In recent years, academic philosophy has made an unequivocal commitment to fostering diversity in the philosophical community. Spearheading this effort, the APA has offered resources for diversity and inclusiveness in teaching, arranged committees on diversity in the profession, and now robustly tracks the demographics of our field. In a discipline devoid of much consensus, the commitment to diversity at all levels of philosophy (undergraduate, graduate, faculty and leadership) is nearly unanimous.
Despite this widespread effort to make philosophy a more inclusive discipline, the admissions process to our graduate schools now serves as a filter, insuring that members of underprivileged groups are effectively priced out of the market. Worst of all (or best of all), most of the factors contributing to massively expensive graduate school applications can be easily remedied by those with authority on the admissions committees, and in the departments and universities involved.
In my MA program, serious applicants to PhDs are recommended to apply to 10-15 schools. This process can thus cost thousands of dollars.
The official reporting of the GRE is a massive and avoidable expense. The current rate is a $27 fee per school that is assessed to applicants just to send an official copy of their score report. This means that a serious applicant spends $270-$405 just on reporting the official scores to schools. The solution is simple: schools should accept an unofficial, self reported score (as they already ask for) on the application. If an offer of admission is made, then the applicant should be required to send an official score report to confirm their score. If the self reported score turns out to be falsified, then the applicant is rejected. Otherwise, there is no reason schools need an official report from applicants that they do not intend to accept. This change can and should be made immediately.
Application fees vary widely between schools, ranging from $65 to $125 among top departments. These fees also do not particularly track rank. I can’t pretend to know what those fees go to, but I do know that if some of the most competitive programs can run their admissions process at $65 per applicant, then fees almost double that are likely exorbitant. In some or even most cases, these fees may be university wide. If the department has no control over such fees, I think they should push back on university policy to the best of their ability, or else seek ways to offer fee waivers. Supposing that the average fee is $85 dollars, a serious applicant will spend $850-$1275 on application fees alone.
This means that even the most conservative applicants will spend over $1000 just on fees and score reporting, in addition to hundreds on the GRE itself and test prep, as well as a fee to send transcripts, which at my institution is $10 per school. I estimate that my costs this upcoming admission season will be about $1400, and this is my second time applying out.
Applying to graduate school is now enormously expensive, and this serves to especially disenfranchise underprivileged groups. In effect, applicants face thousands of dollars in tolls to even attempt to join our profession. If we really care about bringing traditionally disenfranchised groups into our ranks, then we need to take reducing costs of admission much more seriously. Fortunately, much can be done by the philosophical establishment to lower these costs.