Yale Makes Graduate Music School Free

Thanks to a $100 million donation, graduate students at The Yale School of Music will be able to attend tuition free.

Yale Makes Graduate Music School Free (AP)

In most of America’s top conservatories, the world’s most promising musicians are often deep in debt and giving music lessons just to cover the rent and close the gap between their scholarships and graduate school tuition. But a $100 million donation is about to change that scenario at The Yale School of Music. The anonymous donation, announced this past week, will make advanced music education free beginning next year. Music scholars hope it will pressure other schools to do the same.

“Money is a big factor,” said Yale master’s candidate Clara Yang, 24, who paid for her first year with loans, financial aid and by teaching piano lessons. The current year’s tuition at the Yale School of Music is $23,750, and about 200 students are enrolled each year.

Half the former art and music students surveyed by college lender Nellie Mae in 1998 had debts bigger than their salaries and most said that, in hindsight, they should have borrowed less. “These are incredibly talented people who do wonderful work and enter careers that are not high-paying,” said Yale President Richard Levin. “Even members of the great symphony orchestras don’t make a lot of money.”

While I’m pleased that these students will have the chance to study for free, I never understand the mindset of those who go into debt knowing their financial prospects were dim. I understand borrowing heavily to attend a top law or medical school, as the financial windfall in those professions justifies it. But it is just idiotic to go into hock to finance entry into a profession that doesn’t pay.

I say this as a political science Ph.D., where recent graduates can look forward to steep odds at finding a tenure-track job that pays $40,000 a year. I knew that going in, though, and only went to graduate school on the condition that I could do so without incurring debt. A graduate teaching assistantship that paid my tuition and a monthly stipend took care of that. I was contantly amazed at my cohorts who were borrowing $20,000 a year or more.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kent says:

    Curiously, a lot of the top graduate schools in technical areas have ample financial assistance in spite of high potential pay. Of course, these departments are also competing with industry for graduates. Helping their students avoid debt may be a rational way to avoid losing them all to industry.

  2. Alan Kellogg says:

    You don’t take up music because it makes sense, you take up music because it feels right.

  3. Emily says:

    I agree with Alan! I was thinking the same thing. People don’t really study music thinking “this really isn’t going to be logical.” They are hoping that by following their dreams, things will work out ok in the end!