The following is another installment for the Anthropologies/Savage Minds issue on Student Debt.
Well, it’s that time of year when prospective grad students around the country are anxiously pacing around their mailboxes waiting for responses from all the PhD programs they applied to. Many are wondering who accepted them, who rejected them, and, of course, if they got funding. That’s the big question. Getting a full-funding offer is the highest mark of acceptance and application success. It’s like getting the golden seal of academic and departmental approval. It means you’re in.
Getting accepted without a funding offer is a not-so-wonderful middle ground. Like getting a happy-face sticker that says “Great Job!” when you really needed a paycheck. It feels sort of like acceptance, but there’s something hollow about it. A lot of people decide to enter PhD programs without funding, thinking that at least it gets them in the door. If they happen to have piles of extra money on hand, or family support, or a full-time job, or maybe even a partner who is working, it might be a reasonable choice. Might being a key word there. But many people simply don’t have access to those kinds of financial resources. In these post-economic crash, disintegration-of-the-university-as-we-knew-it times, I think more students need to seriously reconsider entering PhD programs without full funding. Why? Because it doesn’t make any sense to go into debt trying to get a PhD in anthropology (let alone plenty of other disciplines). Sarah Kendzior said it best on twitter not too long ago:
Do not do a PhD program unless you are guaranteed full funding for every year. Use the system, don't let it use you.— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) January 13, 2014