But the more mail and comments I get, I’m thinking you guys are pretty fond of ’em. Hey, I love them, so I’m going to shoot you a few new ones over the next few days that I’ve got sitting in my inbox.
Today we feature Marijane’s dilemma, and like some of our previously featured students, she’s in education. I’ll let her tell you the rest:
Dear Judge Josh,
I, like many other recent college graduates, am at a crossroads with quite a dilemma.
I have been accepted to the graduate program in education at New York University. Although it is prestigious it was my last choice school because of its whopping private school cost: $61,000 a year, and $48,000 of that are in pure loans. They did offer me a $10,000 scholarship and $3,000 of work-study, but it is a drop in the bucket.
Looks like NYU justified its position at the bottom of your list. I don’t know anything about your grades and test scores, of course, but I know they were good enough to admit you, get you excited about going there with a nice little welcome packet, and then dangle a bare minimum of financial aid to keep you interested in taking an arm and a leg in loans. Same story I’ve heard many times (and experienced myself, with Columbia University, actually).
The program would take a year and a half to complete. By the way, I already have $26,000 worth of school loans from my undergraduate education. This could leave me in over $100,000 in school debt. My dream would be to attend Stanford or a University of California program that generally offers more aid to low income students like myself.
I’m also not sure exactly what it is you’d like to do with your degree, but I’m guessing you want to teach, right? If I’m wrong then this advice may change slightly, but having said that: It makes zero economic sense for someone who wants to be a primary or secondary school teacher to incur $100,000 in student loans.
No one can convince me that this is ever a good decision. I mean, if someone out there wants to try and make a case for it in the comments section, I’m willing to listen (skeptically), and if Marijane wants to be a principal or a superintendent or something, then that may change my advice, too. But right now, if what you want to be is a teacher, then you need not take out anywhere near $100,000 in loans to do so.
At the same time I have been offered a position as a school adviser in a public middle school.
Work experience in public schools is highly favored by Stanford, and I may be able to reapply after working a year or so in the field.
You can definitely re-apply any time you want; again, it just depends on what you want to do with your professional life. In any case, yes, professional experience of any kind can’t hurt you, wherever you go to grad school.
There are two downsides: The pay is low- $27,000 annual salary.
True, that’s low; however, at least it’s money going INTO your pocket, rather than the NYU program, where it’s coming OUT of your pocket. Look at it this way — there’s an $88,000 swing between taking that middle-school job and going to NYU ($61,000 you save NOT attending, plus the $27,000 you will make working the job).
Additionally, NYU does not allow deferrals so if I take this path I may find myself in a position where Stanford does not accept me and I have missed my chance to go to NYU.
Personally, I think you should tell NYU to kiss your ass and then move on to greener pastures (figuratively, I mean…probably not much good will come from picking up the phone and doing it literally). I promise you that you will actually learn MORE about the educational system working in the middle school than you will at NYU or anyone else’s graduate education program. Practice beats theory every. Single. Time.
Now, I know — that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a master’s, because obviously teachers who get their master’s make a lot more money than teachers who don’t, and the sooner you get the master’s, the sooner you can get the bigger paychecks. I totally understand and appreciate the importance of that.
However, in every school district I’m aware of, the pay scale does not require that master’s degree, or master’s plus 60, or whatever it is — to be from an Ivy League university. Or a “prestigious” university. It just has to be from an accredited university. So again, in most places, speaking purely in financial terms, a $61,000 master’s degree from Stanford and a $10,000 master’s degree from Palookaville State Teacher’s College are gonna earn you exactly the same salary (please correct me if I’m wrong, education-types in the audience).
None of this, of course, addresses the non-financial aspects of why one should or should not get a graduate degree or go to a prestigious university — the whole intellectual enrichment, personal-development issue. I won’t go into these a great deal because it’s a whole different issue on which there are a ton of different perspectives, and mine would take too much space to write. I’ll say two quick things on these matters, though:
1) Regarding prestigious schools/private schools (I know not all prestigious schools are private, but I’d say a majority are): Just be sure that what you’re paying the extra money for is a real, tangible, demonstrable benefit. World-class teachers, superlative networking opportunities, one-of-a-kind speakers, pipelines to companies and jobs that no one else has, etc. That kind of thing. If it’s just name recognition and social prestige, don’t pay for it.
2) Intellectual enrichment absolutely can be gained from a college degree, undergrad or graduate; but it definitely can be gained just as easily without it. Especially today. Entire courses from the world’s top universities are available for FREE, right now, on iTunes U, on MIT’s Open Courseware, and other sources. Other education companies sell giant DVD and CD sets of courses given by those same professors at those prestigious universities. And of course, there are also those antiquated things called libraries, and my personal favorite, the Internet. If you want knowledge, you absolutely need NOT pay tens of thousands of dollars to acquire it.
OK, I’m stopping there before I get off on too big of a tangent.
Look, Marijane, the romance of NYU is going to wear off. It does. I promise. And here’s the important part that I hope someone in your life is telling you: this is just the beginning for you, not the end. If you were smart enough to get into NYU once, you can get into other programs later on, whenever you’re ready. If NYU doesn’t want to pony up the cash and they don’t want to let you wait beyond this year, then tell NYU to piss off. Seriously — other institutions in this country will happily take you, and pay much more of your expenses.
Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.
Well, that’s mine, but I’m sure the other folks in the audience have a lot of their own opinions to share, too. Let her have it, everyone! What should she do?
Thanks again for all your participation here, I appreciate it a great deal.
(The below is from the movie “Crossroads” (not the awful Britney Spears one). It’s the guitar-battle scene where Ralph Macchio has to beat heavy metal shredder Steve Vai in a guitar battle to save his mentor’s soul from the devil. Every time someone says the words “crossroads” I think of it, so I decided to just get it out of my system once and for all and post it here. Plus, I sorta see Steve Vai as NYU in the above case, and Ralph Macchio as the everyman public-school gig. Enjoy this 8.5 minutes of 80’s movie heaven.)