Borrowing Part 1 – An Introduction

The following post is part of a three part series written by a member of the admissions and financial aid staff, Colin Sullivan.


What is $20,000 to $70,000?

a). The price range of a typical brand-new automobile (depending on how jewel-encrusted your steering wheel is)

b). 5,000 to 17,000 rounds bought at happy hour (depending on how frustrating your finals were)

c). the range of loan indebtedness a two-year, full-time SIPA student might have when graduating (depending on how much time and effort that student is willing to spend on seeking out scholarships, grants, and other loan alternatives)

The answer — d)., all of the above. Now, we won’t sell you a car, and we won’t buy you a drink, but we will administer your financial aid. And while Office of Admissions and Financial Aid cannot help you carry the load, we hope to help you lift with your legs and not your back, and avoid any hernias in the process.

In his February 10th blog post, Matt touched upon the notion of education loans as “financial aid”. The whole idea of “aid” (which, for the sake of argument, I’ll define as “assistance”) is not typically that of something that must be repaid (well, maybe karmically), but loans are one instrument that assist, or aid, students in achieving the goal of higher education (another being thousands of milligrams of caffeine).

They’re also one of the first significant investments that many people will make, and can enable increased employability, a higher salary, contributing to retirement accounts, the purchase of property or stocks with that higher salary, etc. As with any investment, the prospective borrower must carefully weigh the risk versus reward of borrowing such large sums for a SIPA education, especially considering that many graduates will pursue careers in the non-profit and public service sectors (not historically known for their piles of money).

Nearly 60% of our student community borrows in order to help fund their studies. Depending on your country of origin, you have different options: US citizens and permanent residents have the right to apply for financing through the Federal Direct Loan Program, while also seeking out private education loans to help cover the full cost of attendance. International students, however, may face more challenges; they do not qualify for financing through the US Department of Education, and must have a US citizen or permanent resident who is willing to cosign on any private student loans.

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid also maintains a comprehensive external fellowships and grants database, that we strongly suggest all of our US and international applicants and students review. It thoroughly details funding opportunities that may minimize your need for borrowing, a practice which can feel a bit overwhelming at times.

Now, whether you’re motoring across a scorched stretch of desert on your new car’s first road trip, feeling your way home after a 4am Thursday night, or folding paper airplanes with your financial aid forms, it always helps to have a path winding in front of you. In the Financial Aid office, that path first diverges for domestic and international students.

It two follow up entries I will detail the different loan options for US and international students, as your indoctrination into the world of graduate education borrowing. Because, while the cost of funding one’s education at SIPA may initially seem a daunting, the price you pay for not exploring every possible avenue to ensure an amazing SIPA education may end up being much greater.