Should I Go to Grad School?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jessica Loudis, a writer and editor based in New York, is co-editor of Should I Go to Grad School?: 41 Answers to An Impossible Question (Bloomsbury USA, 2014). Joining her are David Levine, an artist based in New York and Berlin, and Michelle Orange, a writer and editor, who are contributors to the book. They discuss whether grad school makes sense for the humanities, given the time and money involved.


David M. Levine, Jessica Loudis and Michelle Orange

Comments [22]

Ah, but it IS VERY relevant to the choice of "more school or jump into the shark waters now", Arty boy. And kids, including the guests today by their own admission, weigh this all the time.

.... and as to your defense of Little Barry ("You didn't build that ... and I didn't even come up with this phrase - Elizabeth Warren did.") Obama's pathetic economic stewardship -

"For all of Europe’s troubles — the United States has quietly surpassed much of Europe in the percentage of young adults without jobs. The United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest." NYT

LOL, inconvenient truths.

May. 12 2014 01:08 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Ah leave it to Martie Chuzzle to make comments that are irrelevant to the conversartion and just plain wrong. I don't know if you remember Martie but Obama inherited a broken economy, broken by George W Bush and the wise folks in the GOP. Here's some figures for you Martie. GDP growth in 2009....-minus5.4 per cent- today 4.1%. Defict GDP 2009 9.8% today 3.3% Unemployment 2009- 7.8% today 6.7% and consumer confidence 2009 37.7% today 7.1..> Oh and the stock market-2009 -7949 and today 16,459.
So not only are you off topic bu you are off base.

May. 12 2014 12:07 PM
Elizabeth from New York, NY

It's not just about the debt you acquire, but the salary you lose during the years you are full-time in a degree program. There's a huge difference between a 2-year masters and a PhD that can take up to 10 years sometimes. I am just finishing my Phd, and I had tuition fellowships and stipends that were enough to cover a modest way of living, so I acquired little debt compared to a law student, for example, but I have no savings whatsoever, and thus no cushion to help me live until i find a job. So mid-30's I am back with my parents for a few months. It's easier if you have a spouse to help out with savings and retirement.
The other aspect is how drastically the job market can change while you're in a phd program. humanities professorships have dried up, yet Phd programs do not train you for anything else. I now find myself looking for jobs that don't require a phd (and competing with people who are younger with more practical experience). I am "richer" intellectually for having gone through a Phd, but would I do it again? No. My advice for someone thinking about it is the same advice I was given when considering whether to be a practicing artist: it's incredibly difficult and you work tirelessly for no reward. ONLY do it if there is absolutely nothing else you want to do. You need to have that level of committment and drive, nothing else will do.

May. 12 2014 11:58 AM
Mia from Manhattan

I went to Columbia j-school 10 years ago, in the two-year part-time program while I worked full-time, and I'm still paying off the loans. They had zero financial aid options for us and to this day, every time I receive an appeal for funds, it goes straight to the recycling bin. Just because you have a job when you attend grad school, doesn't mean you can afford it.

May. 12 2014 11:43 AM
Tonky from Park Slope

I’m a tad busy with not-too-shaby creative career to call in Brian. But I’ll cast a vote in favor of taking on debt to attend grad school. I graduated from NYU’s studio art MFA program in 2006 and the experiences I had, the work I produced and the connections I made led me down a path of creative self-employment.

Here’s a question: do your guests think creative grad programs should offer classes in business management? A career is a business after all.


May. 12 2014 11:41 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

One problem that is never discussed and this is how the academization of the arts has killed art in the U.S. What have these programs produced in terms of social critique? Next to nothing. I believe that was the whole point in making an MFA necessary on the road to a career in the arts. Now art in America is a pleasant thing you hang over your sofa, a nice short story that reinforces the goodness of humanity, in short, we have created a toothless art culture with inoffensive artists who are much more concerned with their own careers than in challenging the status quo in any way.

FYI, I've dropped out of 3 grad programs (2 from one of those elite schools). They were all cash cows. Everyone learns the same thing. All courses are taught by toothless academics/writers/artists who need to play nice to keep their jobs in academia. And they pass this complicity onto their students. i will also say that the quality of the work that I saw in these programs was at best, mind numbingly mediocre. But if you're mediocre and have nothing particularly important to say about the world, then by all means, drop 80K on an MFA.

May. 12 2014 11:40 AM

The liberals wrecked the comprehensive high school system and brainwashed the masses that everyone needs a college education or BETTER to "make it." Used to be that you got out of high school and were equipped to get a job. All of this college mania began in the mid-'60s. Now it's all falling apart, of course.

May. 12 2014 11:40 AM


May. 12 2014 11:38 AM

The Good News is that BARRY leaves the White House in just 984 days and 23 minutes !!!!!

Maybe then the economy will be unshackled and grow again.

