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State schools vs privates

nala

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So my daughter is slowly getting her college admissions. Luckily, she has a wide range of choices. I was hoping to get input from those of you who graduated from private universities. Do you guys think the cost was worth it? Do employers value degrees more if they come from a private school? Did you find better opportunities as a result of attending a private?

Context: daughter is 17 and is strong in all subjects. As a result, she is not sure what she would like to major in.
She has been offered a free ride in terms of tuition at the local state school. The privates are offering her half tuituon. Vast difference in price. While I want the best for her, I want her to have skin in the game and know the value of money. I don't want her to view college as a 4 year vacation. If she goes to the local school, she can grad debt-free but will miss out on the college experience which I view as testing her character. Even though i have been saving for her college and the privates are doable, i want her to help pay so she can havge skin in the game. But I have to wonder if it's worth the cost. I know many recent grads who are working at jobs that don't require a degree BC the market is so bad. Plus there's grad school to finance..
Thanks for your input.
 

sonnyjane

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I have a neat and hopefully helpful experience to share.

I graduated with two degrees from the University of Miami, which is a private school of about 9,000 undergraduates.

After a few years working in a field I wasn't a fan of, I returned to school, first for a 3 semesters at University of West Florida, a state school of 12,000, and then after meeting my husband, transferred to Western Washington University (15,000 students) where I graduated after a year.

My education at all three was incredibly comparable. I'd say there was no noticeable difference between the public and private schools.

My brother, however, attended Florida State, which has more than 40,000 students, and that experience for him was not something he enjoyed. His classes routinely had 500-600 students for the large lectures (vs. my smaller schools that had about 100 in even the largest of the lecture 101-type classes). I don't think I would have enjoyed that.

I graduated owing about $80,000 in loans. Oddly enough, I had a full-tuition scholarship for the private school (but did have to take out loans for the room & board) , but had to pay for the state schools myself, which is what led to the loans.

If you live near a decent state school and your daughter can go there for FREE, that's awesome and I'd strongly consider it. At her age, I probably would NOT have (I wanted to move across the country!), but now that I'm still paying those off, in hindsight that would have been great.

Now granted, some professions (medicine, law...) DO care where you go, but for a vast majority of fields, you just need to get your degree SOMEWHERE - it's the internships, volunteer positions, and networking that matter most.

One question though - when you say if she goes to the local school she won't get the "college experience", are you implying that she would still live at home? Is there anyway she could live on that campus even though it's close to you? I do feel there is a LOT of value in going away to college as opposed to being a commuter. Obviously if finances are tight, you do what you have to do, but if she could get a scholarship and live away from home, I would strongly encourage that.
 

nala

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Sonnyjane, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I really appreciate the insight. The local university is literally down the street! She can walk there from home. I can't justify spending money on room and board when I can save that for her grad school. Even she thinks it would be a bad use of money bc of the close proximity.
This local univ has admitted her to the honors program and offers internships and mentors, etc. in business. That is the major she wants to explore first.
 

Tacori E-ring

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Student loans are a burden. If she is offered a free ride I would encourage her to take it. No one really asks where I went to school (state for both my undergrad and graduate degree). However, I hear my coworkers complain all the time about their loans.
 

sonnyjane

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nala|1458437995|4008005 said:
Sonnyjane, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I really appreciate the insight. The local university is literally down the street! She can walk there from home. I can't justify spending money on room and board when I can save that for her grad school. Even she thinks it would be a bad use of money bc of the close proximity.
This local univ has admitted her to the honors program and offers internships and mentors, etc. in business. That is the major she wants to explore first.
Ahh ok down the street does make it seem silly then haha!
 

yssie

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Unless she's looking at a prestigious, particularly-well-regarded programme at an internationally-acclaimed private institution... I'd say there's absolutely no reason to drown oneself in student debt.

