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Tuition Fees and Student Loan Debt: A Shock?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by overedge, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

  2. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    I have a high school senior looking at colleges. I managed to save two years of college tuition (through a state education savings program) for him to use. My original plan for him was two years of community college (approx $4,000/year paid by me) then transfer to a four-year university for his final two years, paid for by the savings program. This way he could live at home for two years and save money, and possibly live at the university for his last two years. He'd come out of school debt-free, or pretty close to it.

    Well, so much for the best laid plans - he wants to play golf in college. Which may require living on campus for four years, depending on the school. That changes the whole ball game.

    I plan on sitting down with him shortly and discussing the college cost issue. What he'd face worse case scenario (ie no scholarship), because my reality is still that I have about $4,000 a year for tuition - a bit more if he isn't eating out of my fridge at home - but not enough to cover living on campus plus higher expenses at a four-year. I figure that he could come out of college about $30,000-$40,000 in debt.

    He needs to decide if playing golf in college is worth this.
    smurfy and (deleted member) like this.
  3. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

    Does a school like, say, Harvard charge students differently depending on the courses they are taking? I am pretty sure when I went to law school, tuition for 3 years of law school was the same as 3 years of medical school or 3 years of psychology undergrad or 3 years of grad school. So, I don't think the issues facing prospective law student are different than those encountered by any other people trying to pursue high education.

    There was an article recently in Maclean's (which I was reading while in the waiting room of my bank) about perhaps doing away with the articling program or at least modifying it some way (since so many students were not able to find an articling/apprentice position after graduation).

    I honestly have no idea how Americans can deal with so much debt. My mortgage is about the size of these students' debts and I live in a darn expensive place! I have a year or so left before all my student loans are paid out, and they were really quite small to begin with (living at home had their benefits) and my monthly payment is slightly higher than my monthly cell phone bill.

    Are there too many lawyers? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there are too many lawyers who want to make a decent wage and to do so, they have to charge some rather hefty fees and it's becoming harder and harder to find those positions in a traditional law firm setting. No, in the sense that there are still lots of people who need lawyers for whatever reason but can't retain one because the fees are too hefty. More and more people are self-representing and it's not making the system more efficient.

    A truly entrepreneurial person who becomes a lawyer can still do quite well for themselves. You rarely see law firms shutting down entirely because there was a lack of business (downsizing? yes). Of course, a new law graduate is the least willing and equipped to start their own practice.
  4. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

    Tuition depends on the university but from what I have seen, each grad school (law, medicine, business, dental, etc) sets their own fees. If it is a public university, then the state might have a say/approval over what gets charged, but usually law school, medical school, etc all have their own rates based on their operating costs.

    While it's important to consider the expenses and amount of debt, it's really more important to consider how you will pay it back. Look at the data and talk to recent grads and find out about average starting salaries. Think realistically about how much money you will earn, what your loan payments will be, and how long it will take you to pay it off. There's no point in spending a huge amount of money for a degree where the salary doesn't match. Maybe the degree isn't necessary or maybe there is a cheaper option. It depends if the quality/reputation of the school is that important for success - i.e. will getting a grad degree from Harvard vs your state university really advance your career and income that much.
  5. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    Public service oriented lawyers in greater Boston earn, on average, $35,000. Do the math.
  6. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    My boss is independently wealthy, which is how he could afford to devote his life to science without worrying about debt. I imagine that's the only way how a young lawyer could do public service oriented law out of law school as well. Or young doctors out of med school. Etc etc.

    Science doesn't pay very well either, but at least PhD programs pay a stipend. One of my coworkers got a master's first though, so she's $50K in the hole for that...
  7. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

    There's a reason most politicians come from wealthy families. Yeah, one is to be able to afford a campaign, plus have the connections to raise money. But salaries for local/state public officials (where most national politicians get their start) are pretty low and even those for Congress and Senate aren't as high as what an Ivy League-educated lawyer could potentially earn.

    It depends what you want to do with your science degree. Jobs in industry can pay very well, particularly with applied sciences like engineering.
  8. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Of course. But academic research doesn't pay very well. :lol:
  9. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    IME, student loan debt means nothing to high school kids because the amounts of money are not real to them and they have no concept of what it costs to just live. If you tell them "This is what you can expect to make a month and this is how much you will pay in loans," it sounds good to them because they have no idea of how much it will cost just to live, plus it's all waaaaaay off in the future and you worry too much.

