Higher Learning Sticker Shock

The start of my Ph.D. program is just a couple of months away, and I’m already gearing up for it. Along with the excitement of continuing my education, though, comes the sticker shock when I realize just how much this is all going to cost me.

Not just the tuition, mind you. I wasn’t all that surprised by that cost ($1,555 per class, two classes a semester) because that information is prominently disclosed long before you are admitted to the program. No, what caught me was all of the other expenses.

This is a hybrid on-campus/online program where you spend some time in residency at the brick-and-mortar campus in Bellevue, Nebraska and then some time working with your cohort classmates virtually. This means that I’ll need to head out to Bellevue for a week in March, and will have to pay for travel costs.

Even with a ridiculously inexpensive hotel room (which I found), the stay alone will cost a few hundred dollars. And the airfare options, while not crazy, are still a minimum of ~$400 round-trip. And sadly, one of those flights isn’t even with my beloved U.S. Airways, so I’ll miss out on my free upgrades to First Class. Oh, the sacrifices we make. Tack on food, rental car, etc. and you’ve got a pricey week.

Then there are the textbooks. In my first semester I have two classes, but five textbooks to purchase. They range from $28.49 to $148.19 in price, totaling about $400 for the semester. And that’s the greatly reduced digital version cost — buying them all new in hardcover would have cost well over a thousand dollars.

Putting aside my shock at the costs involved, I’m very excited about this program. At a recent dinner with a couple of friends who have Ph.D.s in their respective fields, I was delighted by a conversation they were having: they were discussing how undervalued Ph.D.s can be (financially speaking) but reaffirming that they got their doctorates not because of the money, but because of their love for the field. And when I think about the kind of work that I really enjoy doing, this sort of program sounds like it will be ideal for me.

Still, who knew that adding “Dr.” before my name would require so much time, effort, and money?

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