College costs: Debt or investment? Get into the best college you can afford?

A reader says a good college provides more than a good education. It upgrades your life and your social circle. (Dean Rohrer art)

A reader says a good college provides more than a good education. It upgrades your life and your social circle. (Dean Rohrer art)

Today, the AJC has a story reporting that the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high. The story says the average list price for a state school now runs more than $17,000 a year, according to the twin annual reports on college costs and student aid published Wednesday by the College Board.

Earlier, the AJC reported hat student debt now exceeds credit card debt.  With my older two children at colleges that rank among the nation’s costliest, I worry about the debt that they will carry. But I also understand that college costs can be viewed as a debt or as an investment.

A reader sent me this note, which I thought provided great food for thought on this topic. Most of us evaluate a college’s  value based on the classes, but the reader notes that better colleges place you in better milieus and expose you to a brighter class of people and could lead to many other enhancements in your life.

Here is his note:

First, I believe that selecting and getting into a college is the first adult decision that many kids make in their entire lives. It is time for them to begin thinking like an adult, which means things like where a buddy or girlfriend is going is pretty much out the window, along with a dozen other reasons that kids come up with for picking a particular school.

The sole  criteria for most kids should be to get into the very best  school they can qualify for and afford. If that’s not a real good school, get into the one that offers them the best opportunity to transfer. For example, Perimeter College has a deal with the University System, I believe, that allows their graduates, upon completion of their two-year program, to attend any school in the system. (For information on the GPC Transfer Admission Guarantees, click here.)

That includes Georgia Tech. What you have here is an opportunity for a kid who has pretty much messed up his life so far to work his way into a first-rate university, and it’s reasonably priced. Don’t want to be an engineer? I don’t blame you, but you have an opportunity to move into one of the higher circles in life.

Why should a person want to do this? Forget the money. That will come, but consider the following. You’ve hung out at the gas station for most of your teen years, and your pimply faced buddies who communicate in grunts and obscenities. You’re the one who’s going to college. Are they or guys like them your forever social strata?

Hopefully not.

At a first-rate school, you tend to meet and know first-rate people and this will follow you through life. You begin to function in a group from whom the odds are you will choose a spouse (with whom you will beget children, who are little darlings and don’t need to be gotten out of jail every Saturday night.)

Believe it or not, your interests will be more interesting. Public service, travel, good music, better reading, world and national affairs etc. After all, how much time can you spend talking about transmissions?

Kids should know they’re talking about a decision that will affect their entire life.

I am skeptical about guidance counselors and objective advisers. This is an advocacy situation. Among the books I would recommend to this end is Andrew Ferguson’s “Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College.” He reviews the entire admissions system in a thoroughly researched amusing book. He knows the colleges have not been entirely fair in the process and puts a lot of it into perspective.

On a slightly different topic, the NYT recently ran an article about a scam by a San Francisco college in which they gave scholarships to freshmen contingent on their maintaining a “B” average. Then, they limited the number of “A’s” and “B’s” their teachers could give. This resulted in a very large number of students losing their scholarship at the end of their first year. Because these were pretty good students, they had high “C” averages and, generally speaking, became tuition paying students. This is called “discounting.” I know of the same thing happening at a prominent Mountain State university, so word gets around.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

109 comments Add your comment

redweather

October 20th, 2011
6:12 am

College is an investment in your brain.

thewindwhistler

October 20th, 2011
6:20 am

A lot of people see junior colleges as an opportunity to ge started on the college level without the big time expenses. And it really is not the university but the courses that are taken leading to employment. For example a degree from Harvard in sociology means little where a degree in petroleum engineering means certain employment at a high wage.
I have to grant you, the people that one meets at Harvard may be the best, wealthiest most influential in the whole wide world but even they do not want chumming around with friends in the unemployment line.

Ernest

October 20th, 2011
6:48 am

I recall seeing one site that had ‘Return on Investment period’ as a measure. It used the expected salary for the major (in this case it was law school) and divided that by the investment over expected stay in school. From this we saw that attending Georgia State for law school is one of the best bargains in the country. While it does not have the name recognition as the Ivies or other regional law schools, it had a high placement rate which made it more of a bargain considering the investment required.

The data is only as good as the participants honesty in providing it. I’m not advocating on behalf of the Georgia State law program but I would recommend it be considered to prospective law students that are on a strict budget.

SPARKY

October 20th, 2011
6:58 am

Maureen,

Student debt does not exceed credit card debt. Don’t blame you for quoting AJC but pretty sad that the AJC parrots erroneous figures from USA Today.

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/10/19/fact-and-fiction-about-student-loans/

SPARKY

October 20th, 2011
7:15 am

Also, was the note a parody?

He’s suggesting people go to Tech to be an engineer even if they have no interest in the subject?

