The Dispiriting Realism of the “Manageable Debt Load” Calculator

June 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

I had a major stress fest a few weeks ago, induced by a late scholarship offer from a top-choice school that I had completely written off as too expensive. After a few days spent aimlessly freaking out, I finally started crunching numbers, based on the financial aid office’s estimated costs and a couple of online student debt calculators.

The best calculator I found was FinAid’s Student Loan Advisor, which uses your field of study to tailor your estimated starting salary and show whether the necessary repayments would be realistic for you.

Using the calculator, I realized that even with the scholarship and part-time work during school, I would be paying back something near $11,000 every year for 10 years — a financial risk that I am not willing to take. Fortunately, I have another perfectly good (and much cheaper) choice, so things aren’t so bad.

I’m a little bumbed that my final decision came down to a consideration of cash, but at the same time, there are so many unknowable variables in the graduate school search — will I really like the faculty? will I get along with my classmates? what will the work load be like? will I get enough out of the courses? how much better will my job prospects really be? — that it was comforting to have a cut-and-dry choice in the end.

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