I have thought about going back to school many times. Many. Times. I have considered: a nursing degree, a masters in education, a tesol certificate, a master of arts, and a masters of fine arts (which I did actually apply for once but only to schools that did not require the GRE and I did not get accepted).
Every year for the past few years I’ve nearly applied to get a masters in education. Why? Because I think it is noble work and I think I would be good at it (yes I do!). But I’ve never followed through for two main reasons.
First, people tell me not to do it. Older, experienced, academically-minded people tell me not to do it. They say it is arduous, thankless, tiring, poorly paid, and that I will never have time to write. (What does this say about how we treat our teachers that people with masters and PhDs have told me not to do it?)
Second, I would have to take the GRE. Not a big deal you say. But here’s the thing: I have to study for the GRE. Then I have to allot an afternoon to taking the GRE. I also have to pay for the GRE which costs about a day’s worth of wages in my current line of work. After that I have to apply to the school and pay the application fee. I’m encouraged to apply to a few schools in case I don’t get in to one. So, more application fees. I haven’t even gotten into a school yet and already I’ve spent nearly a month’s rent just applying. It’s obscene.
I haven’t even gotten to the part where you have to pay for the actual schooling. (A year’s tuition at most out-of-state public schools and private schools is more than my pre-taxed income last year. That alone is a terrifying concept that deters me from even beginning down this path.) Plus you have to quit your day job which means you also have to magically pay for rent and food when you’re not working. Then you come out on the other side into an economy with over 20 MILLION UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE. You cannot get a job and you cannot get unemployment benefits because well, you haven’t been employed for the last two (three, four) years.
A few years ago on a sunny summer day in Prospect Park (just imagine!) a friend who worked for a student loan refinancing company said to me: “People should be burning stuff in the streets.” Yes, someone from the industry said about the cost of higher education: people should be burning stuff in the streets. And this was before a pandemic brought the economy to its knees.
The cost of higher education is arbitrary, bureaucratic, discriminatory, prohibitive. What colleges and universities ask of these young people is immoral. Now we can see all too clearly how our nurses, doctors, and teachers make sacrifices for us everyday. The sacrifices that we demand on top of that–just to get into the field–make no sense to me. Shouldn’t we as a society be the ones who sacrifice in order to have the best care-takers? The best educators?
I think we should stop paying our school loans. I think we should stop paying our tuition. And when this whole lockdown thing is over, we should start burning stuff in the streets.
*This post has been inspired by a current, last ditch attempt to apply for grad school this fall (because um, I don’t have any other plans for this fall or ever?) Maybe I will take the GRE. Maybe I will even pay tuition–I’m trying to find the cheapest cheapest–but still I’d be a hypocrite. If I do go through with it I promise that no one will ever stop hearing about how I think it’s a CRAP DEAL. You know where to find me when you’re ready to start burning stuff in the streets.
Everyone I know who got an M.F.A. in fiction writing or poetry would do it over again, in a minute, and not one of us has earned our full-time income from writing. All of us, in our 50s and 60s now, still write, still love it, and would not trade writing for anything. And I mean anything. If you want to get an M.F.A. in writing, there are, or at least there used to be, universities that don’t require the GRE. And you don’t have to go to a “name” university for this to work. I went to Wichita State University for my M.F.A., about as mid-tier as you can get, and we had visiting writers teach full workshops, and do month-long teaching residencies, all the time. If you apply to several universities, you are likely to be offered a position as a graduate teaching assistant, which requires zero experience. It’s been a long time since I did this, so I don’t know how much it pays, maybe $10,000 or $12,000 to teach two or three courses each semester. The better news is that all tuition is waived if you are a graduate teaching assistant, in-state and out-of-state. The greatest thing about getting an M.F.A. is the uninterrupted time you spend with people who are exactly like you are. Best thing I ever did. The very best. I know your Mom, who is good friends with my sister, Lynn, in Kansas City. I’ve read some of your stuff, and I think you’re a good writer.
Hi Philip! Thanks for this insight. I really like the idea of being a graduate teaching assistant. Maybe I will try this route depending on what happens in the next few months. I might follow up with some questions then. And yes! Your book Love in an Iron Bowl has been recommended to me.
Hi, Anne, for when you have time to readâ¦
All the best,
i woke up thinking, i hope anne writes another blog post soon. and then you did. i love this, also i haven’t paid my student loans in like 3 years. i’ve been retaliating and also not making enough money to qualify paying them. nobody has tried to arrest me yet.
Hi Britt! I like the telepathy that’s happening here. Also glad you haven’t been arrested. Hope you’re doing okay out there!
Anne, your mother is a friend of mine from book club. Please, follow your desire to teach. I am retiring from teaching after 37 (gasp) years this spring. I teach special education children. My students sat next to you in elementary school, but left for help in reading, math, or emotional/behavior support. It is not an easy profession or a high paying profession, but it is something you will always know you are helping the children that deserve all of your passion and care. Some of those children will only feel safe in your class room, they will only learn to read with your care and patience. You may be the best part of their day. You may find that you will help foster the love of the written word in other young minds. You are a gifted writer. You feel a yearning to educate others. Listen to Philip Deal, you can follow this dream without going to a BIG name school. There are a lot of scholarships available. I sit on a board that gives scholarships to educators that will teach humanities in rural settings. I look forward to reading your thoughts!
Hi Nancy! Thanks so much for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts. It is very reassuring to get some positive encouragement in this field. I am working on a grad school application that is due this Friday. And–thank you for all your years of teaching! So cool!