Free Degree at Home vs. Spendy Journalism School

by Judge Josh on October 15, 2010

Oh, Claire. If only you were born 20 or 30 years earlier.

I am a senior in high school who is currently filling out college applications. I have applied to many places, some more prestigious than others. Ever since I was in middle school, it has been my goal to get into Columbia University and major in something involving writing or journalism.

Well, I’m probably the right guy (or at least one of them) to give you advice, then. Columbia’s journalism program was my dream, too, but for graduate school. It was quite the application process.

They gave me a current events test and an editing test, but it wasn’t on my campus in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Instead, they have (or at least they did back then) Columbia alumni administer the test from their homes, wherever they happen to live. So I had to drive a couple hours into rural Illinois to some old lady’s house and take it in her very country-fied kitchen. It was odd.

expensive journalism school

Got accepted, actually, but they wanted something like $30,000 for a one-year master’s program, and offered me only $2,000 in financial aid. Couldn’t swing it. Dream denied! As you probably know if you read this site often, I ended up waiting and getting my M.A. at Missouri.

Point is: I’ve been there and I know how you feel!

I am applying to other schools like Northwestern, NYU, Rollins, Emerson (although after reading your last post I’m not sure I want to, haha), and Boston University.

If you’re still going the journalism route after reading this post, ditch all of them except Northwestern. The other ones aren’t good enough to justify the additional cost above UT. More on that in a second, though.


Journalism, I’m sure you’ve heard, is a really, really shitty place to be right now. Job cuts have been the norm for years now, and they’ll continue for many more. Newspapers are a shell of what they once were, and even flagship newsmags like Time and Newsweek are dying a slow death.

Radio news — well, good luck finding a public-radio gig, because there are way more applicants than actual jobs. And TV news is anyone’s guess. Local TV news will always be there, probably, mainly because they can keep paying new-grad reporters $17,000 per year to write, shoot and produce their own stories.

It’s bad times out there, girlfriend. Sorry for the gloom and doom, but it’s necessary to go over that before I give you the second part of my answer.

BECAUSE the outlook is grim, you simply can’t be taking out tons of money in student loans in the hopes of repaying them with well-paying journalism jobs that simply do not exist anymore. And for the ones that do still exist, you’re in competition with every new grad PLUS the thousands of laid-off mid-career workers with tons more experience than you have.

So with all that in mind, follow these two rules:

a) If you’re going to pursue journalism, keep your costs as low as you possibly can. If UT is going to not only pay your way but actually give you so many scholarships that you’ll be *making* money — for the love of God, take it. (I know you have other issues with UT — I’ll address them in a minute).

b) If you decide to skip UT in favor of a better-known program, go as high as you can. Go to Columbia, Mizzou or Northwestern. Those are still the “Big 3” journalism schools, and a degree from there MIGHT let you skip a couple of the lower rungs on the career ladder. MIGHT. Absolutely no guarantees there, though.

There are some above-average schools out there like the ones you mentioned (BU, Emerson, NYU) and also ones you didn’t mention (Indiana, North Carolina). But while they’re good schools, they don’t carry the same reputation as the Big 3 do, and they don’t offer you any cost savings over the best schools. So if you’re gonna spring for an expensive journalism degree, go big or stay home.

Overall, my advice is to take the UT offer. Going to college for free will make an INCREDIBLE difference in your standard of living when you get out of school, and throughout the rest of your life.

I’m guessing that you’ll make roughly the same amount of money with a UT degree as you will with, say, a BU degree. And because you paid nothing for your degree, you’ll have plenty of money with which to enjoy life — because you’ll be free of financial obligations (provided you don’t develop a coke habit or a gambling addiction in college, you know).

On the other hand, come out of BU with, say, even $50,000 of student loan debt (and that might be conservative), and you’re talking about an obligation of $600 or so per month — which will seriously limit your choices, considering the low salary guaranteed you by a J-degree.