    I don't know what you have planned, but you might want to have him do a little research on things like starting salaries and living expenses.
  10. FunnyBut

    FunnyBut Well-Known Member

    I'd like to know more details on why the young lady in the article feels that a law degree is necessary in her career in public service (I'm not saying it isn't , but she didn't give any specifics). Many jobs in public service are low pay, at least for a while , until a person gets a few promotions. For me personally, I can't be happy without being financially secure first. So no, I definitely wouldn't take on this kind of debt without reasonable assurance that I'd get a high paying job. If she were considering medical school I'd say it was worth it. But law salaries vary so much, and most of the well paying ones are corporate.
  11. maatTheViking

    maatTheViking Danish Ice Dance! Go Laurence & Nikolaj!

    I sometimes think that is why it is better to delay college, especially if you don't know precisely what you want to do, and move out and get some non-degree required job, like grocery clerk or something. Then you really see what it costs to pay rent, food etc... of course in the US it is complicated by health insurance etc, where it may be beneficial for young kids to stay at their parents place. (or in this economy, can you even get jobs like that?)
    Stefanie and (deleted member) like this.
  12. TheGirlCanSkate

    TheGirlCanSkate Well-Known Member

    My son was able to get into the private universities of his choice but ended up at a state school because of the costs. He is on his junior year and his debt is 0. I have paid from a small savings for one year, but he applies for aid and also enrolls in programs that pay a stipend (and require a LOT of extra work) for the other 2 years.

    That being said he will graduate without debt and is in the minority of doing it in 4 years (the average is 5+ years in state). For his masters or PhD program he plans on teaching to cover half the costs and other programs to cover the other half and other living expenses. He is selecting his university based on the programs offered and costs.

    His career won't pay much but it's what he wants to do and he is very good at it. If law school is something the girls wants to do, she can figure out a way to do it. My friend was an rn - saved all of her money and when she could pay for a good piece of it, she went to medical school. It took her longer but she is now a doctor.

    Sometimes people need to learn patience.
  13. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank

    So true. IA with maat. I think it is better for high school kids to work a bit before going to college and to get a sense of how much the cost of living is. When you're 17 or 18 years old and your parents have paid for everything, you don't appreciate how much the cost of living and how hard 20, 30, or 40 thousand dollars of debt can make your life.
  14. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    An alternative approach is to make your kids start paying for things in High School. My kids had a budget and their allowance was based on that. If they wanted extras or things we weren't willing to pay for, they had to find another way to make it happen. What the budget covered varied per the maturity level of the kid but we start out small and work them up until they are paying for every except room & board out of their allowance.

    I also told Mini-Mac how much we were willing to pay towards college & she's already working on a plan to go to the college she wants and not the one we can afford. She's only a Freshman so it's too soon to see if this approach totally works but so far, so good.
  15. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    Part of the fit of a college is financial fit. You're right to be concerned.

    What I usually recommend to students who need to play the aid game is that they apply to any school they like, but they don't fall in love with any of them until after they see the aid package. ;) However, as part of their list of schools, they must apply to schools that will be relatively inexpensive for them, such as a public uni in their home state. In your case, he'd also apply to the community college.

    In addition, he would want to apply to some schools (public and private in any state - but it must include some privates) where his GPA and SAT/ACT are high for that school, compared to their normal admitted student. In this way, they may throw some merit aid at him. And if he's also able to get a partial golf scholarship at that school, it might work out.

    And even if your income is very good, if his academics are strong and they want him for golf, certain schools might (might, might) offer him some merit aid, to encourage him to attend, even if they don't offer sports scholarships. An example of a school that offers good merit aid if they really want you is Wesleyan U in CT. They know they're competing against the Ivys, and that the Ivys offer aid based only on income, not merit. So they will give merit aid to middle and upper income students who they really want, because they know that can hook them when the student doesn't get any/enough aid at Harvard because his income is too high.

    So one option is to let him apply where he'd like, with no promises that he can actually attend unless the aid turns out right. But in addition, he also needs to apply to certain other types of schools, which you can pay for, or where aid may work out for him. See where he gets in, see what aid he's offered. Calculate the amount in loans each school would take to pay for, after aid. Then decide where he's going.

