What does the economic mess mean for a grad school student?

So, my wife and I will be moving back to the US from Taiwan, hopefully, in December. I intend to start my graduate studies in International Relations in the Fall 2009.

Here’s what I want to know: What does the economic mess mean for me? Also, what can I do to make sure our transition back to the US goes the best financially.

Here’s where we stand:
[li]no debt[/li][li]only about five or six thousand dollars[/li][li]no job lined up (for my wife or I)[/li][/ul]

While we don’t have any debt, we soon will, since the tuition for all of the schools to which I’m applying is tens of thousands a year. I have no idea what sort of aid or loans I’ll get.

What we have going for us:
[li]My wife is writing a book right now that should be published here in Taiwan before or soon after we leave, so we should be getting some income from that.[/li][li]We are both multilingual and worldly. She’s a native Mandarin speaker and fluent in English and French. I’m fluent in French and competent in Mandarin. In the beginning, this will be more important for my wife, in that I will, at most, be able to work part time as a student. My wife also has experience as an editor, journalist, translator, and teacher, and she’s studied cultural mediation and art therapy.[/li][li]We have a fair number of connections in the possible cities we’ll be moving to (NY, D.C., or Boston).[/li][/ul]

So, what does a young person coming back to the US to make a fresh start with his wife need to do to take into account the current economic situation in the US?

By the way, if this should be in IMHO, I’m sorry. The reason I put it here is because I figured this is a debatable subject about a fairly large slice of the American populace. The economic problems the US is facing right now is usually talked about in terms of people who own lots of stock, have considerable assets, or who are facing foreclosure on a house. I’m curious about the small number of us who own very little but also don’t have much money.

I suspect it will be more difficult securing those big student loans you’ll need.

You may need to shift the timing of your grad school if you are unable to secure the financing needed for it. Look to get a job in the private sector using your language skills. With a passable knowledge of Mandarin, one would think it would not be that hard to land something that actually pays well too. Of course, we have no idea of what job experience you have, what your undergrad degree was etc. but I’d look to find a job with a large enough company that would even offer you tuition help, if you are unable to get your student loans. Perhaps try to secure a job teaching the languages that you know?

If you do get a job first, resist temptation to buy a house. Save everything you can until you can capitalize on a down housing market. That might be tomorrow, or it might be next year. Realize that if home ownership is a goal, gone are the days of 110% financing. If your credit is “good” you will most likely need 15-20% down to secure a loan, and that is only IF you have appropriate income coming in.

If you get your loans, plan on surviving on a diet of ramen noodles until you are done. :slight_smile:

Yeah, if you can get tuition benefits at work that would be fantastic. Just keep in mind that a lot of these tuition benefit programs are for disciplines that can be used at that particular organization. For instance if you get a position at a pharmaceutical they’ll foot the bill for a statistics or epidemiology degree or maybe an MBA but not for, say, history. Hard to say about something like international relations, but I can think of how that would be valuable given the global nature of the larger corporations. I imagine it would kind of tricky to suss that out when applying and interviewing but there’s probably a way.

If you can get an assistantship, you’ll be in good shape. My daughter has a fellowship, and riding out a bust in grad school keeps the tension down. (I rode out the late '70s problems.) I don’t know about loans, though. My son-in-law got his law school loans this summer, before the crash.


Remember that you can also loan a big deal of money (around 22,000 a year) from the government through subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans. It somehow comes from the department of education, I believe. Whether or not that will be affected by this mess remains to be seen. I just got my money today, for what it’s worth, but I re-applied for it at the beginning of this semester.

I HOPE it doesn’t go away, because if it does I’ll be screwed.