Remember my Ph.D. Debt Survey (who could forget it?) — my crowdsourced google spreadsheet from 2014, of volunteered reader debt information from their undergraduate and graduate studies? (It’s still open–feel free to add your own info using the form)* It’s not a scientific survey, but it contains lots of individual stories of graduate school debt, including not a few humanities Ph.D.s with debt of over $200,000 and a Psychology Ph.D. with debt of $350K.
Well, two readers went to the trouble of providing graphic representations of the findings. Karen Lichtman (Ph.D. Spanish) provided the following:
More recently, reader Tanim Islam (Ph.D. Physics) got in touch recently to tell me that he had gone to the trouble of providing us with a bit of statistical analysis of the results, divided between STEM and non-STEM fields. Here it is.
Thank you, Tanim!
UPDATE 12/2/15: Tanim and I decided to remove a $750K debt for an English Ph.D., assuming that this was probably a typo. So text and the graphs have all been updated as of today.
I have done some rudimentary analysis on your google docs spreadsheet, which I have linked to here. I found of the 3022 current records (as of 25 November 2015, 7:18 AM), that I define 2917 records as valid: the record has a total current debt that is not none, and a field of study that isn’t blank or stated as unknown. Of these 2917 entries:
- 411 are in STEM fields.
- 2506 are in non-STEM fields.
I have identified the list of 86 fields in the 2917 records that are STEM, in the attached file “stem.txt.” I have identified a list of 250 fields in the 2917 records that are non-STEM, in the attached file “non-stem.txt” I have not done especially thorough systematics to determine how accurate was my classification.
In any case, I have summarized the statistics:
- for the 411 graduate degree holders in STEM fields in your survey:
- 205 / 411 (49.9%) have no current debt.
- The median debt is $300.
- The mean debt is $22188.
- The maximum debt is $186000.
- For the 2506 graduate degree holders in non-STEM fields in your survey:
- 580 / 2506 (23.1%) have no current debt.
- The median debt is $40000.
- The mean debt is $55548.
- The maximum debt is $425000.
I also have distributions of debts for STEM and non STEM degree holders.
*Here is the form!