I went to one of those universities and I was in its most highly-ranked engineering programme. Had I gone to med school I'm confident both the name and reputation would have worked in my favour. I wound up deciding against med school - I'm a software developer. My prestigious uni has not afforded me any advantage whatsoever :bigsmile:

That said... When I was in college... Several students joined us third year from a variety of other schools - both public and private. They were woefully behind compared to those of us who had been there from the beginning - our programme was just far more rigorous and thorough than any of theirs. Some caught up and some didn't. Since the only thing anyone pays any attention to is what establishment one's degree is from I imagine that for those who did catch up it was a great way to save on two years' tuition ::)

I would definitely recommend trying to separate quality of programme with university branding and prioritizing the former as much as finances will allow. In my case the computer science programme at my local state university would have been a fantastic option!!
 

wildcat03

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I chose a private school because it was the right fit for me and I desperately needed a good fit after a terrible and demoralizing high school experience. My college was competitive and as a result, my GPA suffered and likely affected my medical school admissions (but I ended up getting in). However, it was an amazing experience both socially and academically. It was expensive and I am just paying off part of my loans from that (while tackling my medical school loans too). Still worth it. My professors were teaching focused instead of tenure/publish or perish focused, which created a different environment than a larger university (public or private).

My sister went to a good state university of 12,000 students. She found it to be overwhelming at times. She had difficulty finding her niche. She had a lot of difficulty getting into classes that were outside her major that she wanted in order to complete the pre-med requirements. Many of my friends at large universities had similar issues. My sister has less undergraduate debt than I do and is successful professionally (although I am more so, but I don't think this has ANYTHING to do with what college we chose - I am just much more career focused than she is). In the end, I think it comes down to what school is the right fit for the student.
 

VRBeauty

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I think a lot of college has to do with 1) finding the right fit for the student, and 2) what the student does with the opportunity.

A full ride scholarship is nothing to sneeze at, especially if the school has programs your daughter is interested in exploring. Keep in mind that your daughter doesn't have to go to the same school for all four undergraduate years. Since she's not totally set on her major yet, she can explore options at the school down the street, and then transfer to another school after she's honed in on her major if there appropriate or necessary.
 

missy

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That's a tough decision. Especially since she would be living at home if she goes to the school where she has the full scholarship. For me, living on campus really made the college experience special and above and beyond just a good education. Interacting with the other students socially during campus events/parties/social gatherings and otherwise made the experience really what is was for me. Amazing. I went to a private liberal arts college with small class sizes where the faculty student ratio was small and most of the classes were well under 20 students. That was the best learning environment for me. So it depends on your daughter.

Does she do well with lots of people in her classes or does she thrive more with one on one attention? Does she want the full college experience of interacting and living with her peers navigating personal challenges as well as academic ones or is she mainly there to get a degree towards her future interests and professional pursuits? And also depending on what field she decides to go into the specific undergraduate school she goes to may or may not help.

A full scholarship however is a terrific incentive and graduating debt free is no small opportunity and that makes the decision you and your DD have to make a very difficult one. But it's a good dilemma to have and kudos to your daughter for excelling academically and having this opportunity and decision to make! I wish you both all the best and as another poster said the decision she makes now is not the decision she has to live with for her entire undergraduate experience.
 

IS_EDS

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I think employers look at 1) your major, 2) your GPA. If her major (or 2nd major) is technical and her grades are excellent, she won't have problems finding jobs. For example, 2 years ago I graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering with an extremely high GPA and 2 honors, and I had no trouble finding a job. People who have trouble finding jobs upon graduation are probably those who chose easy majors or just did not study hard.

Major. If she does not want a technical major (chemistry, math, stats, electrical/computer engineering or computer science, etc) as her only major, it may make sense to have a technical major as her 2nd major or may be she should get a technical minor as a sort of insurance against being unemployed.

Tuition. While in school and during the summer, she can work as an intern (part-time while in school and full-time during the summer), earn money and pay her tuition, at least in part. I did that during my 3rd and 4th year and it helped with my expenses.
 

MrsWhitney

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This is a question I get asked ALL the time (you can find **edited by moderator, please no personal information per our policies**). I specialize in graduate admissions now, but I read applications for the UC system for many years...and then worked as a private admissions counselor for high schoolers while in an unrelated field for a few years.

