OP, I wanted to jump in to say that I'm in the same position, not in terms of those exact choices, but debating the question of whether I should follow the prestige, pay the money and risk not getting a job in US (more realistically, getting a job but not being able to stay because of visa), or getting something that pays so little (40-50k) that its impossible to save up (at least in a city like NYC) and pay back hefty loans.
OR to forget the prestige and not pay the money, keep your options open for a degree with higher ROI (MBA) if you're up for it later, but then risk not getting a prestigious/high paying job (which would theoretically be okay because you didn't spend any money however you should forget an entry to the IOs or the MBBs straight out of grad school) but more importantly, no one being able to recognise the college back in India and the impact that will have.
And let me tell you, it is keeping me up at night.
I know that this forum is very much against taking large loans and I largely agree with that sentiment, but when you are an international student whose ticket to the US is education, you want to do nothing but the best. I dreamt of Columbia SIPA for a long time and am still hoping for some miraculous aid to turn up from some of the sources I'm looking at, but as the reality of the situation hits me I am questioning if my passion for this degree is strong enough to be okay with being in debt for the next 10-20 years (largely no). On the other hand like you I am finding it very difficult to turn down SIPA because 20 years later I also don't want to regret not going to Columbia when I had the chance.
The bottom line is, you need to determine if you have the kind of fire to make it. I know people who have come to Columbia on no scholarship and are ok with that either because they have been able to bag that one McKinsey job or they have the kind of financial backing from their parents/spouse that they they are able to come here to learn from the best and not have to worry about the loans. So at the end of it you need to think about if you are the kind of person who is ready/able to spend a LOT of time, energy and money (yes additional money) to run after getting that job, and while you do that you will have to sacrifice the learning/academic side of things.
@ExponentialDecay @Prester John what is your opinion of the IPED program at Fordham? I know that it is no where in terms of rankings/prestige. However, few things that are attracting me to it:
- The full ride obviously, but more importantly
- Ability to dual degree with MA Economics since the IPED itself is pretty quant/econ heavy. The MA Economics will make me eligible for STEM OPT extension which buys more time and (I believe) also opens up more doors in terms of jobs where I can play the quant angle. Worry: MA Economics from a non-prestigious college doesn't do anything for anyone.
- Ability to stay in NYC - I have been to both Boston and DC and very frankly speaking (people please don't hate) did not like it as much as I like NYC. Plus with a sorted living situation and the kind of exposure that NYC offers, I am hesitant to move away. Worry: Being a non-Columbia non-NYU student in NYC bars you from the very same exposure/networking opportunities.
I need to make a decision on Fordham by Sunday and I am very strongly leaning towards at least paying the deposit money even if I do not end up going there because it seems like a solid option, but need more thoughts.
Would also like to hear your thoughts on the MALD degree similar to what the OP asked since that is coming out to be my cheapest option right now in the elite category.