Student Loans for Graduate Study in Philosophy: a Poll

Don’t get a PhD in philosophy if you have to pay for it.

That is standard advice for those considering doctoral study in philosophy. An inability to obtain a funded position as a PhD student might be evidence (early and incomplete evidence, of course) of one’s later prospects; jobs are hard to come by, and even if you end up employed in a way directly related to your degree—typically as a professor—it is not as if those who teach in the humanities are typically making the big bucks. 

[Chad Person, “Kraken”]

Still, there are those who do pay for it, or who find that the stipends for graduate study insufficient for their needs, and as a result end up taking out student loans.

Some such people may have been banking on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, a loan forgiveness program for those working for non-profit organizations and governments (including state schools). A philosopher recently wrote to me about how that program, in which over 400,000 people participate, is one that Secretary of Education Betsy de Vos is proposing to eliminate.

It’s not known how many people in academic philosophy in the United States would be affected by the elimination of the program, nor do we know how many people in academic philosophy took out student loans while getting their PhD.

Let’s see if we can get a rough sense of whether the standard advice about paying for a PhD in philosophy is being followed. Such information may serve as a prompt to more serious investigations of the question, or perhaps the creation of professional programs and services. Please take a moment to answer the following one-question, poll, which asks about the amount of student loan debt you acquired, if any, while getting your PhD in philosophy.

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