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Pun intended. Money is a huge consideration when deciding whether or not to go into a graduate program and subsequently which program to attend; it can be a major source of stress and anxiety. As artists we cannot (typically) count on a big payday immediately after graduating to pay back loads of student loans. I have seen MFA students graduate only to go back to unrelated jobs similar to those they had before graduate school because of the pressures of looming student loan payments. Doing so can cause those graduates to lose the momentum gained through their thesis work and leaves them with massive debt and a fading dream of getting back into the art world. Planning ahead before you decide on a program will help you to stay on top of your finances and better serve the education and future career you are literally investing in.
In Part I of this discussion I will break down expected costs:
Add up all of these costs within the timespan of a year. Create a financial picture of each university you are considering by adjusting the expenses that vary by location such as tuition and rent. Subtract any funding you have received, hope to receive or need to receive in order to attend that program. For a two-year program, multiply the total number by two and for a three-year program by three. You may be surprised by the numbers you come up with! Once you have all of this information in one place you will be able to use it to create a budget in conjunction with your income or loans once you decide on a program.
Part II of Financial Breakdown will discuss the various ways you can pay for these expenses. And, as always, I welcome and encourage comments below!
You might see if the school of your choice offers any graduate assistantships. Some institutions will let you teach a beginning class for a small salary. You might look to some part-time evening work to supplement your finances. You should think about what you will be doing after you get your graduate degree. What expenses will you have then? There are some government loans that are not too bad, offering longer pay back and less interest. Sharing housing can cut costs. If you can keep your total expenses on the lower end, you will find life a bit easier later on. Nevertheless, just any old graduate program may not pay off as well. Look for the one that will take your craft to the highest level possible and open doors to further success. Otherwise, two or three years in a lesser quality institution may be a waste. If you are absolutly certain that you want to be in the craft/art field, then a quality graduate program will pay off in the long run. There are so many variables to consider, but I wish you all the best.
Thank you for your response, Tom. I will address some financing options like assistantships in Part II of the post. Great points about saving money and also the quality of the program you decide on. I will be sure to delve into that point in Part II. A good quality program can absolutely be worth the extra financial investment.