Student loans are a burden. But to be honest, unless we are speaking of full-tuition scholarships, the tuition/fees of the institutions HONESTLY will be roughly the same between strong public institutions, and lets say, the Ivy Leagues . Many public institutions are compensating for the state reduction in support with increased fees. Privates that are truly respected (meaning WELL-KNOWN privates that are top ranked, and I am sure some of you will call for flack for me saying this) are reducing their costs for middle and low income (it is common knowledge practice of the Ivy League).

IF SHE PREFERS THE PRIVATE AT HALF, TAKE IT!

Students should APPLY to as MANY institutions as possible, and decide after. They could be apples to oranges. Where does she plan on living? Abroad? then you want a well-known institution. Local? then your local public that is perhaps less well known is fine.

Saying you think she won't understand or value money, and think of it as a vacation is undermining her (I am sure you do not mean to, and it is a typical statement, but MANY of the students I have met, in the thousands, are not like this nor turn out like this).

Now, as someone who does have loans, lots (and married to a surgery resident who also has them) I wouldn't trade my schools for the world.

For the record, I have always been very strategic about costs and what "I" feel is worth it. I went to a community college as a high schooler and finished UCLA at 18. UCLA has a GREAT large network worldwide. BUT then I went to Columbia, and Penn (both Ivy League institutions). I also went to Cambridge for a PhD in England (on leave, and finished with a MPhil in International Comparative Education and Economics).

My network, I feel, is priceless. But I tend to move around....

And this is JUST network. Does she care about the size of classrooms, quality of professors more? what about experience?


So I stress again, apply to as many, be smart with your loans (they vary, and that should impact your decision- which options of loans does she have), and let her pick....
 

MrsWhitney

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IS_EDS|1458483274|4008318 said:
I think employers look at 1) your major, 2) your GPA. If her major (or 2nd major) is technical and her grades are excellent, she won't have problems finding jobs. For example, 2 years ago I graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering with an extremely high GPA and 2 honors, and I had no trouble finding a job. People who have trouble finding jobs upon graduation are probably those who chose easy majors or just did not study hard.

Major. If she does not want a technical major (chemistry, math, stats, electrical/computer engineering or computer science, etc) as her only major, it may make sense to have a technical major as her 2nd major or may be she should get a technical minor as a sort of insurance against being unemployed.

Tuition. While in school and during the summer, she can work as an intern (part-time while in school and full-time during the summer), earn money and pay her tuition, at least in part. I did that during my 3rd and 4th year and it helped with my expenses.

As someone in higher ed, and the private sector in Engingeering, I think you need to realize you are in a specific industry. You are in Engineering. When I was in Advising for HSSoE for the UC, of course your major is most important and GPA. But what about all the other sectors? They do not require a professional undergraduate major; therefore your network/school are the most important. RARELY are you asked about your GPA (if ever).
 

marymm

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If she is amenable to the state school, she could start there and knock out the first two years of general education - if she likes the state school, is doing well, and they have a good program in her chosen major, she can get her degree there... or she can transfer to another school with a better program in her major and finish out there. At least the first two years would be debt-free, and your daughter would still have the option to transfer elsewhere if that would benefit her most.
 

MrsWhitney

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marymm|1458486360|4008338 said:
If she is amenable to the state school, she could start there and knock out the first two years of general education - if she likes the state school, is doing well, and they have a good program in her chosen major, she can get her degree there... or she can transfer to another school with a better program in her major and finish out there. At least the first two years would be debt-free, and your daughter would still have the option to transfer elsewhere if that would benefit her most.
This is a smart idea, too. One thing though is that transferring still has the emotional change...and as a former transfer student, I did miss the continuity....
 

madelise

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I'm in a very high demand field (speech language pathologist) and went to a state university and community college. My entire education costed an approximate $40k. I have friends who spent over $100k. We all make the same dollar, and no one cares where they went.


If you're a lawyer, I see where your place of schooling may matter. But for most jobs, no one cares. Save the money.
 

canuk-gal

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MrsWhitney|1458487998|4008349 said:
marymm|1458486360|4008338 said:
If she is amenable to the state school, she could start there and knock out the first two years of general education - if she likes the state school, is doing well, and they have a good program in her chosen major, she can get her degree there... or she can transfer to another school with a better program in her major and finish out there. At least the first two years would be debt-free, and your daughter would still have the option to transfer elsewhere if that would benefit her most.
This is a smart idea, too. One thing though is that transferring still has the emotional change...and as a former transfer student, I did miss the continuity....

