Graduate schools across the nation are posting record numbers of applicants and enrollments as an increasing number of students head back to school as a result of a lagging job market. According to the annual Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools, applications to graduate schools were up 8.3% in the last year. This is twice the average annual rate of applications in the last decade. But is graduate school worth the cost? It's a tough question to answer, and there are many factors to consider. Deciding whether to go back to school is a financial question, but it's also a personal one: What do you really want to do in life, and is it worth the financial sacrifice?
Tuition costs vary widely between programs, but can run from $20,000 to more than $40,000 each year, especially for business, law, and medical schools. The high cost of school means returning for more education will likely require taking on a substantial amount of debt. According to finaid.org, the median debt at graduation is $25,000 for a master's degree, $52,000 for a doctoral degree, and $79,836 for a professional degree based on a 2007-08 study. Actual debt levels will most likely be higher for current and future graduates because tuition tends to increase each year.