If you’re a veteran visitor to this site, you know I get a lot of “Choice 1 vs. Choice 2” emails, where the writer asks me which of two options I think is smarter. This one has a twist, though — there are abusive parents in the mix.
Because of that, even though he/she didn’t ask me to, I’m going to shield this person’s name and instead refer to him/her as “Lady GaGa” — not because Lady Gaga had abusive parents, or is also the subject of gender speculation — just because I figure if you’re going to use a pseudonym, you might as well have fun with it.
Lady Gaga writes:
I need your advice. So, I have two choices for college. One of these is a public university (the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business) and the other is a private university (Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management). The public school is a free ride. Syracuse will cost me about $30,000 in debt for all eight semesters.
Arkansas has a massive early lead here.
I’ve did my research and I know that both schools are pretty good. I know that graduating from the U of A would virtually guarantee me a job in Arkansas. However, I don’t really want to work in Arkansas.
It’s natural that a degree from Arkansas would me most meaningful to employers in Arkansas; that’s true of every state. But if it’s a good school (I’m taking your word for it, I’m not personally familiar with either program), it’ll get you jobs in other states, too.
Not saying that it’s a bad state or anything, I’ve just lived here forever.
I hear ya. You wanna get out, see the world, make your way. Go for it.
Also since I plan on going to grad school (this will definitely not be in Arkansas no matter what), I worry that a degree from U of A will make me less competitive when it comes to getting accepted.
I’m not sure what your specific plans and reasoning are regarding grad school — I assume you’re probably thinking along the lines of an MBA. Regardless of where you go to school, if you excel at Arkansas, you’re not going to have trouble getting into an MBA program, so don’t worry about that.
I really want to work in the finance industry, so money won’t really be an issue after college
Money’s always more of an issue than you think it’s going to be, Lady Gaga. Don’t get me wrong, I hope you become a successful trader who makes six-figure bonuses every quarter, and if that happens, feel free to come back and rub it in my face — I’ll take it like a man, I promise. But, you know, even then, it takes time to get to that point — instant riches at your first job are pretty rare unless you play professional sports.
(assuming that I continue that career path).
Another good thing to point out — the possiblity that you’ll change your mind about finance. Which, if you’re like all other students, is a strong possibility. (See my Everyone’s On Plan C post if you haven’t already).
I also know that Syracuse, which is in upstate New York, has a 90% job placement rate.
That’s impressive and good, but find out what Arkansas’s placement rate is and compare them while also considering the cost. For instance, if Arkansas places 85% of graduates and Arkansas is free for you, then that’s still a wiser financial move than taking $30,000 in loans for Syracuse’s slightly higher placement rate.
My story has three more twists though.
1. Syracuse has a $850 deposit. I am dirt poor. In order to pay the deposit, I’ll probably have to take out another loan. Also my current loans don’t include my books or travel fees.
An even stronger case for Arkansas. If you’re really dirt poor (and I believe you), then don’t turn down free schooling. Offers like that don’t come along many times in life. Actually, never. Unless you join the military, no institution will ever again offer you something valued at, oh, $60,000, for absolutely free. (Correct me if I’m wrong, peanut gallery.)
2. While Syracuse is currently my top choice, it was not my dream school. It wasn’t even close. So a big motivator to taking on a lot of debt is to get out away from my parents who were abusive. It has been confirmed by several anthropologist/sociologists that I will need severe counseling for many years.
Well, that’s a very personal issue that I only sort of gently guide you in, because I don’t know how bad things were, how far away your parents would be from you at Arkansas, and more importantly, how effectively you could break away from them if you stayed there in Arkansas.
If your abuse was bad enough that you think you’ll never be able escape your parents’ grip while you’re at the University of Arkansas, then yes, I think that’d be a strong argument for going to Syracuse. $30,000 of debt spread over 10 years of payments may be a very small price to pay to escape a living hell. But if you feel like you could go to Arkansas and still break your folks’ grip, then by all means, do it. Being in debt makes people do a lot of things they don’t want to do; independence is a cure for that.
3. I am on the waitlist for Williams College. If I get accepted into their school, it will be a full ride. Because I don’t find out whether I’m in until way after the universal reply date (May 1st), I have to accept some school.
My question is should I pay the deposit for Syracuse or take the cheap route and enroll in UofA? Although getting money for living expenses in New York will be difficult, I have been poor all my life so it won’t be a big change.
Well, I’ve made it pretty clear that my vote is, as usual, for the free ride at a public school — though this time it’s with a built-in exception if your parental situation is something you can’t shake free of if you stay in Arkansas. Free education is rare. Take it if you can get it.
What about you all — what do you think Lady Gaga should do? Let us know in the comments below!