I really want to get out of my hometown — Knoxville, TN. If I went to University of TN- Knoxville, which is an okay school, I could possibly MAKE money off of scholarships, but I don’t really want to be close to home. I want to get out and become my own person.

No one supports that idea of getting out and becoming your own person more than I, and this is no exception. Yeah, it’ll be more of the same scenery staying in Knoxville and you’ll be close to your parents, etc. But you can still get out and become your own person.

I mean, you’re already your own person, right? You just want to maybe become more independent, do more things & handle your business on your own? It’s harder, sure, when you have the same people around, your family, etc. — but you can do this. You pretty much just — well, you resolve to jump out on your own and then you do so. :)

That may not be so easy to swallow, so listen to this: By going to school for free at UT, you’ll be putting yourself in a *much* better position to be out on your own, independent, your own person. Because — and I mean no disrespect by this — if you come out of an expensive private school with $60-70k of debt and an entry-level journalism job, there’s  an excellent chance you’ll be back in Mom & Dad’s house within a year or two.

Or maybe not Mom & Dad’s — maybe someone else’s. Maybe two or three roommmates. Who knows? My point is, if you think it’s a little uncomfortable now to not have the chance to be out on your own — now, with no debt and no obligations/responsibilities — just imagine how it’ll feel when you’re 25 and have crushing debt and you absolutely *can’t* be independent because the money isn’t there.

(Briefly…please understand that I realize you might be really, really good at journalism and am not assuming you’re some sort of failure waiting to happen. My diagnosis here has only to do with the state of the journalism industry and the cost of  college — no personal insult intended. :)

My family is really pushing UT because of the financial reasons. I get in state, a 25% off discount because my mom is a teacher, and the hope scholarship. This doesn’t include any merit scholarships or need based aid (my family is lower middle class). It would be a lot of money I would be throwing away if I went somewhere else.

Amen. I try to put it this way, because I know it’s a bitch to wrap your mind around the reality of all this debt and job market business when you’re still in high school:

If someone came up to you and said, “I’ll give you $25,000 in cash today if you’ll stay here and do nothing but just go take your college classes every day like a normal student.” Maybe Ed McMahon and the Publisher’s Clearinghouse, if he were still alive. Wait…is Ed McMahon dead or alive? I can’t remember.

Anyway, what would you say? I’d do it in a heartbeat. When you put it that way, almost everyone would say yes.

But that’s essentially what you turn down when you turn down free school — someone dropping $25,000 in your lap every year. And not just for one year, but four years in a row! That’s like winning a game show and staying on as the champion for about a month.

Is it better to throw my idea of going somewhere awesome and expensive away and save money during college to then go to grad school at somewhere like Columbia?

I definitely advise the UT undergrad degree. Whether you go to grad school is another issue altogether. Go do the undergrad program and see if it’s something you want to stay with, given the job outlook, economic climate, etc.

Just know that: a) you definitely don’t *need* a grad degree to get a job writing, and b) getting into the grad programs at those elite schools is tougher than undergrad. When I applied in 1996 (I know, I’m old), I think the acceptance rate was 9%.

Or is it better to go to the dream school (if I get in) or somewhere where the writing program is awesome and face the financial consequences?

It’s really tough for me to tell someone to just throw their dream away, and usually I don’t do that, so understand that I don’t give you this advice without some consideration. Your particular dream is one I understand from experience — right down to the school you’re applying to. What I think is worth pointing out, though, is how the “dream,” quite naturally as it turns out, differs from the reality.

You will not go to any undergrad journalism program — even Columbia — and hop right into a high-profile, high-paying job at an elite, prestigious news organization (take your pick — NY Times, CNN, whatever). It just doesn’t work that way, and I point that out because I think a lot of us who went to top-tier J-schools *perceived* it would be that way.

