- The WSJ found 76% of professional programs leave grads with more debt than earnings after 2 years on the job.
- That’s the case for all US programs in dentistry, veterinary medicine, and chiropractic medicine.
- Loans for grad and professional programs have some of the highest interest rates.
If you’re hoping to get rich from a professional degree, think again — student debt might prevent that from happening.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal found about 76% of professional programs — degrees that help prepare students for a specific field — have left recent students with higher debt loads than their earnings after two years on the job, per an analysis of nearly 500 programs in the US. As the Journal noted, that’s much worse than other degree types. For master’s programs, 22% have debt loads that high, and it’s lower for bachelor’s degrees, at 11%.
In addition, the Journal noted that for chiropractic medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine specifically, every professional program in the US with available data has median debt that topped median earnings two years after graduation.
“My explanation is that veterinary medicine is a very emotional profession, like nursing,” Peter Eyre, professor and dean emeritus of the Virginia-Maryland veterinary college at Virginia Tech told the Journal. “Becoming a veterinarian offers tremendous emotional reward because of the human-animal bond.”
He added that as a result, students “seem willing to overborrow or overpay for what they’re getting.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinarians in 2020 earned a median $99,000, dentists earned a median $164,000, and chiropractors earned a median $71,000, which is not enough to cover most debt loads from professional degrees that are over $200,000.
The Journal said its analysis excluded medical school degrees because graduates seeking those licenses are required to complete low-paid residencies.
As Insider previously reported, interest rates on student loans for graduates and professionals are one of the highest, currently at 5.28%, and the average student-debt load for a graduate student is $91,000, compared to the $36,000 average for undergraduates.
Students pursuing professional programs can also take out Grad PLUS loans — a type of federal loan that has the highest interest rate of 6.28%, and covers up to the cost of attendance.
The huge debt loads for students seeking professional degrees is not a new development. In 2018, the Journal reported on a 37-year-old orthodontist who owed $1,060,945 in student loans. Due to the high interest rates, he was paying about 10% of his monthly income on his student debt, which still wasn’t enough to tackle interest.
And the debt can often last a lifetime. At 61-years-old, Gwen Carney previously told Insider she doesn’t think she will ever be able to pay off her $75,000 student debt from her graduate degree — something she pursued in the hopes it would help support her family. She does not know how she will afford to make payments next year once the pandemic pause lifts.
“Restarting payments makes me very anxious because I somehow have to find that extra $200,” Carney said. “I just don’t have it.”