Transferring could result in loss of credits (nontransferable) . I don't know anyone who has transferred programs from University to University (even within the same city) has received 100% credit for courses taken elsewhere.

cheers--Sharon
 

nala

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I am really appreciating all of these replies! Thank you!
 

nala

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madelise|1458489772|4008364 said:
MrsWhitney|1458485318|4008333 said:
Queenie60|1458454649|4008057 said:
I would allow her to decide.
AMEN.

Who is paying, though?
This. I will be paying two-thirds but expect her to pay one third. My intention was that she would have skin in the game, but my hubby just pointed out that loans are a false sense of Independence. They make these loans so readily available, that in reality, she won't feel the burn until after she graduates. As to letting her decide, I don't know that my 17 year old can grasp the concept of debt. She might be guided by the romanticized notion of college. I've known the value of money BC at 16, half of salary went to pay rent. I've been supporting myself since and besides a very good mortgage, don't know what debt is. My mom gave me no option but to be self sufficient and it is what I most appreciate about growing up poor. I haven't passed this expectation on to her BC she has worked her ass off at a very competitive school and has devoted her time to community service. She has been sheltered from financial decisions. We've traveled extensively, and that has been the only splurge I have ever given her BC I valued it. I guess that I don't know if private Univ are worth the splurge given her inability to know her major. In addition, I know many successful people who grad from state schools and I guess that is where my short sightedness comes from-- I'm not in the same social circle as the private grads, hence why I don't know what the real life difference is.
 

iLander

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We just went through All this at our house.

DD was accepted everywhere she applied, both public and private institutions, all of them threw money at her. AP Scholar, Honor societies, gifted student, blah, blah, blah, all that. She got a decent scholarship to her first choice private school and went there.

For a year.

Then she decided she didn't want to spend her life in front of a computer and that fancy private college only had a few degree options. She decided to major in a health field and the best place for that was one of our state schools. The cost for this one year of finding herself?

$60,000, even with the scholarship. :shock: And only a few of the credits are transferable. :knockout:

We could have sent her to a state school for about $10K. Which is what we are doing now.

She graduated from a competitive private school and most of her class went to various "brand" schools: Harvard, Duke, MIT, Yale, Penn State, etc. Now the MAJORITY of them are back, going to state universities. She's constantly reporting a new "sighting" of one of her classmates. I looked up the stats, and 60% of students will change their major at least once during college. So highly specialized private schools might not be the way to go. A big, public institution has a variety of options and students can try things out.

Maybe send her to a state school in another town? She can feel independent. And if she is interested in business, she will probably want an MBA anyway. Spend the money there, it will look a lot better on the resume. One of my friends graduated from a state school with a major in Spanish, but then went to Wharton for her MBA. That route had a good return on investment. DH also went to public for undergrad and fancy private for grad. He also changed his major half way through undergrad. He feels the contacts and work experience he got from private grad school really launched his career. He found that potential employers, when considering students from a fancy private college, they will take the Graduate students first. Every time.
 

MrsWhitney

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Well, if the daughter needs, she can take out the loans herself. I am by no means saying loans are good (heck, watch John Oliver's segment on it). I am saying having seen a decade of parents making decisions versus students, I think the student should gauge at the end of the day where they want to go. They are responsible. They have to live with it.

It is hard to conceptualize, and maybe in the US their is no right answer...because costs are a factor unlike some countries...and their systems.


Trust me, this is my field...and I do understand the difficulty.
 

MrsWhitney

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nala|1458494940|4008393 said:
madelise|1458489772|4008364 said:
MrsWhitney|1458485318|4008333 said:
Queenie60|1458454649|4008057 said:
I would allow her to decide.
AMEN.

