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Reasonable debt load for a terminal masters program?

Discussion in 'Mental Health and Social Welfare' started by futureapppsy2, May 12, 2014.

  1. futureapppsy2

    futureapppsy2 Assistant professor Moderator Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Dec 25, 2008
    I've gotten this question from my students from time to time, and I never know what to say, beyond the obvious "less debt is better." So, what do you think is a reasonable amount of debt for a terminal masters degree in counseling or social work? What should be the absolute high end? 40k? 50k? Lower? Higher?
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  3. wesleysmith

    wesleysmith LLMSW 2+ Year Member

    Apr 10, 2014
    With the difference between instate, out of state, private, and public, that's kind of a loaded question.From all the programs I looked into (in state, public) 30-40,000 seems reasonable...ish.

    EDIT: An example of a highly ranked university:
    - Instate: $40,000.00
    - Out of State: $72,000.00
  4. Goobernut

    Goobernut LMSW 5+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2012
    You can get a decent masters from several state universities for under $30,000 instate tuition. This will obviously be more in some states, and it's less at my current university. This is not figuring room and board.

    I always give people the "don't take on more school debt than you expect to make in a year" speech -- despite how much their desired program is. Remind them to consider their undergrad debt too.

    I would personally say that $50,000 is pushing the upper limit. I've heard Washington State (?) and one of the Denver universities are great programs, but are in-between $80,000 and $90,000. Forgive me if I'm off a little on my numbers/names, it's been a year since I was searching. In my opinion that was too much to ask for a career that only starts at $40,000 (if that).
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
  5. socwrkr

    socwrkr 2+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2010
    I tell people not to exceed 45 or 50k if you're going to use student loans. Beyond this, and the repayment can be quite high. I say this because social worker salaries out of grad school typically start around 40 or 45k; maybe low 60's if working in corrections. No need to go for degrees from expensive, big-named universities, unless you're rich. But then, I wonder how many rich people go for MSW's? I think a class in student loan debt, the social work job market, and financial management should be required by the CSWE for all social work programs in order to be accredited; this would fall under advocacy. I've seen too many grads overestimating their prospects in the job market and as a result taking on more debt than can be justified by their income.
  6. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator Psychologist Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    I would agree with this. I might be remembering it incorrectly, but I think the typical advice for student loans in general is to try not to exceed your expected early career initial annual salary.
  7. erg923

    erg923 Regional Clinical Officer, Cenpatico National 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    not more than you can reasonably be expected to earn in your first few years. For a practice oriented masters, probably 40k tops. Preferably 15-20K
  8. R. Matey

    R. Matey

    Jul 15, 2014
    Western Washington University in Bellingham. Yes, it is a good program.

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