    When he does get aid offers, it's also completely acceptable to approach the schools he likes best and try to negotiate better aid offers. The school can't always do better, but sometimes they can, and it's okay to ask.
  16. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member


    I had high school kids who were certain they could move out of their parents' house immediately on graduation and live on their part time minimum wage jobs. My nephew is a senior and certain he can get a 20 or 30 hour a week job as a freshman and have enough to pay for a car, insurance, and a fancy apartment style dorm at his preferred college. His mother is no help because she is convinced he is a "genius" and will be getting a full ride academic scholarship with his stellar record of no activities and a 2.4 GPA and if it is not a full ride, he can just get loans. Like the massive loans his (half) sister got to pay for a year abroad with the high paying career plan of teaching high school English in a state with very low starting salaries. :yikes:
  17. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    I don't know about Harvard, but other schools do. For example, the University of California charges more for its professional schools. The current cost of tuition and fees alone for UC law schools is close to 50K per year. I doubt you're going to find private schools that are any cheaper. What that means is that most students are coming out with six figure debt. What's even worse is that, unlike medical school, almost any college graduate can get into some law school. Therefore, there are a lot of people sinking a great deal of money into a legal education even though they will not be able to get a good legal job upon graduation. In California, only about half of graduating law students are getting jobs that actually require a law degree. Many of those who are getting legal jobs aren't getting good ones or ones they like. I know several students or recent graduates and I am so sad for them.

    I do agree with those who say that a lot of people applying to college and graduate schools have no idea what it costs to support themselves. But, I think there's more to the problem. I think that some students bury their heads in the sand and think that they are going to be among the top tier who do get the jobs and money they want. Or they just don't even bother to think about job prospects at all.

    I also think that parents are part of the problem. They should be educating themselves about the financial realities and then educating their kids. I know a recent law school grad who, quite frankly, does not have what it takes to get and hold a good legal job. (I'd feel bad for his clients if he ever manages to get a job practicing law.) I can't imagine that his father honestly thinks his son is all that bright. Yet, the father co-signed a bunch of this guy's loans. (The son is now over $150,000 debt and has an unemployed pregnant wife. :( My guess is that they'll be living with his parents.)

    My friend's sister is thinking of going to law school even though she doesn't have the grades or LSAT scores to get into even a decent law school. Their father, who should know better, is encouraging her. She gets mad at her brother when he tries to make her realize that she's setting herself up for disaster.

    And finally, I think schools are partly responsible. Many of them are not very good about being upfront with potential students about their job and earning prospects. Some of them are actually reporting deceptive employment statistics for their graduates.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2012
  18. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    Having gone on a couple of college visits with my nephew now, admissions counselors are just selling the college. It is all butterflies and unicorns and monkeys in the psych lab and of course you'll get a great aid package and did we mention the cheesecake catered in to the cafeteria? :rolleyes:

    I can't imagine that it is any different for professional schools.
  19. misskarne

    misskarne #AustraliaForTheTeamEvent

    I certainly agree that most universities are very bad at that. I remember being told about the average starter wage for a beginner journalist during the degree - about $35,000 a year. Okay, says me. Not great. But that's all right, I'll have time to save up.

    What they DIDN'T tell us? That FINDING a job as a beginner journalist is about as easy as going to the moon. Everyone wants two or three years of experience and almost no-one wants the graduates.
  20. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    God love 'em, they really are clueless. One of my son's friends posted a plea on Facebook in early August asking for help finding a part-time job. Since I am on his list and I happen to know a lot about the school he is attending, I advised him to try to get a job on campus and gave him all kinds of links and told him that the time to apply was now, before school started and everyone else applied.

    Well, he was really looking for something that started before the semester started so he could earn enough money to pay his car insurance, buy a laptop, and make a tuition payment.

    In three weeks.

    Once upon a time, my son and some of his friends were among those who planned to get an apartment and put themselves through college on their part-time jobs. They all know better now, but most of them are taking out a lot of loans because they only know some better.
  21. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Was just sitting in class an hour ago and again, was trying to tell people not to go to the $$$$$$ art school if they want to learn how to make mobile applications. Seriously - my fiance didn't go to school for computer programming OR art, and he got a well-paying job doing mobile apps for a well-known Bay Area startup. He learned how to do the programming and art in his spare time and released a few apps on his own. The new software companies want go-getters, people who have work behind them even if it's on their own, not "please hire me I have this 4-year degree so I think I know a lot" people. (Although, it didn't hurt that he DID have an engineering degree from a well-known school...)

    But nobody listened, of course. They really believe that their only option is to go 5-figures in debt. I guess that's what life experience gives you - the realization that there are more options than just school.