I’ll take that back — the one chance you have of making that happen is if you’re a minority. The largest and most prestigious new orgs tirelessly seek a racially diverse newsroom, so being an extremely gifted and high-performing black or Native American reporter is just about the only way I know that you can rocket yourself into the highest levels of journalism without a lot of dues-paying years on the journalism bread line.

But even then, it’s ridiculously difficult and competitive. Otherwise, it’s simply impossible.

Anyway — so if you’re OK with that and you understand it, and then Columbia is *still* your dream school and you’re willing to live with a lot of debt and little means — by all means, go for it. I just want you to know what you’re getting into before you leap.

And lest I sound like a complete materialist here, let me end on the note that journalism can be a fascinating career. If you want to get to know your community and truly understand all the great (and awful) things that people in it are doing, then there’s no better job than a journalist.

I’m just saying — it’s easier to enjoy life when you’re not broke, so go Vols. :)

— I know you guys must have a lot to say on this one. Plenty of you will disagree, I’m sure. What do you think Claire should do? Let us know in the comments below!

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Freelance Journalist October 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Dear Claire and Josh,

I agree with Josh wholeheartedly! I went to Florida State undergrad, an average school. I studied International Affairs but I took every internship and practical experience in journalism that I could. It paid off…my first job out of school was at CNN. It was low on the rung, but I learned a lot and its still a shining star on my resume. Then I worked at NBC in a top 20 market city. I started out as a lowly associate producer but worked my way up to Investigative Producer on an Emmy Award winning team. I have a graduate degree in communciations from the University of London. But guess what Claire? I’m unemployed!

Actually, I’m in good company. Most of the journalists I know are, too. People with, literally, 50 years of experience are being laid off right and left. No matter how talented or driven you are, I would not recommend that amount of debt for a fledgling arena. Last week, I went down to my local school board to apply for a teaching license.

If you MUST be a journalist, go to UT and pick a marketable major (NOT journalism). Then, gain practical experience on your own time. I hosted a college radio show, wrote for the school newspaper and then interned at the local newspaper. That internship earned me a job at the paper my senior year. While applying at CNN, they told me that my small town experience made me stand out from the crowd. You’ll be fine, Claire. But the debt is avoidable at this point…RUN!!

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Ed October 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Freelance Journalist,

As a fellow Florida State alum and member of the unemployed, I wish you the best in your job search and in your possible teaching career.

I have student loan debt, which isn’t even that much (just over $12,000) and it is starting to keep me awake at night. And I earned a MBA degree. And I was a graduate assistant whose boss worked for the Tally Democrat. What I was hoping to do after business school has not panned out because the recession is so much worse than expected. for now, i am working with a grad school friend working for his startup for free. But it has been good for me.

Back to the journalism career, it is a career where your talent is less valuable unless you are one of the select few on the cable news channels. In college, like you said, and at a place like UT-Knoxville, write for the school paper, work college radio and try to even get an internship with the local media. They are always interested in interns.

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Whitney March 21, 2011 at 9:32 am

Although receiving a great scholarship like this is rare, I would not take it and pursue my goal of going to Colombia. Yes, scholarships help out a ton, but I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering how it would have turned out differently if I would have pursued my dream. I have the same goal to get out of my hometown, and I have declined several scholarships to the local school.

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Ed March 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I think it is easy to say that the scholarship should not be pursued for chasing a dream. If this girl’s dream is Columbia, then by all means study something such as finance or economics and get on Wall Street (you are in New York City, and can pay your bills more easily if you work in high finance). If her dream is to be a journalist, she needs to show that she is a talented journalist, not a journalist with a ton of potential. Journalism is not a career where your potential is what potential employers judge, that is what the NFL draft is for. Journalism wants experienced people. Getting work for a local paper on a beat, working the college paper on the beat, working a college radio station or as a PA at the local TV stations in Knoxville will allow Claire to reach the dream of being a successful journalist. Having met and known quite a few Ivy Leaguers, it is not that big a deal to them. My great-grandfather is a Harvard alum, yet I have nothing to show for it. Heck, one of my grandfathers was an alum of the University of Florida, yet they still rejected me for undergrad and grad school. UT-Knoxville is a fine educational institution (I know someone who went there who could have chosen to attend any school, and I mean any school) and enjoyed the experience and got a quality education.

