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I am a soon to be fourth year doctoral candidate this coming academic year. I previously completed a Master's in Experimental Psychology (now called Psychological Sciences. No Ph.D program there) that had assistantships which would pay a salary, yet did not have any tuition waived at all for being a lab manager. It should be noted that no tuition waiver was standard for all students in the program as well. Thinking that this was the norm for MAs based on what I read and through connections I had at the time, I went through with the decision. Both my Master's and Ph.D programs are in the U.S.

Unfortunately, I did not learn until midway through the program and after I finished it that it had an extremely bad reputation despite the university's good reputation as a whole. There were also multiple red flags I ignored other than the fiscal aspect at the time in the middle of the program (which I won't state here).

I realize I am making this post with the risk of others downvoting me based on paying tuition at a state school program, but I only knew what I knew from those who I thought I could trust at the time. I just want to know at this point, despite graduating with my Ph.D soon (fully funded there and my Ph.D program accepted my Master's and my thesis no less even though it was from another program), will my no tuition waiver program look bad to others post Ph.D? I should note that my current Ph.D program also has MA students, but they are totally unfunded by the department itself. Instead, advisors pay them from dedicated lab funds without a tuition waiver. This created some tension between MA and Ph.D students, unlike my MA where everyone had the same treatment, thus no resentment.

Edit: Shortened the title and post length a decent bit.

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    That old question about Ph.D reputation sadly does not answer this one. The first full reply here does through. I'm going to try to publish and do all of that usual stuff in my Ph.D program. Opportunity just was not there in my MA program at the time.
    – zzmondo1
    Jul 30, 2023 at 11:02
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    @Allure, that's a different question.
    – Dilworth
    Jul 30, 2023 at 13:16
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    I don't understand why tuition waiver has anything to do with the reputation of the program/university.
    – Nobody
    Jul 30, 2023 at 13:35

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I think you‘re asking the wrong question. No one but you and your bank will know whether or not you had a tuition waiver. And I'm certain no one else will care.

PhD's (at least full-time ones at reputable places) are usually funded. But there are lots of variables there. I wouldn't pay for a PhD (4-7 years of tuition + living expenses? I have a bridge to sell you…) but, depending on the field, some people do. I don't think it's all that unusual to start unfunded in the hopes of finding funding down the road. Whatever the case may be, a lack of funding may indirectly indicate something about the program but alone it is not a measure of quality. Certainly there are fields where one would not expect funding at all - for example some professional or "clinical" doctorates. Yours is funded, so no worries there.

On the MA side of things, I have not come across many fully-funded masters programs. Graduate support like the one you describe is fairly common though. This really has nothing to do with the quality of the program. I would not expect most people to have a tuition waiver for any MA program and, again, I can't really imagine a scenario where someone would care about that specifically.

I should note that my current PhD program also has MA students, but they are totally unfunded by the department itself. Instead, advisors pay them from dedicated lab funds without a tuition waiver. This created some tension between MA and PhD students, unlike my MA where everyone had the same treatment, thus no resentment.

I'm not sure this is relevant. Are you saying that some MA students paid more or less, since it depends on the lab/professor's budget? In any case, this has nothing to do with the perceived or actual quality of a program. This sounds pretty normal in terms of funding for masters degrees anyway.

So, where does that leave you? Well it means that you don't have to worry about having paid tuition for your MA. The bigger issue is that you say your former program has a "bad reputation". Whether or not this follows you depends on just how bad that reputation is. A program having a "bad reputation" could mean anything ranging from "Not the best program out there" to "literally a degree mill". As long as it doesn't hit the "literally a degree mill" end of the spectrum, I would think that it will be overshadowed by your PhD.

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    Thank you for the answer. Fortunately, my MA program was not a degree mill at all. The bad reputation piece mainly came down to advising and how little they were engaged with their advisees.
    – zzmondo1
    Jul 30, 2023 at 10:18
  • Ahh that is not a reputation you have to worry about after the fact. I would maybe warn a student looking to go there about it, but it doesn't reflect poorly on someone who already graduated - if that makes sense.
    – sErISaNo
    Jul 30, 2023 at 15:03
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    It does make sense. Also, my university as whole had the appropriate regional accreditation, which is further evidence that its not a degree mill. Experimental Psychology and I/O programs also fall outside of APA accreditation so that was never a concern of mine.
    – zzmondo1
    Jul 30, 2023 at 19:41
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The question cannot be answered because

  1. the qualifiers: "good reputation" and "bad reputation" are not specific, and quantified enough.

  2. There is a confusion between MA and PhD. You are asking about your MA. But actually you are going to be judged by your last degree, which is PhD. If this is the case, then of course, nobody normally cares for what you did prior to the PhD.

Explanation: You say that the university has a "good reputation overall". That's a plus. But the program has a "bad reputation". That's a minus. But how bad the reputation of each is?

If MIT has a badly reputed program, it still is going to be not that bad of a program, right? But if a QS-ranked 300 university has a badly reputed program then it's going to be detrimental to your success.

So we need to know the approximate "numbers" of bad/good associated to your qualifiers "good/bad".

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  • The only ranking I saw for my university on the QS Scale was the US since it's regionally accredited rather than nationally accredited. It falls between #251-300 for US institutions. Honestly though, since my last degree carries the most weight, then I'm probably not going to be too worried about it then.
    – zzmondo1
    Jul 30, 2023 at 14:18

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