But I also know that there are plenty of people out there not paying a dime for their degrees. There are students in MD-PhD programs whose whole educations are being paid for through research funding. There are also plenty of business school students, full time and part time whose companies are picking up the tab for their degrees. These tracks are not at all uncommon and result in degrees and zero student loans.
Less prevalent, but still common, are students who pay for their whole degree in cash either from their own pockets or their family's. Like the sponsored students, these cash heavy folks will never even fill out a financial aid form.
Finally, there at least used to be the model of working your way through school. With the huge price tags now associated with just one year's tuition at a good school this may not be possible without scholarships and grants - merit or need-based. After all, it's pretty hard to earn $50,000 after tax plus living expenses while a full time student. But many schools have generous scholarships and financial aid so it appears possible to potentially still graduate without debt. At least I hope so given this is my path of choice.
With these routes to a debt-free degree available it irks me that most discussions of these degrees presume student loans that will be nearly impossible to shake and a ten-year payback period with no mention of an alternative. Yes, these degrees are very expensive and targeted mostly at people in their 20s who haven't had a chance to accumulate as many resources, but assuming six figures of debt for every graduate is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What do you think? Am I way off base here?