The world (i.e., society) loves to tell us how we should live, you know? Graduate high school, get a good degree, get married, build a home with a white picket fence, go back to school AGAIN for a Master’s degree, get a better job, build a bigger home with a fancier fence a.k.a. the world loves for us to get elite master’s degrees.
The thing is, that’s just usually… not what happens.
See, in just the United States, Americans owe more than $1.71 trillion dollars in federal student loan debt — cumulatively, significantly more than ALLLLL of the United States credit card debt.
But, a lot of people don’t just have federal student loan debt, either — they have private student loan debt, too. A statistic actually shows that a whopping 75% of students graduating from so-called “elite” private schools (many of which are supposed to be nonprofit) carry student debt. American students owe a collective $132 billion (if not more) to private lenders.
Combine that $132 billion with $1.71 trillion, and you’re standing in a truly insurmountable pile of debt — a very real existence for a lot of those people who tried to follow the so-called plan of attack for Americans: go to college, take out loans, and then go back to college for an elite master’s degree, and take out more.
So where’s the disconnect? Why are Americans taking on financial burdens for degrees that may not even pay off?
Let’s dive in. 👇
3 Things You Didn’t Know About Elite Master’s Degrees
When it comes to elite master’s degrees, we’re talking about schools that have been dominating America’s idea of the “elite” for years and years. Think 〰️ Harvard. Columbia. NYU. Penn. Cornell. These master’s degrees programs have a way of sounding dreamy ☁️ to academics and students looking to further their education, too.
They promise a world that opens up further post-grad, they sound great on paper, and they really seem promising. Honestly, I almost fell into this trap as well. Tying my worth to post-grad, badly want to feel accepted by my peers and family. 😖😖
Master’s degrees in things like social work, literature, and film excite post-bac students looking to further their education. The reality, though? Those elite master’s degrees often serve little purpose besides hanging on the wall.
1. Elite master’s degrees don’t always return your investment.
An article from the Wall Street Journal reports that recent film grads from Columbia (i.e., master’s degrees in Film Studies) ended up with a median debt of $181,000. After graduation, though — 2 years later — half of those people weren’t even cracking $30,000 annual salaries.
That’s borderline insurmountable debt, and it serves no purpose. While a lot of those film grads hold elite master’s degrees from a fancy school, they also hold insanely high monthly payments to pay back a degree that didn’t elevate their own salaries in the slightest.
2. Elite schools often go hand in hand with massive debt.
Elite schools have almost always cost more than state schools, and — depending on where students pursued high school and the families they came from — elite schools offered a promise of a better education with better name recognition. However, those elite schools aren’t necessarily better than state schools… they just have a really great PR strategy.
While the payoff for some programs may be higher post-grad from certain elite, private schools, they don’t guarantee a better education. However, the pull of a degree from an elite school sounds irresistible to many grads… something that continues along to grad school.
In fact, those master’s program students tend to end up with debt around $50,000 (at a minimum), and a lot of those degrees aren’t for things like MBAs, JDs, MDs and the like — instead, they’re in fields like film and literature and social work. And, while film and literature and social work are just as valid and as important as MBAs and JDs and MDs, they rarely have the same payoff or salary… regardless of what elite schools and programs will tell you.
3. Master’s degree programs are largely unregulated.
Elite master’s degree programs have come under fire big-time in the last few years, and a big part of that fire comes from the blatant unregulation around them. Wondering what we mean by that? Well, in the US, bachelor’s degree programs essentially have to be four-year programs. However, master’s degree programs don’t.
In fact, some schools — like Columbia — offer things like 10-month programs that cost a truly insane amount of money for career-focused master’s programs (like journalism). Pair that with unlimited student loan options, and elite master’s degree programs across the country are saddling grad students with whopping amounts of debt just because they want to.
So, let’s flip the script.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a master’s degree, okay? There isn’t, especially if it’s something you’re approaching because you genuinely *will* have a solid return on your investment. However, if you’re jumping into things like elite master’s degree programs just to hope you may earn some more money, you can do better.
See, you can make oodles of money without a degree from Harvard hanging on your wall. You don’t need a 10-month program in journalism to be good at your job. You don’t have to go back to school because you’re worried about how you’re going to make money in the here and the now. There are *much* better ways to approach life than taking out $50,000 for a piece of paper.
How about you set yourself up for your future in a different way?
Regardless of what people (and professors) have told you, you don’t need an elite master’s degree. It’s not necessary for you to graduate with a mountain of debt and spend the next 30 years trying to crawl out from underneath it. Instead, you can truly start to make money in a way that works for YOU. Invest. Save. Be smart about your finances. Then, while your college roommate is trying to pay off $86,000 by waiting tables at night, you can be patting yourself on the back for skipping out on the elite master’s degree and taking a better chance on yourself instead.
If you want to take a better chance on yourself, apartment syndication is our very fave way. With a not-so-huge investment ( a lot less than an elite master’s degree) and an almost guaranteed ROI — and then some! — apartment syndication can *actually* help you build wealth. No 8 AM lectures required!