Hey Mom and Dad—May I borrow another $20,000 for college?

September 17, 2014 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
I recently read media blogger Jim Romenesko’s post of an internal faculty memo from the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.  I confess, it shocked me!

In it, Dean Ed Wasserman asked his faculty to support for a proposal to add a $10,250 per year “supplemental fee” to every grad student’s tuition bill.  For a two-year program at Berkeley—that means another $20,500 paid to the school before a student can walk down the aisle to pick up that Master’s degree.  That’s on top of the current “standard” annual tuition fees of almost $16-thousand for California residents and $31-thousand for out-of-state students.


Wasserman says this PDST, academic-speak for Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition, just represents the cost of doing business at Berkeley’s graduate J-school.  He says the University is contributing less to the school’s operation, while its costs to educate students continue to rise.  And the PDST—already in effect at the UC Business School and others—is needed to help make up the difference.
The fact is that college tuition around the country, on average, has skyrocketed more than any other expense—including the often-reviled rise in health care costs.   The chart below tells the story for the past ten years:

Courtesy: U.S. News

In his memo, Dean Wasserman acknowledges that nearly 75% of his students borrow money to go to J-school.  Across the country, the average undergraduate student left college this year with $33,000 in debt.  Add to that another two years of graduate school tuition with this new PDST and the number becomes even more staggering! Wasserman says, “The additional cost burden the PDST will impose on our students is not insubstantial.  But it is not insurmountable either.” 


The 2014 RTDNA/Hofstra Salary Study shows median TV reporter and producer pay is around $31,000/year. Beginning salaries in these jobs can be as low as $12,500/year. That, my friends, is well below the poverty level. And it hardly leaves any money to pay back student loans—even after living on mac and cheese and sleeping on the floor in the apartment you share with 3 other struggling beginners. You can see all the data here.

RTDNA knows students represent the future of our business. And we do everything we can to support them through our student chapters, training and the scholarships and fellowships we offer. We want our industry to attract the best and the brightest. But the sad reality is that when they are confronted with financial challenges like these—many do, in fact, find them insurmountable.

And that’s the true shame in all of this!