As for “good music” and “better reading”, I’m pretty sure the average Tech grad wouldnt know Bronte from Austen. He thinks Tech grads are at the Symphony??? You will find them enjoying their high “social strata” membership watching teenagers toss around balls at football and basketball games.

Sure you meet more successful people at a good college than at a gas station. But there’s presumably there’s a reason this kid hangs out at the gas station and not the library. And what’s wrong with understanding how a transmission works?

catlady

October 20th, 2011
8:19 am

Pascarella and Terenzini’s tome on college effects is a meta analysis on the many, varied studies of outcomes of college attendance. Although older (20 years or so) it is a great resource for those who think going to college is just for getting a job.

The reason Harvard grads do so well is NOT because of the great classes they took, generally. It is because of the INPUTS (students) and the backgrounds of their families with whom you study.

Lee

October 20th, 2011
8:27 am

A couple of points:

1. After your first job, where you went to college becomes less and less relevant.

2. In all my years, I have never hired anyone based on where they went to school.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 20th, 2011
9:10 am

Most college degrees are a pig in a poke but go ahead and waste your money. Its your credit report.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 20th, 2011
9:11 am

Most college degrees are a pig in a poke but its your credit history.

Kawla

October 20th, 2011
9:21 am

I did my first two years at DeKalb College ( now Perimeter) and then transferred, going on to get a Masters from GSU. I enjoyed the classes at DeKalb and more importantly, limited how much debt I ran up. I dont even list DeKalb on my resume, as that is not where I obtained my degree. A good decision for those first two years, as far as Im concerned.

Plus, as Lee states, after your first job, no one cares anymore anyway. Your experiance is then what counts more.

Jenn

October 20th, 2011
11:03 am

Field of study is all that matters. Don’t go to any Ivy League school, rack up six figure student loans studying women’s studies or something and then whine about not finding a job! Clark Howard says your student loans after graduation should not exceed your first years projected salary for a major. I made about $15k more my first year than the 5 years worth of loans I amassed at GT. So, yeah. Figure out what you like, try to find a career that you can do that in, then go to the best school you can afford. Done.

MannyT

October 20th, 2011
11:20 am

I agree that you should go to the best college you can afford. You attend (undergraduate) college for 4-6 years, but the friendships, network, and connectivity can last a lifetime. When you compare the costs of college at age 20 to the same college’s pricing at age 40, most good colleges are much more expensive and the school is better. Graduates often agree that admissions is more difficult and the school has more impressive facilities & faculty.

It seems that the MOST expensive college cost in 1985 was $17,210. In 2011, the most expensive college cost is $58,334 (which is an increase of 239%.)

Inflation 1985 to 2011 is %115

As long as college costs go up quicker than inflation, good colleges where you are an active part of the community are a good investment. (If you are going to sit in a dark corner and read by yourself, you can get the books and gain the knowledge on your own. Interactions & relationships with others are a specific benefit of being in a community.)

When you consider the alternatives, there is a significant funnel effect. The less selective your college, typically the fewer the opportunities. While you can find someone with any life experience that becomes very successful (Steve Jobs-Apple), often the chances of having doors open to success are higher with better schools/better education (Mark Zuckerberg-Facebook).

Once you consider the long term value of a college education for those that are on a professional track, it is easy to say that college ready students should go to good colleges where they can succeed. (If you want to be in a trade, i.e. electrician, plumber, etc. you can succeed, but college isn’t your track.)

While there is some truth that where you went to college matters less as you go through life, it does impact some higher opportunties.
Check the top CEO education list.

GrammarKing

October 20th, 2011
11:27 am

By all means, don’t listen to those loudest voices decrying the value of a Liberal Arts education. Engineering is all well and good, but a well rounded Liberal Arts student makes an excellent candidate for entry-level jobs. From there, the onus is all on the individual to work hard, continue to learn and move up in an organization. Having to work in groups, study multiple subjects and work through hundreds and even thousands of pages of history and literature a week is excellent training for corporate work environments. The ability to absorb, comprehend and synthesize huge amounts of information will set you apart from others. My history degree has provided me with skills that separate me from coworkers who have economics and business degrees because I can communicate difficult subjects with clarity.

I fully agree with today’s post. Go get the best education you can afford and learn as much as you can. Learn something that interests you, take classes in art history and geology, music theory and physics, history and anthropology; these subjects will provide different lenses through which to view the world. Select a major that interests you and makes you want to work hard, that’s what matters.

Devildog

October 20th, 2011
11:44 am

If they can qualify, a few years in the military would be a great “first adult decision.” You come out supercharged for a college experience and the leadership you learned carries on in life. And if you’re lucky . . . Once a Marine, ALWAYS a Marine.” World’s greatest fraternal organization.

William Casey

October 20th, 2011
11:48 am

I am skeptical about incurring a huge amount of debt in order to obtain a “brand name” undergraduate college degree. I agree with Lee that after the first job, nobody cares. I believe that employability depends much more on one’s choice of major. But, there is much more to college than job training.