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Jen October 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm

You should go to the university that’s offering you practically a full ride. I live in NJ and I’m doing the NJ STARS Program which is basically four years tuition free as long as you do two years community college and then transfer to a state college. I’m saving so much money and I’m debt free now and when I graduate in two years I”ll have more money to spend in my graduate education which is way more important in the end.

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Stephanie October 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Take the free degree. It’s an incredible blessing that not many students receive. I honest-to-goodness MADE money during my undergrad by living at home. It was the greatest feeling in the world to graduate with my BA with $30 000 in the bank while my friends were that far in debt. Also, having that nest egg was incredibly wonderful when I headed off to grad school. Unlike almost every other applicant, I knew that, even if I got $0 in scholarships and TA-ships (I ended up getting plenty of funding), I could still afford to do the degree.

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EP October 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Claire,

Go to UT-Knoxville and get a solid undergraduate education for FREE. Starting a career after college or going to grad school debt-free is a tremendous
personal, financial advantage. I’ve visited Columbia. Without question, it’s an ourstanding school in a world-class city, but Columbia folks, in my experience, tend to be remarkably arrogant and stuffy. Money aside, I think you’ll have more fun and meet better people in TN.

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Ruth October 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Honestly, I would never turn my nose up at a free ride. I’ve been struggling ever since I graduated highschool to make headway on a degree. I have no parental support, do not qualify for financial aid until I am 24 (25?), and have to work full time to feed and shelter myself. I am 23 and hardly near completion of my first BA. Frankly, I think you’d be a fool to turn down a full ride for the sake of getting out of town. Stick it out, then go places when you’re finished with your degree.

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kelsey October 15, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Is there no middle ground? No other state universities or even campuses of that university that you could go to, so that you’d get in-state and the hope scholarship and all that jazz as well as getting away from home? Anyway, even if you have to stay in your hometown (which, damn, free ride? Should be no contest!) living on campus *DOES* make a huge difference in the college experience–I highly, highly recommend it to anyone.
You can get internships and even take classes in New York over your breaks, and with all the money you save by staying in TN, you’ll actually be able to make a real try at living there and working in journalism after college graduation.

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FoxyKate October 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm

TAKE THE SCHOLARSHIP.

I was offered 100% tuition at a great school back in 1992 and I balked because I don’t even know why. Now I’m a SAHM with four kids, no degree, and over $50K in student loans. And I’m not stupid.

Don’t be like me, Claire! Take the free ride and run!

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Beth October 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I’m currently going to a state school in New York fairly close to home, full ride, plus making money from financial aid. I debated it for a very long time. I really wanted to go to Carnegie Mellon University, and with financial aid probably could have swung it. My primary major is in Computer Science, so I have confidence in my employment and salary prospects after graduation.
Despite that, I picked the state school, and the only thing I regret is that it’s freaking cold in Buffalo. But the program and my advisors are good, if not great, and because of the things I don’t have to do to pay for current or future school bills (such as work at a fast food restaurant), I have time to build up stuff that will look GREAT on my resume, such as teaching assistantships, research, independent study, and I may even have the cash next year to pay for a study abroad.
Seriously, at least for one year, TRY UT! Living near home isn’t as bad as you would think. Your parents will not show up at your dorm room daily, or likely ever, uninvited. They are able to call you just as much as if you lived far away, but you have the benefit of having them there if you want them. I was surprised at how much I liked being near home. The worst that could happen is you decide the school and living near home aren’t for you, and transfer after a year, having completed a year of coursework for free. Picking UT doesn’t mean you necessarily have to pass up any other school for four years, but picking another school does mean you are forgoing the possibility of going to a school which might actually be an amazing match for you for no money.