May. 12 2014 11:37 AM

Does no one get funding for a PhD in the humanities? In the hard sciences, one _always_ gets paid for their doctoral work. I don't know anyone who would fund himself for such studies (even though it would probably yield a higher salary than a humanities doctorate).

May. 12 2014 11:36 AM
The Holy Grail is Already Be Rich

You guys are assuming the Holy Grail is a job related to the degree.

But I know a very popular NYU grad school teacher/ talented & broke 60 yo photographer who is paid $175 for 3 hours work not incl. setup, $500 @ ICP weekend workshops…

And 2 full time employed teachers w MFAs who just declared bankruptcy.

May. 12 2014 11:35 AM

answer - Sure, at least until BARRY OBAMA leaves office.
LOL, there certainly aren't very many jobs in President 51%'s economy.

New York Times -"26.2 percent of Americans between ages 25 and 34 were not working"

May. 12 2014 11:34 AM
RosieNY from NYC

Regardless of usefulness, the price universities are charging for grad school these days. State universities charging residents over $900 a credit plus fees plus other fees is outrageous. The only ones I see benefiting from people going to grad school are banks and education loan providers. The rest of us end up with a crushing debt with no decent return on investment. Even if you become a teacher, school or higher ed, you are going to struggle and be underpaid for the rest of your life, unless you become a University president or superintendent of schools.

May. 12 2014 11:33 AM
John from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Worth noting that WNYC's own Kio Stark, from the Data News team, has weighed in on this topic with a terrific book she wrote a few years ago titled "Don't Go Back To School."

She makes the case that the economy has changed, as are the rules for connecting and promoting. Even in technical fields, the benefits of school are frequently overrated. This doesn't actually mean that EVERYONE shouldn't go to school, of course -- but it means that one should really think through the reasons and understand the trade-offs.

I earned an MBA from a top-20 program, and it has served me well financially -- but it's certainly not the only way I could have done this. I don't know that I would have had the courage to take her approach, but I wish I had had the courage to think about it with an open mind.

May. 12 2014 11:32 AM

answer - Sure, at least until BARRY OBAMA leaves office.
LOL, there certainly aren't very many jobs in President 51%'s economy.

New York Times -"26.2 percent of Americans between ages 25 and 34 were not working"

May. 12 2014 11:32 AM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

It seems based on your guests and my own experience, unless you want to teach, the purpose of grad school in the humanities is to postpone real life, if you can afford it and/or are willing to be in debt.

May. 12 2014 11:31 AM
David breger from New York

I'm trying to work on my writing, taking continuing ed classes, but the faculty and programs are, by and large, awful. An mfa program is the only way to access the best teachers.

May. 12 2014 11:30 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Chriss & Erika, that's great for students who can get those jobs, but there are only so many positions available--certainly not enough for all the would-be grad students who would like to take them.

May. 12 2014 11:12 AM
Erika from New Jersey

Total Hustle Move!!! Get a full time job at the university where you want to study and get Tuition Remission. Most schools will cover most, if not all, tuition for full time employees. Some schools will cover tuition for your spouse and children.

May. 12 2014 10:59 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I had never heard of this David Levine. I of course know well the one who left us who used to do the great charicatures. I Googled this Mr Levine and if you Google images you find lots of photos of him but not of his art. This is so indicative of today's art world.The cult of personality. I remember in the 80s there was much talk about the point when Art News started putting photos of the artist, people like Schnabel, on the cover instead of art. I have such a distaste for the contemporary art world where it's about the artists and not the art, where they learn a rap, their manifesto in art school rather than learning how to draw. A friend of mine teaches an introduction to drawing at Parsons and she just had a review where the reviewer said that she was too traditional in her approach. Yeah how awful- teaching someone the fundamentals of drawing. And as far as grad school goes, these artists have to go to grad school and get a degree so they can teach becuase they can't make a lving off their work. So they teach their students these same manifestos and continue the loop, teaching young students who will get grad degrees and go into teaching and teach the next generation these manifestos.

May. 12 2014 10:29 AM
Chriss from Montclair, NJ

I tell my undergrad students something I learned from going to NYU's Grad Film School-- only sucka's pay for grad school.

With Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Assistantships available in almost every University Dept., jobs in Residence Life (free housing and food!!), the savvy student knows to look at every potential grad school for not just the an appropriate program of study, but the number of assistantships available at the University.

I still miss my FREE 15th floor studio with balcony on Bleeker, and my wife misses her FREE Union Square studio.

May. 12 2014 10:13 AM

Since a key part of making a living with liberal arts and humanities is teaching having a grad degree is essential. I think it's more interesting to ask if grad degrees make sense for techies. If you're a geek, you're geek, if you're not, you're not, and blowing a small fortune on grad school is not going to change that. Liberal arts skills are in many ways a matter of taste and being affiliated with a strong brand like an expensive grad school will let people know your stuff is "good". Meanwhile with programming, you either write clean and efficient code or you don't.

May. 12 2014 09:42 AM

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