unitofobscurity wrote:Agreed, it's highly variable. In Ithaca NY your stipend will make you solidly middle class. In the Bay Area, you may still need to take out student loans to pay the rent.
I know a couple who did grad school at Cornell together, and between the two of them they had enough money to get a mortgage for a house. By contrast, rent in Berkeley CA for a studio apartment starts at close to $1500 per month (according to friends there).
Wherever you get in, you should ask current grad students whether they can afford rent and food on their stipend without taking on extra debt (or parental support, &c).
If you spend 1500 a month in Berkeley you're doing it wrong. You can get a studio for a bit under 1k right next to campus. Sharing with other people and living a tiny bit further you can cut that to as low as 500. Same with Stanford, you can live on campus for I think 9k a year or share a house in Palo Alto for about that much. If you want your own apartment in Palo Alto, you might be in some trouble since that'll cost you 2k minimum. Don't think you need student loans but I think Berkeley grad students cut it somewhat close.
Just make sure to not fall into the "this is an expensive area so I am not overpaying" trap, the range of prices is huge.