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Ed October 15, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Claire,

About your concerns of living in Knoxville, having stayed living at home as an undergrad (because Miami is an expensive town without roommates), there were bad things as I did not develop enough independence, there were good things. You will get to spend Thanksgiving with your family (which I did not get to do when I left town0, not seeing your current friends as often, and who does not want a free education. I was a professional student for most of my undergrad and other than being a grad assistant as a full-time grad student, I didn’t have to bounce over at the local dive. Get practical experience such as the school paper, internships at local media or the college radio and/or TV station.

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mike October 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I feel this is something I can comment on from a slightly different, but still relevant, view point.

I followed my dream, and went to art school, I had grandious dreams of going to school, being great at my craft, leaving school and getting a job semi related to my field.

Well that is what happened; for the most part.I went to school got a great education, had a good job while I was in school and graduated with good greats, a good portfolio and everything looked promising.

Except the job front. With a good resume of jobs, skills and a strong portfolio… I still have yet to land a STEADY job… Over a year out of school. I freelance with web and graphic design, but nothing steady.

So this leaves me with my dream of going to an expensive art school, with a useless degree, lots of debt and I’m sitting on my parents couch writing this.

Take the free (money making!) degree! Its not, NOT following your dreams, its just not the exact dream you had. You will have time to explore the world, or just the states at a later date while covering stories and getting paid to do so.

Just my two cents.

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Emily October 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Definitely go for the scholarships. I’m facing 57,000 dollars in debt for going to Kennesaw State (never heard of it, right?) for a B.A. in English. Once I graduate (Spring 2012) I’m going to have to move in with my mother (a secretary) and stepdad (who is currently unemployed) and my 26 year old sister and her two small children who also recently had to move home. I’m scared to death of my debt, and even more fearful of the job market. By all means, chase your dream, but if you can avoid debt you will have so much less stress and won’t be moving back in with your parents after graduation.

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Anna October 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I’m a senior at the University of Minnesota, Crookston and I work with someone on campus (I’m the work study in University Relations) who’s daughter is a freshman and goes to school here. Though they of course live in town, her daughter lives on campus and is still able to get the college experience this way.

I’m going to school in state, got good grades in h.s., and my family is lower-income. The U of M has this program where if you qualify for the Pell Grant and are from MN you get free tuition, so I get that. I’ve paid maybe a grand total of $3500 for school so far, and that’s including a study abroad program. I haven’t taken out a single loan and I believe I can get by without any loans next semester as well so I’ll graduate debt free. It’s a great feeling and I don’t recommend passing that up. I do understand the sentiment of wanting something more prestigious and different though.

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Courtney October 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go to UT. I also wanted to go far away and experience the world, but guess what college takes up, what, 4-5 years of your life, you will still be young, and able to go experience a bunch of new places! AND since you will be pretty much being paid to go to school, take some of that money and plan a trip once a year to a different state, or even a country! You can see new sights in the same place, you just have to open your eyes to them. Volunteer at places you would have never thought, try and get internships (both in journalism and maybe in another career choice you would consider) UT is a fairly big school, so you will meet new people, that are far away from home and will think its cool to be able to go home with you on a weekend and have a home cooked meal with your fam. I am also being paid to go to school, and I’m about 2.5 hours from home. I can drive there in a split second, but I don’t. You can live in the same town and not see your parents for months (though they might not be too happy about it) hahaha. Take the cheap way, you WILL NOT REGRET IT, and if you do, you can transfer.

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Diala October 15, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I would say that you should go to UT. The schooling is cheaper giving you lots of time to explore your interests and make sure that journalism is what you want to do. Thousands of people enter college certain of their future goals and along the way something changes. At least the cheap school won’t make you suffer if you change your mind.