    The best part was that one of them was already complaining about how broke she was, and how printing out the final project was going to be expensive. And you think printing stuff at the $$$$ art school is going to be cheaper? You'll only be doing it 1000 times more! :rofl:

    I have a friend in the UK who has a journalism degree, and nobody's hiring. The only jobs she can get are in bartending and "direct marketing," i.e. door to door sales. She's starting to get pretty down on the whole thing.
  22. myhoneyhoney

    myhoneyhoney Well-Known Member

    Wow, am I the only one who had parents that expected the student to pay the majority of the college costs? My parents are big with college with my dad earning masters in business and my mom earning her masters in nursing. Both of them worked and payed for their college education so the same was expected of me. Growing up I was pretty shocked hearing about parents paying for the entire college education. I expect my kids to do the same for the majority of their college education. I mean, they'll be 18 by then, ADULTS, so they should shoulder the responsibility of paying for the majority of their education and not just have it handed to them unless they're given a full scholarship, of course.
  23. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    I know someone who has a journalism degree and many years of experience. His job got cut three years ago as the mid-size newspaper has transitioned to a staff of low paid non-degreed reporters. He had no job for some time and now had the bright idea at nearly 50 to get a grad degree in communications and try to teach journalism instead. Which wouldn't be such a crazy notion considering that he has got adjunct jobs with no grad degree already. But he is paying for it entirely via loans--both tuition and living expenses.

    FWIW...we're paying for my grad school in cash. It's why we are broke. I wouldn't be doing it with loans for anything at this age.
  24. misskarne

    misskarne #AustraliaForTheTeamEvent

    I have to admit - and while I know my situation is totally different - that when I read stories about people whining that their parents didn't pay for college, I can't help but think, "So, get a job already!" There's nothing wrong with working at McDonald's or the local grocery store to get you through college.
  25. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    No. My parents didn't pay for college and I started working when I was 13 and pretty much paid for everything but room, board, and medical expenses from that age. But, even though I had a fairly good sense of what a lot of things cost, I don't think I entirely realized what it would cost for me to support myself, including the cost of living in more expensive parts of the country, owning a vehicle, and paying for things like a professional wardrobe. I grew up in a family where we were constantly worried about paying the bills so I was very careful with my spending, but I just kind of assumed that I would be able to find a job after college and didn't do any research into career prospects. But, the job market was very different then.

    One other thing that I think is driving up the debt load is the standard of living. I don't think most students need an Iphone and an IPad (along with associated costs) in addition to their laptops, but a lot of students have them. A lot of students don't really "need" cars, but they have them and some of them have quite nice cars even though they're taking on more debt. I'm often surprised by how much some students spend on entertainment and clothes. It adds up. But, I think some students just assume that's the way everyone is supposed to live. And others are so in debt, they figure what's a few thousand bucks more.
  26. misskarne

    misskarne #AustraliaForTheTeamEvent

    Ding ding ding. We have a winner.

    One of my lecturers suggested that if we could afford it, we should get a smartphone. A bunch of kids in my course rushed out and bought the latest iPhone, complaining about how expensive it was. I just quietly shopped about and bought the cheapest one I could find. And it works just fine.

    Heaps of kids in my course also had netbooks as well as laptops, and iPads as well as netbooks, and often went to parties and got drunk (and we all know how expensive alcohol is). And yet they were also complaining that they had no money.
  27. reckless

    reckless Well-Known Member

    I guess I come at this from a different perspective, having gone to the more expensive law school over full scholarships elsewhere. But the school I chose was a perfect fit for me in terms of environment and, career-wise, opened a lot of doors for me, so I have never regretted that decision. The critical question has to be what is the likely return on the investment the student is making. Sometimes, the cheaper option in not the better one.

    More than a lot of careers, where you went to law school plays a huge role in opening doors. Graduates of Yale, Harvard, and Stanford may not turn out to be better lawyers than graduates of Emory, UCLA, or Indiana, but the big firms still jump at the opportunity to offer jobs to graduates from the top-tier schools. It's a big prestige issue for the firms. So if I'm talking to someone considering law school, the first question I ask is what schools we're talking about. If the student is competitive for the top-10 schools, it makes a big difference in the discussion.

