.

Quality is costly. I want the very best educational programs possible -- including master’s programs.

Looking at this award package, however, I can’t help but wonder if there is a better way.

The reality of master’s programs is that most awards are loans. There is little in the way of tuition discounting, scholarships and need-based assistance available in most master’s programs.

The growth of master’s debt is a trend that I’ve written about in the past. In that piece, I wondered if schools from across the postsecondary ecosystem should be prioritizing the investigation of low-cost scaled online graduate programs.

Is a master’s program in a non-high-income-earning profession worth going $84,00 in debt?

Can you imagine higher ed making an ecosystemwide pivot to lower-cost online programs?

What would be lost if we made that change?

Is it possible to construct the immersive and transformative master’s program that $87,000 buys you within the limitations of a $30,000 degree?

Who is leading the charge to create high-quality but affordably priced master’s degrees?


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