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Is reputation worth the cost?


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I have to decide today (realistically, I had to decide last week) if I am going to enroll in School A or School B:

- School A is a very well-regarded private school and has been consistantly ranked #1 or 2 in the field for years running. It has great facilities, produces stellar work, and is located in the major metropolitan area in which I currently reside. It costs an arm, a leg and an eye to attend.

- School B is an acknowedged, but not necessarily high-ranking public school. It has equally great facilities, quality student work, and amazing opportunities for cross-disciplinary studies in other departments. It is located in a relatively small and considerably more remote area, somewhat limiting acces to prospective work opportunities, and on the other side of the country from where I live now. The cost is very reasonable, though.

Is it crazy to pass up an offer from "one of the best" to attend a school on the other side of the country, in a city I'm pretty unfamiliar with? Is the name-recognition from School A worth upwards of 150k to get a degree?

I know others are struggling with similar dilemmas, please let me know how you were able to come to a logical conclusion! Thanks -

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Your decision should depend on:

a. how much will you make with your degree, realistically? Is it going to be enough to pay back a $150K loan AND live comfortably? think in realistic terms... i.e. the average for the person in your industry.

b. will graduating from school B make a huge difference in being able to get the type of job (i.e. if you go to school B, are you likely to make significantly less than you would from school A? $150K worth?)

I'm in a different field but I would NEVER pay that kind of money for grad school... even law school. I can't think of any profession in which I'd be likely to recoup the cost and live comfortably without winning the lotto.

Edited by CageFree
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Provided I maintain my scholarship (and chances are that I will be able to, and perhaps obtain additional funding) the grand total would be closer to 85k, not including living expenses, for School A.

School B, with no funding, will cost 38k to attend for the total of the 3-year program.

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I had a similar choice to make and chose the name-recognition school for my MA. While many people may have made a different decision, I'm glad I made mine. It put me on a path I never would have been on had I not chosen it, and now I'm headed into a Ph.D program fully funded for 5 years (with only 1 year of teaching) that is beyond my hopes and dreams.

My advice is to sit down and look at your finances, figure out where you can cut costs, and look at what you expect to make over the course of the next 10 years in your industry. See if current students do any part-time work on the side for extra money. Then, look at the placement rates for Schools A and B, and maybe even get in touch with some alumni to get a read on job prospects and how long it took them to get employed after school. If a program is a professional program with really stellar placement rates and strong salaries on the other side, and your industry is high-paying, it might be worth it.

At the end of the day, you're the only one who can make that decision though. Consider carefully what you're comfortable with, your other debt obligations, and how you plan to pay back the money.

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Provided I maintain my scholarship (and chances are that I will be able to, and perhaps obtain additional funding) the grand total would be closer to 85k, not including living expenses, for School A.

School B, with no funding, will cost 38k to attend for the total of the 3-year program.

The question I haven't seen answered: "Will you find a job quick enough that will allow you to pay off the 85K in debt?" Only you know the job market where you will end up with your degree, so only you know how well you are going to be able to start paying of the 85K (plus whatever else you've borrowed) which, if you want done fast, will be a sizeable chunk out of your paycheck each month.

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Thanks for all of your feedback. "School A" has agreed to re-evaluate my scholarship, so I've bought some time in this decision, but know that ultimately it will never be as inexpensive as "School B." My issue now, I suppose, is to figure out at what point does the "better" school become worth it?

My advice is to sit down and look at your finances, figure out where you can cut costs, and look at what you expect to make over the course of the next 10 years in your industry. See if current students do any part-time work on the side for extra money. Then, look at the placement rates for Schools A and B, and maybe even get in touch with some alumni to get a read on job prospects and how long it took them to get employed after school. If a program is a professional program with really stellar placement rates and strong salaries on the other side, and your industry is high-paying, it might be worth it.

Yes, I believe there are decent freelance opportunities for students in my field (industrial design) in the metro area where School A is located. It is a program that boasts high internship and industry placement rates, and salaries in this area are on-par with the cost of living, which is relatively high. Whether or not a starting salary will be enough to manage paying off a loan in the 85k range, I have yet to determine.

School B does not offer anything close to the same placement rates, but is in an area with that has maintained a strong economy, low unemployment, and low cost of living. I imagine it will require a much greater effort to graduate from this institution with the same caliber portfolio/resume, but it is possible. Easier to be the big fish in a small pond?

Edited by MDF
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