TCR Grad Blog

Graduate director's blog for the Technical Communication and Rhetoric Program at Texas Tech University

The Cost of the PhD

Posted by Joyce on March 25, 2011

I often get requests to  provide someone with the “cost of the degree,” and while I understand that there are some schools, some disciplines, and some systems that treat the degree as one thing with a set price, it is certainly not our model.  Why?  Because there are so many variables for a given individual’s progress that a standard cost would be impossible to provide.

However, I’ll give it a shot.

First is the amount of coursework you have to take.  It’s more variable for the PhD than for the MATC, but even in the latter case, we do credit you with prior graduate work (we’re limited to 6 hours).  The PhD is a 60 hour degree (post bachelors), so the number of transfer credits has a huge bearing on your cost of coursework.  When figuring costs, the only thing to do is to use averages, and the average number of transfer credit hours realized by PhD students is 21 (or 7 courses).  If you want, you can construct a normal distribution of transfer credits with the average at 21 hours, the left tail at 15 hours, and the right tail at 30 hours, and you’d have a really good picture about transfer credits.  In other words, most students, falling within one standard deviation, would receive 18-24 transfer credits.

The current tuition and fees for one 3-hour course stands at approximately $1200 for Texas residents and $1800 for non-Texas residents.  This is another variable, of course, as the tuition and fees are largely out of our control.  You might use these figures and apply a reasonable rate of inflation during your time in the program if you want to be conservative.

However, using 7 transfer courses as our average, that means that the average number of courses to complete with your TCR faculty is 13, and if we multiply, then we have ~$15,500 for Texas residents and ~$24,000 for non-Texans to complete coursework.  Everyone has to take at least 12 hours of ENGL 8000 by rule of the university, so we might as well use that figure for our cost calculations (realizing that many students, mostly local students, but some online students, will exceed this figure).   12 hours is basically 4 three-hour courses, and we’ll use the same in-state  and out-of-state figures from above to arrive at ~$5000 for Texans and ~$7500 for non-Texans.

Online doctoral students are required to come to the May workshop every year until they graduate.  Taking the best average time to graduation that we have so far (about 4.5 years), then that means 4 1/2 workshops, currently billed at $1600 per, so that’s ~$7000.  You have to get to these workshops, and that’s highly variable, but let’s use a very rough figure of $1000/year, so let’s add a rounded figure of ~$5000 for travel.

Local students don’t have to come to May workshops, obviously, but they have moving costs and living costs while they’re in Lubbock.  I don’t know whether it’s fair to allocate the entire cost of living during one’s approximately 5 years in Lubbock to  the cost of the degree, but if you did, you might use a figure of $800/month for rent/mortgage = ~$48,000 (realizing that if you buy, then you’ve got equity in your investment and will recoup it when you sell), and something like $20,000 for food and other living expenses.  However, you’re going to spend money on food and lodging wherever you live, so I don’t think it’s worth calculating these costs into the cost of your degree.  What might be useful would be to compare the cost of living in Lubbock to another school or the city from which you’re moving to arrive at a differential cost of living.  Lubbock is generally an inexpensive place to live, so there may be slight cost savings for being in Lubbock as opposed to other places.  In any event, I cannot hope to calculate these differences into the cost of the degree, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?

Local students do tend to take more hours of ENGL 8000  because they’re required to register for 9 hours of coursework if they are instructors, so maybe we can just let this difference balance out the May workshop costs for the online students so that we don’t have to have too many final figures.

The subtotal at this point stands at ~$32,500 for Texans ~$43,500 for non-Texans, and let’s be conservative and round that up to ~$40,000 for Texans and ~$50,000 for non-Texans, to account for books, computers, and other educational incidentals.

So there’s the answer to the cost of the doctorate.  If you pay out of your own pocket, then these are reasonable figures for your budget.  I’d be very interested to learn from those of you who have finished, or are about to finish, if these estimates are close  to your actual figures. If you want to be ultra conservative, increase these figures by a safety margin of 10% or 20%, maybe rounded up to $50k for Texans and $60k for non-Texans.

There are many ways of getting someone else to help pay for your degree, of course,  and they’re even more variable than the cost calculations.  I’ll treat them in another blog post.


4 Responses to “The Cost of the PhD”

  1. Kim said

    This is a very useful and reasonable post. Thanks! The only cost that I don’t see are those of research and professional development and these are highly variable too but should be noted perhaps. Some of us will purchase additional software, hardware, and app subscriptions for research, which are often available at a reduced cost to students/employees. In the past year, I purchased Camtasia Studio, Adobe Acrobat Pro X, EndNote, a new computer (and sold the old one), and subscriptions to mozy, Wikispaces, and SurveyMonkey to conduct research for my dissertation and a few additional but related projects. I’m considering purchasing software for data mining and analysis. I would probably average this out to about $600-800 a year. In addition to that are annual fees for organizational memberships. I recently whittled mine down to just STC and NCTE/CCCC/ATTW at student rates. I don’t have my receipts with me, but I think this ran to about $100/year.

    Some percentage of us will also be planning to hit the job market just before completing our degrees and most, if not all, will attempt to attend conferences and/or publish in preparation for that. The job hunt itself can be expensive depending on the scope of the grad student’s search. Some hiring institutions pay all or most of travel. But they don’t pay for copies, postage, or looking like a professional instead of a grad student who spends a lot of time in front of the computer in lounge clothes. Depending on the number of conferences attended and the number of research projects used to create presentations for these conferences and how much support from TTU sources we can get, these are again extremely variable costs.

    That said, my experience so far has been that the program is providing me with an amazingly well-rounded graduate education and will make me far more competitive in the job market. Worth every penny and then some.

  2. Kathy Northcut said

    Interesting post. I think people’s experiences will vary so dramatically that it would be hard to come up with any better estimate. Personally, I started the doctorate for the best reason: because I was in love with a research topic that I wasn’t going to give up whether I got a degree for studying it or not. I ended up being a single parent with a child to support, and was able to use my degree to get a good job with flexible hours AND family benefits. If I had calculated the costs at $50K when I began, I would never have pursued the degree. However, the degree will yield me $600,000 in ADDITIONAL income over my career, using modest estimates of 20 years of work, and an extra $30K in income and benefits per year over what I could have made without it. I’ve never regretted one penny of student loan payments – best investment in myself I ever made.

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