IN AUGUST, I BEGAN a PhD in history at Yale. My scholarship falls just short of $30,000 a year. While not exactly commensurate with the university’s $25 billion endowment, it’s a generous stipend compared to those at similar programs. Compare it to what most of my friends are making, however, and my financial situation looks somewhat less favorable.
I graduated two-and-a-half years ago from Washington University in St. Louis. Many of my friends are now working in New York City, with salaries approaching six figures. Even those friends accruing vast debt in law school have such high expected future income that they feel justified splurging on this and that.
This has serious ramifications for my social life—both what I do and with whom I do it. In New Haven, my fellow graduate students are similarly strapped for cash. Friday night plans generally consist of a double-size bottle of Yellow Tail and a card game. Nights out with friends in New York look rather different. The $35 roundtrip train ticket to Manhattan alone puts a sizable dent in my disposable income. Add that to subway rides, dinners out and overpriced cocktails, and I begin to realize that I simply can’t afford to hang out with certain people.
This isn’t likely to change anytime soon. My PhD will probably take seven years to finish, and Yale rarely adjusts stipends for inflation. I’ve already had to forgo vacations with friends and, if my sister’s experience is any indication, I won’t be able to attend many weddings, either. I, of course, wish all my friends the best in their financial lives. But maybe I’d see them more often if they weren’t quite so successful.
Henry Clements, Jonathan’s son, is a PhD student at Yale. Back in the U.S. after two years in Cairo, he studies modern Middle East history and is considering taking up the banjo.