I am a very strong graduate candidate in art history with a 3.97 undergrade GPA and excellent research and writing skills. My recommdations are very strong with three professors attesting that I my work is "brilliant" and "exceptional." Three months were spent intensively researching MA programs in art history, after which I applied to two schools, one very elite, and one excellent but not an elite. The elite school took ten candidates and I was not accepted. The less elite school courted me and hosted me for a day to meet the department, writing afterwards that they were "thrilled" to have someone of my caliber. I love the program there, and there are two scholars there I want to study with. Great right? No, because the funding the promised for the MA did not come through, and they have no funds except for PhD students. They were only able to offer me a $1,700 cash scholarship.
This is my new dilemma, I have three options:(1) I can turn down this acceptance, and go to a school whose program and faculty I like less, but a school where I can get full tuition plus stipend at the MA level -- there are six or eight and I will get into at least one; (2) I can accept and sell everything I own and go 70K into debt for two years, plus work part-time off campus, which is not a great option; (3) I can change from a MA candidate to a PhD candidate and they will accept me with full funding -- full ride on tuition plus stipend. I do not really want to commit to 5 years, but I am already well into dissertation research on a great topic. I am confused, does anyone have advice ?
I should add as an addendum, that if I am going to apply directly to a PhD program -- which my undergrad advisors feel I am ready to do -- should I then expand my search for the following year, or stick with the school to which I am now accepted? I am a good "fit" for this excellent, highly competitive program, but I do not have the money to do their masters with almost no funding.