If you main concern is being able to explore your own interests and become independent it is a good idea to have an agreement with your family. Make a deal with them.

Example speech to parents:
“If I go to UT instead of my preferred school you have to promise me that you will give me my own space. It is important for me to establish my own ideals, goals and sense of self. This requires that I move into my own place and that I have a separate life from my family. I love you all very much and will make time for you during holidays and vacation time from school but while school is in session I will spend my time away from home. “

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Grey_GirlPTK October 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Take the free ride if you can. I was accepted to my first choice college, with full ride. But due to finances could not afford the relocation from Seattle to Providence, RI. So I went to a local private university here. Luckily my GPA was good enough that I will have only $18,000 debt by graduation, which is good since without scholarships/grants it would be over $60,000.

I also carry $20,000 from getting my AA. I had to take loans to make up the money I wasn’t earning from my secind job while in school. I provide for myself and a disabled parent, work full time and college full time. I was working tow full time jobs before I went back to college. So the loans were to replace the second job I dropped to have time to do school.

So between my AA and BA I will have $38,000 in debt, not counting interest. And the job market to deal with, which hopefully will be a little better by 2012.

Seattle U has a very good repuation for their programs. But not the equine management I wanted. But oh well sometimes you have to make adjustments. I am a junior and History major now. So job prospects vary depending on what I want when I’m done.

I would have loved to get out of Seattle, but it wasn’t ment to be. You know what? I love Seattle U. The program I’m in rocks:) Great professors and just challenging enough to be interesting. So staying put has worked out to be a good thing and not a stuck thing.

So try UT at least for a year or two. You can always transfer if you find it really isn’t worth the free ride. But don’t pass that up unless you have to. I know a few students at Seattle U that didn’t get scholarship and have $31,000 a year in loans to deal with. So ask your self if you get into one of the other programs, without the free ride, is $20-30,000 a year of debt worth going to them? UT has a good reputation and the free ride won’t hurt you getting into grad school. If you want more freedom from your family live on campus and make a schedule of when you visit them.

Also make friends on campus and make time to do fun stuff–go to sports events and volunteer, or do internships. Keep busy. There is a lot you can do right there in Tennesse to baorden your horizons if you look around. Heck team up with a student from out of the area and show them around. You’d be surprised how your hometown looks through fresh eyes.

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Jane October 16, 2010 at 1:07 am

My Dad’s rule: NEVER TURN DOWN FREE MONEY.

I went through my undergrad on a full tuition scholarship at a small university in a small city, chocked up more merit scholarships from the school and external sources than I needed for living expenses, and while friends were working part-time jobs, I learned how to trade stocks and turned that money into even more. Long story short – I’ll graduate a veterinarian with less than 10k in debt. Had I gone to a pricier school and started accumulating debt during my first degree, that number would be tenfold or more.

The more money you save now, the easier life is in the long run.

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Shriram October 16, 2010 at 1:27 am

It comes down to Expertise at reputed schools, strong network, alumni, excellent world class resources, how well you utilize them, and Most Importantyhow you fare or how well you can perform in the classes at top schools otherwise n point gointhat far if you are going to fail.
on the other hand,
a smart and hardworking, intelligent person will fare well anywhere in any field.
in that case yu would like to stack up againt the best nd learn from the best place with best everything like resources, teachers, opportunities where you willhave choice to pick which internsihp etc provided ou keep working hard till that point nd stick to your disciplines just like you did in high school( as close as you can get to best).
This works if you are a career oriented person and ifyou like to stay that way.
it comes at the expense of losing time wih family, loved ones, friends,and othr things mentioned in previous well-written comments, wich give you happiness by stayng at UT.
plan on what you want in the short term and long term (3 to 4 years from now)
think abt how much you want to rely on parents and which would make you stand on your legs and take care of your family( if that’s important to you.i hope it’s )
don’t let recession fear u that debt will be on ur head ad of joblessness. really comeon, no guarnteed success fr anything.
if thejobs rgone, not forever.
surely they will be back but if u have patience, u can put yourself in such a position to qualify for better opportunities if you spend same effort at UT or Columbia. if money and family matters more to you,
forget columbia and pick UT.
if ur still unsure, as btech is place to experiment, learn and discover urself, u can try 1 or 2 yrs transfr to other university from columbia to UT or UT to Columbia.
Weigh the chances of transfer and if you’ve chance, look at pros and cons of it.

