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Thoughts on the "ethicalness" of applying to Phd programs in order to… 
18th-Nov-2012 10:15 pm
faith shock
Thoughts on the "ethicalness" of applying to Phd programs in order to obtain funding for a master's and dropping once you've finished the master's?

please and thanks.
19th-Nov-2012 03:27 am (UTC)
I think it's fine if you're open to the possibility of staying, willing to be convinced.

(Full disclosure: that was my attitude going on - I really wanted a master's and I really wanted funding for it, but I figured if I liked it a lot I would stick around for the PhD. I stayed despite being conflicted because I didn't really have a plan worth leaving for, and frankly, because I got married and wanted to stay in the area. Now I'm doing research and really loving it, but being active about seeking out experience applicable to non-academic careers.)

Edited at 2012-11-19 03:28 am (UTC)
19th-Nov-2012 04:10 am (UTC)
Agreed with the above, though it should be noted that some universities - notably all state universities in Utah* - are beginning to institute policies that require anyone who leaves without completing a degree to repay any funding money.

*And before anyone says "lol Utah", University of Utah has some very decent researchers in my discipline and a MA-level program, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them develop a PhD program in the next decade. It and Utah State are both growing very rapidly.
19th-Nov-2012 05:36 am (UTC)
Hopefully that policy is only for those who leave voluntarily without completing a degree? Because if they are making people who are kicked out of graduate programs pay back funding money, that's adding insult to injury.
19th-Nov-2012 11:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know the specifics of how it's administered, to be honest. I do think it includes people who are kicked out for failing to make grades/do the work, though - they essentially present it as a contract: either you finish or you don't, and any variant of "don't" is failing to uphold your side of the contract.
19th-Nov-2012 11:38 pm (UTC)
I think that is a terrible policy! Way to punish people twice when they realize that the program might not be for them or are struggling with something like not passing exams. Stating it as a contract makes some sense, but still I find that way too harsh. And where is someone dropping out of graduate school supposed to find the money to pay back their funding? It would have already been spent. Do they expect them to take out loans? Do they offer a payment plan? All and all it sounds like a poorly thought out method of reducing the amount of money spent on students that don't finish their degrees.

Edited at 2012-11-20 12:18 am (UTC)
19th-Nov-2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
Wow! That's really harsh.
6th-Dec-2012 05:32 am (UTC)
I think they're going to lose a lot of great potential students because of this. I certainly would never go to a program that had this policy. The attrition rate in doctoral programs is 50% and no one can take the gamble that they would absolutely not leave. It's bad enough to leave a program after spending 3, 4, 5 years of your life working towards it, but it's even worse to feel trapped between the choice of leaving and owing thousands or staying and being miserable in a program you don't want to finish.
19th-Nov-2012 07:47 am (UTC)
This was the advice I got from a cousin yesterday and I was wondering how honest it would be
19th-Nov-2012 07:49 am (UTC)
It's not like funding is free money - they're still paying you less than they would a lecturer or professional lab assistant. I'd say if you were open to the possibility of staying and fulfilled the requirements of your funding while you were there, there would be nothing wrong with it. I would definitely check for repayment clauses though. Also, make sure an MA in your field is actually a degree worth having and not the consolation prize for not finishing the doctorate, like some fields.
19th-Nov-2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
Not necessarily true. In my department, graduate students cost more than lecturers for a couple of reasons. First, because the department is required to contribute to our health insurance.. But, more importantly, because they pay us for one class what a lecturer/adjunct makes for two classes.
19th-Nov-2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
That is grim.
19th-Nov-2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, totally. But, it also means that someone enrolling in the PhD program with no intention of completing it is costing the department something since that money could be used to teach two courses if it went to an adjunct rather than the grad student.

FWIW, OP, It's definitely not ethical to say you want to pursue a PhD when you already know you don't want to. You know that part of the application where you verify that everything is accurate and correct to the best of your knowledge? You'll be lying when you check that box.
19th-Nov-2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
Having thought about it off and on through the day I'm actually not crazy about the idea. It's using resources that could go to someone that actually wanted a PhD, and it's not really likely to do the OP any favours either, since an MA from a program that usually awards PhDs is kind of an admission that you either failed or gave up. Better to just honestly go for a terminal masters if that's what you want.
19th-Nov-2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
On second thought - why do you want a non-terminal MA in a humanities field but not a PhD in the first place?
21st-Nov-2012 05:19 am (UTC)
That's what I was wondering as well.
6th-Dec-2012 05:33 am (UTC)
This is a good question.
20th-Nov-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
I think it's pretty un-cool. You're taking that spot away from someone who is really passionate and determined to get a PhD, and you become a waste of the university's time and money (of which they don't have a lot.)
20th-Nov-2012 05:17 am (UTC)
I don't disagree what others have said about taking a spot that would otherwise go to someone else, but...
Our educational system is so freaking broken wrt costs and funding. If you can find a way to make it work for you that you can live with...That said, do read any agreements REALLY carefully and be sure you won't have to repay funding if you stop at a master's.
6th-Dec-2012 05:35 am (UTC)
I agree with tisiphone's comment. I think it's unethical and a pretty uncool thing to do, not to mention that I fail to see how a non-terminal degree is going to help you anyway. Unless, I suppose, it's in a field like accounting or something.

But on the other hand, the educational system is pretty fucked up. And I'm sure you won't be the first. So I agree with her advice to make sure that you won't owe any money, but also make sure that you don't get sucked in to something you really don't want to do. Leaving PhD programs is harder than a lot of people think.
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