Who is paying, though?
This. I will be paying two-thirds but expect her to pay one third. My intention was that she would have skin in the game, but my hubby just pointed out that loans are a false sense of Independence. They make these loans so readily available, that in reality, she won't feel the burn until after she graduates. As to letting her decide, I don't know that my 17 year old can grasp the concept of debt. She might be guided by the romanticized notion of college. I've known the value of money BC at 16, half of salary went to pay rent. I've been supporting myself since and besides a very good mortgage, don't know what debt is. My mom gave me no option but to be self sufficient and it is what I most appreciate about growing up poor. I haven't passed this expectation on to her BC she has worked her a$$ off at a very competitive school and has devoted her time to community service. She has been sheltered from financial decisions. We've traveled extensively, and that has been the only splurge I have ever given her BC I valued it. I guess that I don't know if private Univ are worth the splurge given her inability to know her major. In addition, I know many successful people who grad from state schools and I guess that is where my short sightedness comes from-- I'm not in the same social circle as the private grads, hence why I don't know what the real life difference is.

I think you are already have your decision it seems. I agree with your husband (hence my post about John Oliver, who shockingly did the best segment recently on it, that even we admissions officers enjoyed and think cut to the chase) loans are deceptive, HUGELY. But, I still maintain that a college decision, in my honest professional opinion, as someone aware I am not paying your daughters loans, should at the end be made by the student.

Personally, I don't differ much either. HOWEVER, in fairness, I have no idea what schools you are even referring. Are we talking about $50,000 to go to Columbia (where I work) or Harvard, or a Stanford....or a small liberal arts not as widely known, versus a UMich, CAL, UCLA, UV or a San Francisco State University...SUNY...? Do you at least somewhat see what I am attempting to say? and that is just rankings...networks...how valuable is the attendance of the private school going to serve her in the future? I wouldn't know...

You speak of her having more character if she goes local? and since you know the value of money are are (rightfully so) trying to impart that on her by having her perhaps give up her preferred school? but character is developed even with loans, too... so I guess I just don't think a generalization applies.

As I would tell a parent in my own office, as I do daily, only you know what decision as parents you want, and only your child knows what they want....and again, ideally it would be of no issue (again, some countries are free for HEIs).

For my dissertation, at Cambridge, and my own publications are actually on the cost of HEIs in the US versus that of the UK (you can find the publication). It is sad it is a factor.

Personally, I went to a community college, a large state public, and private as well as International Public (Foothill College, UCLA as a transfer at 16, Columbia, Penn and Cambridge). I loved each one equally....and I personally had a good time at each.
 

telephone89

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I don't know if this is an American thing or not, but I find it absurd that people will go tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt for a name. If she can get her education for free, that is what I would do. You can continue to save $ and she can contribute for grad school. You can also 'charge' rent if you want. I know many parents that do this, and set aside that money for their future.
 

Maria D

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It doesn't make any sense to me to not choose the local state school, that is offering 100% tuition, ONLY because it is "too close to live on campus." IF your daughter would choose to go there if you lived further away, AND the choice of where to go ends up being based strongly on the fact that she wants an on campus experience, then in my opinion it is downright foolish to refuse to consider paying to live on campus (whether you pay or she pays with loans), even though she could literally walk to school. I recall a few students at the (private) university I went to that lived on campus even though their family homes were in the same town.
 

MrsWhitney

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telephone89|1458503882|4008459 said:
I don't know if this is an American thing or not, but I find it absurd that people will go tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt for a name. If she can get her education for free, that is what I would do. You can continue to save $ and she can contribute for grad school. You can also 'charge' rent if you want. I know many parents that do this, and set aside that money for their future.

My dissertation actually focused on it, it is largely a cultural issue. Some cultures (America, parts of Asia) are more "concerned" on a varying scale than other cultures. "Absurd" or not it is all opinion-based. There is a lot of literature on the topic though, by researchers such as myself...my mentor Dr. Laura Perna, head of ASHE, and Director at Penn, focuses on it, should you be interested in the literature.