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Warren October 16, 2010 at 5:11 am

A recent article mentioned journalism as one of the top 10 fields on the decline so take that into consideration.

When I first start the title of the article, I thought the discussion was going to be on unemployment where the average is $20-25K and staying at home most of the time is not a problem.

$60K in student loans by the time I get my Master’s.

You should check out the rules for the HOPE credit, but it is only a credit so you won’t get any money back and it is limited by how much tax you actually owed, up to the limit. If you aren’t paying for school or are considered a dependent, then you may not qualify for it. Check out the IRS website on Publication 970 for specific details.

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Larry Launstein Jr October 16, 2010 at 6:05 am

I was one of those unlucky ones who got a journalism degree, only to find out there were no jobs available when I graduated. And I went to one of the very best journalism schools in the nation, Michigan State. Thank God I did not have to deal with debt after getting out of that place (parents paid for it). However, I wound up having to change careers. I discovered web design and graphic art, and fell in love with it immediately. After bouncing around a few places, I found out that the best opportunities were available to me right in my home area, first at Mott Community College, and then at the University of Michigan-Flint. I never had to take out a dime in loans at Mott, and because I was able to keep my grades up and hustle, I was able to land several partial scholarships, which helped tremendously. And I was fortunate (and smart enough) to discover UM-Flint’s Transitions Program. They helped me with the admissions process, and helped me find enough scholarship money through their program to get started.

And UM-Flint actually recruited me a full year before I took the plunge, offering me an application, and all the incentive in the world to transfer.

So, what does this have to do with you? You should not rule out all the possibilities available to you closer to home. And if Tennessee is offering you a full-ride scholarship so you can find out what you were really meant to be, I’d be all over that one in a minute. The scholarships and partial scholarships I got at Mott and UM-Flint really helped, and I felt that I would have been crazy to turn down those kinds of opportunities. They don’t come very often, and you should take advantage of it while you can.

Mind you, I’m not totally debt free, but I don’t have even a quarter of the amount in loans some folks are paying. Trust me, this is not an indictment on those people. It is an indictment on how expensive college has gotten and how our leadership has devalued education in today’s society. It used to be a virtue and a very strong value to work your way through college, working for your tuition and expenses. Sadly, those days are gone, and I’d give anything for them to return, because then more people could attend college who might otherwise not do so. I’m very proud that I took advantage of my work studies at both Mott and UM-Flint, and I was also very lucky to get a nice paid internship at UM-Flint.

And even though Mott, Michigan State and UM-Flint were close to home, I was able to get enough space to do my work. I did live on campus at MSU, and then my last two years, had an off-campus apartment.

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Sam October 16, 2010 at 7:46 am

Take the full ride. You can run away from home after you graduate from college and go practically wherever you want to go but for now, the full-ride scholarship is golden. It is not offered to most students so stop whining, suck it up, and go to the local college where you are close enough to reach home for laundry, meals, and vacations but also to have an alternative “Fortress of Solitude,” when the dorm mate’s significant other is coming over at all hours or the dorm mate is a party animal whose keeping you up all night depriving you of the best education you can get. At least you’re close enough to your former bed to get some shut eye and some rest vs renting a hotel for the night.

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Eldred October 16, 2010 at 8:02 am

Live like no one else now, so later you can live like no one else. Take the free ride at UT, graduate debt-free. Then your income can actually build wealth instead of paying back *ridiculous* student loans.