    Now as for the girl in the video. If she is talking about spending $120,000 to go to a lower-tier law school because she wants to go to work in politics -- but not in a position that requires legal experience -- it is a bad decision. However, there are a lot of positions that do require law degrees or, even if they do not officially require them, are very difficult to get when competing with JDs who are applying for the same job. Understanding how laws are written, how rules and regulations work, and how everything is interpreted by courts is important if your position involves drafting legislation. Even if you work for your local member of Congress, if you want to be involved in his or her committee work, that may be very legal intensive and law school might give you a background in a particular area of the law (e.g., securities, equal rights, voting laws, administrative law, etc.)

    So the student in the video needs to figure out what she ultimately wants to do. Just saying "politics" is obviously uninformed. She also needs to be realistic about the odds that even law school will get her the job she wants. Jobs in Washington are hard to get, and in this economy, there is a lot of competition. If she's only going to get into a lower-tier school, law school may not help open doors. She may be better off interning for some local politicians first and make some connections. Perhaps that can get her an entry level job in Washington. At that point, if she still thinks law school is important for her career, her experience may help her get into a better school.

    Then there also is an issue of how different law schools help students who seek out public interest work. Yale and Harvard have very aggressive loan forgiveness programs for public interest, so that mountain of debt is manageable. The Yale program was still fairly new when I graduated, but many of my classmates took advantage of it. So again, a lot depends on the school at issue.

    Also, let's bear in mind that what a student thinks they are going to do at 21-22 may be quite different than when they graduate. I went to law school absolutely sure that I wanted to do public interest work when I graduated. During law school, I worked in multiple clinics and was involved in a lot student-litigated cases. I even had a law firm decide not to offer me a permanent job after I interned for them, because they thought I would reject the offer and do public interest work instead. To them my resume screamed public interest.

    What they didn't understand is that my experiences had taught me that I did not have the stomach to do public interest work day-in and day-out. I take losing too hard and too personally. When clients of mine were deported or evicted, I felt that I had failed them. Each loss took way too much out of me and I knew I couldn't do that for a career. It may seem shallow, but the worst that happens if I lose one of my typical cases today is that a company loses money (albeit, sometimes a lot of money), but it's not life or death. I still do pro bono cases and some of them still have the kind of impact as the law school cases, but I can handle one of those cases a year or two.

    All of that is a long way of saying that the girl in the video may be talking idealistically of going into politics, but after a year or two in law school, she might find that she prefers something else and her job prospects and future income are very different.
  28. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    I don't think anyone is saying that cheaper is always better. I certainly don't believe it and haven't said it. But, spending money -- or more money -- isn't always the wise thing. What people are saying is that some students are paying more than is necessary or wise or, worse, aren't even thinking about the debt load they are taking on and aren't even considering the job prospects. Like my friend's sister who is considering going into big debt to go to a low-tier law school that will not give her good job prospects.

    And the reality is that going to a top-tier school isn't always more expensive, especially when you factor in financial aid. That's one thing that students and their parents have to educate themselves about. My parents didn't know that, and I didn't either. So, I hardly applied to any private colleges, assuming that state schools would cost me less. That turned out to be untrue and I ended up going to a top-tier private university with no more debt than if I had gone to my state university. For a lot of people, going to Harvard or Stanford isn't going to put them more in debt than going to UCLA (and especially not USC, Pepperdine, USF, etc.). Of course, in some cases, the state school will be less expensive than the private colleges that a particular student has been accepted to.

    The point that I think most people are making is that students aren't giving enough thought to the amount of debt they are taking on, the consequences of that debt, and what kinds of job prospects that education will be giving them.
  29. TheGirlCanSkate

    TheGirlCanSkate Well-Known Member

    For my son, he will go to a grad school with a great rep for what he wants to do, it was just less important at for the first 4 years - he is in an amazing program, has presented at different conferences across the US and is in several publications - all before his junior year.

    If you can afford the top schools with a manageable amount of debt - go for it! It just all has to make sense - short and long term.
  30. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    A lot of parents--including parents who went to college themselves--don't know a lot about how colleges work or what kind of aid is available, or how to go about finding it. Many of them figure that they took out student loans and it was fine, so that's what their kids will do, too.

    College is so much more expensive than it used to be; kids can't put themselves through school on what they make working part time and in through the summer any more. Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years, even in just the past five years.

    People should always go to the best school they can afford; it's just figuring out what you can afford that is the problem. Too many people don't know enough to know how to calculate what the debt will actually mean to them. Most people aren't going to get into top schools; most students aren't even going to graduate. If people think that student loan debt is bad for college graduates, imagine what it's like for the dropouts.