Monday, June 22, 2009

Geology Majors Have Higher Debt Than Other Science Graduates

American Geological Institute's Geoscience Currents has put up 2003 data that shows levels of debt among science majors and graduate students. Geoscience graduate students have higher debt levels that other science and engineering majors with the exception of life science. Debt levels of geoscience undergraduates are also among the highest.

Source: Geoscience Currents

There is no explanation given for the higher debt levels for aspiring geologists. Any ideas why debt levels are higher for geoscience majors? Do additional expenses like field camp for undergraduate degree requirement or field work during Master's thesis work make a difference? Or do geology majors for some reason take a little longer to graduate than other sciences?

I consider myself lucky in this regard. I received an assistantship and a tuition waiver for my graduate education in the U.S. In India the situation was different, there is usually no assistantship or tuition waiver support for most undergraduate and graduate programs in India. But science education in State Universities is considerably less financially burdensome than what unsupported students experience in the U.S. even in state colleges.

I am comparing just the fees, not other expenses which will vary depending upon an individual's circumstances.

I finished my Master's from Pune University (State supported) India and the fees for a two year Master's course were ludicrously low. I don't remember the exact amount but I paid around Rs 6000/- for the two year course as fees and spent an additional Rs 2000 or so in field work and other expenses. Geosciences stream was not offered through private universities in India in the late 1980's, but overall a science education will cost much less than what I would have paid if I had opted for a management or medical degree or an engineering degree with a private college. This was in 1989. If you want to put a dollar figure on this, using a 1990 exchange rate between Indian rupee and U.S dollar of $1 = Rs 16/-, I paid about $ 500/- for my Masters education in 1990!

Most students going in for higher education will manage to pay these fees without incurring much debt!

State Universities are highly subsidised in India as you must have guessed.

Fees are still quite low. In fact fees are probably lower than 1990 if you account for inflation and how much that money is worth today. The current course fee for a Master's degree for University of Pune is about Rs 12,000 per year for in-state students and double that for out of state students. For foreign students the fees are about Rs 60,000 or so for geosciences. Using today's exchange rates of $ 1 - Rs 48/- in- state students are paying about $500/- for a degree in 2009 and foreign students about $ 2500/- in course fees. Compare this with the fees some private colleges are charging for earth science related courses such as Geographic Information Systems. The fees are Rs 150,000 per year ( ~ $3100/-) more than 10 times that of a state college.

Want to come to India for a geosciences degree? :)


  1. I wonder if proportionally more US geology majors go to private colleges, compared to majors in other sciences?

  2. that would be another point to consider

  3. I can confirm that from my own experience. I do have more debts than my fellow students who didn't do geology. Why? I need to finance my own diploma mapping project and the frequent field trips also have to be paid by myself each time. My diploma mapping project so far cost me 4000 Euros and I got 3000 as financing by the survey. Other friends were not so lucky.

  4. Lost Geologist- thanks for sharing that. yeah field work does add to the expenses.