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Elizabeth Toller October 16, 2010 at 8:10 am

Alright, I am going to be the one dissenting voice on this subject.

Last year, I faced a similar decision. I really wanted to leave home- my family was getting on my nerves, I needed a break from people, etc. However, the local college was offering me an exorbitant amount of money to stay- I would be making money as I went to college. It was really hard for me to pick what to do, but I eventually chose MIT.

I am so glad I did. I have a friend who was actually in a parallel situation- he got the same scholarship, had similar offers from colleges to attend. He chose to stay back home. He is having fun- but all of his friends are the same ones he had in high school, and he still hangs out back home over the weekends. There was never a growth factor.

I am also glad I did because I fit here better. I would not have been happy at the state school. But here, there are people with similar goals and standards, and who like to make nerdy jokes, etc.

Essentially, I would say go to the place you are happiest. Money doesn’t make you happier- sure, it makes life less stressful, which can lead to happiness. But if you live within your means, being happy is going where you want to be.

Plus, you may be surprised at the financial aid schools offer. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I assumed when I applied to MIT that I just wanted the acceptance letter- that there was no way I was going to go, because it cost $52,000 a year. For me, it ended up costing significantly less, and that cost will be cut in half once my little sister goes to college in a year and a half.

So, essentially, if you get into one of the big name colleges, where you feel like you would fit in, I would say go for it. You can learn and grow by being away from home, and get the education you want, instead of settling. And well, BU is right across the bridge from where I am sitting, and I must say it is pretty awesome. People there have fun. I dunno where it stands on the journalism hierarchy- but if you think its high enough, I vote BU.

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Core October 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

I’m thinking about going to a school in Orlando, and I live in the State of KY. It’ll cost a lot of money, so a lot of debt.
Its a technical school and I am 95% certain I could land a good paying career after school though. And the only reason I would be going to said school is because there are only two in the US, that I know of that have this particular program I am looking at.

So I am fairly certain I’ll make ends meat.

Now when it comes to journalism, I heed the authors words. He obviously knows what he’s talking about. Its all logic and makes sense. Numbers… they do mean something.

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Bridget October 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

If you are getting a free ride then I assume that means you can live on campus, right? As long as you are living with other students you will be becoming your own person and it will be totally different than living in home.

Most colleges are surrounding by nothing anyways out in the country so save your money now and then you can really experience places away from “home” when you have the funds to take real trips.

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Bridget October 16, 2010 at 9:57 am

Claire,
Why don’t you check out the study abroad programs that your college offers. It may cost you the same amount as your home school’s tuition. Spend one semester in another country and possibly do it again somewhere else. Maybe you can incorporate the experience into your journalism degree. Now that is getting away from home!

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Alex October 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm

FREE FREE FREE!!!! It’s always great when you can get something good for free!!! You could have a job that you like and even if it doesn’t pay all that good, you don’t have to stay up at night wondering about your loans, because you wouldn’t HAVE any loans!!! HOORAY for free education!

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Cassie January 6, 2011 at 9:31 am

I know this is a little late, but why not come down I-75 a couple of hours to UTC? We have a journalism program on the same caliber as UTK, you would be receiving the same state aid, our tuition (last time I checked) is even a little smaller than our “big brother” school. True our sports aren’t quite at the same level but with the way the vols have played the last several years, you’re really not losing out on anything there. Plus you wouldn’t be at home. I went to Knoxville for a semester and absolutely DESPISED it but when I came back home to Chattanooga, after bouncing between a few community colleges, I absolutely LOVE utc.

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Morgan Wright January 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm

You should definitely STAY because of the FULL RIDE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!! I would Kill for a Scholarship that at least pays Half of my Tuition. TAKE THE FULL RIDE and leave after. You’re going to need money to Move and probably take out a loan for another school that may add up to the Full Ride you have already offered to you.

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Kirby February 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

I would start at the Tennessee University and if you want to transfer you can.

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