Commentary

Journalism School Isn't Worth Heavy Student-Debt Load

Anyone who is thinking about financing a graduate degree in journalism with tens of thousands of dollars of debt also needs to consider the likelihood they won’t make enough money to pay off their loans for years to come.

A better route to a journalism career is to learn on the job after college, a Wall Street Journalreport suggests.

The newspaper’s education reporters last week took aim at journalism schools, comparing the median debt load of graduates with their incomes after starting a career. The story was the latest in a series of articles about the financial repercussions of Grad Plus. The federal program lets graduate students borrow for the entire cost of attendance, unlike undergraduate debt, which is capped.
The median debt burden for a master’s graduate who borrowed government money to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism was $56,700, while the median salary after two years of finishing was $49,900 in 2015 and 2016, the most recent years of available data.
The outcome was even worse for graduates of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Among students who borrowed money, the median debt load was $67,700 and the median pay was less than $42,000. The school later cut those debt loads almost in half by reducing the time needed to earn a master’s degree.
Students of Northwestern University’s graduate school in journalism who took out federal loans borrowed a median of $54,900, and also earned less than $42,000 a year.
The University of Missouri offered the best value for its master’s in journalism degree, saddling students with median debt of $21,000 while their median earnings were $50,500, according to Education Department data analyzed by the WSJ.
Work experience makes journalists more valuable than having a graduate degree, at least in the early stages of a career.

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Northwestern students who received an undergraduate degree in journalism earned $1,500 more than their counterparts with a master’s degree. However, those undergrads also had a median debt load of $15,500 — a much more manageable balance.

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