I personally took out loans to go to a lesser ranked school, UCLA (by 6 spots that year in U.S. News and World Report) versus a FULL ride, with room and board, to UC Berkeley. Why? I wanted to live further from home (7 hours away versus 1.5 hours). Am I absurd? I do not think so, I made a decision based on preference... my parents supported my decision, they helped pay for my tuition, but I just finished paying my UCLA loan just this year; my parents, I think due to their own backgrounds, didn't impart any decision or even lean one way or another. My father, half Asian-American, was told by his parents to attend his local state university (UC Davis) on his UC Regent Scholarship, and live at home, and while he turned out well regardless, to this day wishes he had the "living on campus, networking, socializing" aspect, as he says (his words not mine), so that is a big reason he let me fully make my own decision.
 

rainydaze

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I like how DH's parents handled it. If he went to state school, they'd pay his full tuition and if he wanted to live on campus, he would have to pay for that himself. If he went to private school, they would pay the equivalent of state tuition and he had to pay the rest.

He got into several schools, including some good private ones in a nice city that he really wanted to go to... and yeah, he wanted to go there for the city experience (he admits that now, at the time he was annoyed he couldn't have his cake and eat it too). Anyway, he's practical. He chose the state school. It wasn't far from where he lived, so the first semester he lived at home and commuted. He hated it because he was definitely missing out. Second semester he lived on-campus, at his expense (skin in the game, work ethic, learning balance). He made some great friends that semester that he is still friends with today. After that, he lived in apartments shared with other students, again at his expense.

All around, best decision. He is smart, good at recognizing opportunity, and a hard worker. He was on top of internships and job placements (helped him choose his field) and knew how to balance work with fun. All of that had a lot to do with where he is today (very good place). Once employed, he took advantage of his employers program to help pay for his masters. In no way was his state school degree a hinderance. However, he did choose a major/field for which that school was known to be very strong. He had no debt, and that has been so huge for his/our quality of life. Once graduated and employed, he was able to start saving aggressively right away, which lead to being able to buy a home and building equity, and so forth.

His brother chose the other route. I don't believe the semi-prestigious private school degree was more beneficial to him than DH's state school degree was to DH. I believe DH is in a better place in terms of fulfillment and finances. Some of that could, of course, be due to differences in personality and ambition (may be important to note that DH is very smart, DH's brother maybe more so). I suspect DH's brother could have arrived at the same place he's at with a state school degree, or at least starting out with that and at some point transferring to a private school or saving that for his masters.

Good luck, and how wonderful that your daughter has so many wonderful options! That's a great 'problem' to have!
 

telephone89

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MrsWhitney|1458506916|4008507 said:
telephone89|1458503882|4008459 said:
I don't know if this is an American thing or not, but I find it absurd that people will go tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt for a name. If she can get her education for free, that is what I would do. You can continue to save $ and she can contribute for grad school. You can also 'charge' rent if you want. I know many parents that do this, and set aside that money for their future.

My dissertation actually focused on it, it is largely a cultural issue. Some cultures (America, parts of Asia) are more "concerned" on a varying scale than other cultures. "Absurd" or not it is all opinion-based. There is a lot of literature on the topic though, by researchers such as myself...my mentor Dr. Laura Perna, head of ASHE, and Director at Penn, focuses on it, should you be interested in the literature.

I personally took out loans to go to a lesser ranked school, UCLA (by 6 spots that year in U.S. News and World Report) versus a FULL ride, with room and board, to UC Berkeley. Why? I wanted to live further from home (7 hours away versus 1.5 hours). Am I absurd? I do not think so, I made a decision based on preference... my parents supported my decision, they helped pay for my tuition, but I just finished paying my UCLA loan just this year; my parents, I think due to their own backgrounds, didn't impart any decision or even lean one way or another. My father, half Asian-American, was told by his parents to attend his local state university (UC Davis) on his UC Regent Scholarship, and live at home, and while he turned out well regardless, to this day wishes he had the "living on campus, networking, socializing" aspect, as he says (his words not mine), so that is a big reason he let me fully make my own decision.
I find the notion of willingly going into debt absurd, yes. We tell people on here all the time to stick to their budgets - don't go into debt for a diamond. Why for education? I'd rather my children NOT be strapped with crippling debt for most of their adult lives.
Wanting to live further away? Not absurd. Paying $100,000 to live further away? Yes, absurd.
 
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