My son will graduate from Georgia Southern with dual degrees in Mathematics and Philosophy in May 2013. He will also graduate with no debt thanks to HOPE, the fact that his mother and I started a college fund for him when he was six months old, his own work as a math tutor, and his taking an overload each semester. We are very pleased.

Would he have been better off attending a “brand name” school for his undergrad work? Debatable. Were we a wealthy and well-connected family, perhaps. Given our circumstances, I think not. His mathematics training at Southern far exceeds my own calculus experience at Georgia Tech. Math is math anywhere and those who are talented in it and enjoy it will find their employment niche. His work experience as a tutor will serve him well. Some will scoff at his choosing to get a degree in Philosohhy as well. I don’t. I’ve observed a monumental improvement in his ability to express himself logically and solve problems with limited information, a very important skill. All this with NO DEBT.

My take on this is that college choice is a very individual matter. My son is contemplating a career as a college professor. I believe that his undergraduate experience at Georgia Southern has positioned him well for pursuing a graduate degree at a more prestigious university if he so chooses. Articulate guys who understand mathematics at a very high level aren’t all that common. Again, with NO DEBT.

MiltonMan

October 20th, 2011
11:48 am

“Don’t want to be an engineer? I don’t blame you,…”

As an engineer, please keep this garbage out of your opinion pieces. Is the reader afraid of becoming an engineer because she/he cannot handle to tough class load or is it because he/she is like the vast majority of the population within this country that believes engineers are nothing more than dorks or nerds.

Brazil, China, India, etc. value their engineers at almost the same level as Americans value their Athletes, rock stars, actors/actresses, Jersey Shore clowns, etc.

My engineering degree from a SEC school has allowed me to make more in terms of compensation than many from a “much, much more prestigious Ivy League Schools”

Sk8ing Momma

October 20th, 2011
11:55 am

The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition and Get a Truly International Education by Maya Frost is a must read for anyone who wants an out-of-the-box approach to college.

It challenges one’s higher education paradigm and to question why students do things they way they do.

It is a thought-provoking and entertaining read…Two thumbs up!

HS Public Teacher

October 20th, 2011
11:55 am

@William Casey and Lee – You are wrong when you say…. “after the first job, nobody cares” The undergraduate college that I went to had and still has a great reputation. That alone has opened many doors for me throughout my life. Even after my first job, the fact that my bachelor’s degree is from there continued to pay dividends.

I feel it was easier for me to get into grad school. It was easier for me to find my “next” job. I was able to meet powerful people in alumni gatherings.

It seems that only the people that do not graduate from a highly rated college downplay the importance!

f

October 20th, 2011
11:57 am

I went to both Emory and GSU. Many of my co-workers went to Tech. I would say that the distribution is about even amongst all groups in regards to gainful employment, job satisfaction and career growth or lack thereof. However, it does appear that those who got technical degrees i.e. math, science, finance… have fared better overall. Those who did not rack up large debt getting there technical degree are doing the best of all.

southern hope

October 20th, 2011
12:03 pm

Oh please…not that “ivy league schools introduce you to a better class of people” argument….i agree that a good college is a top priority…but it’s just completely silly to think only the kids who have parents shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars will get ahead. Graduate from a good state college, work hard, be a good person, take chances, open your mind….20 years later, your friends, your income, your happiness, your marriage, your outlook will be the same as if you attended a good state college vs. a Dartmouth or (worse) an overpriced private college for kids who couldn’t get into Ivy League but their parents still needed the social boost of telling their friends where their kids attend school.

Dirk McGurk

October 20th, 2011
12:04 pm

network

October 20th, 2011
12:21 pm

at one point in your career, you’ll be competing with someone just as smart and talented as you are. Pedigree and who you know will win the advancement for you.

so – go to the best school you can
and study a field that has commercial demand – ie so you can pay off your debt!

Joe

October 20th, 2011
12:23 pm

“For example a degree from Harvard in sociology means little where a degree in petroleum engineering means certain employment at a high wage.”

Spoken like a hayseed who’s never been out of Georgia. All majors at Harvard, including sociology, are recruited heavily by Wall Street and Silicon Valley for jobs that pay much better than petroleum engineering.

another comment

October 20th, 2011
12:28 pm

I was recruited 28 years ago by a top Atlanta based firm to come work as a Project Engineer from a big 10 Engineering Schoool that is a higher ranked engineering school than Georgia Tech. That firm’s sole GT engineer was the boss’s son, who let me do his engineering work for him, while he took home $50K bonuses. All the engineers at that firm were either recruited from my school, a school in Alabama, or Florida. The next firm I went to was the same way, only a rare GT grad who was at the top of the class, but the rest of us, came from the Big Ten, the Alabama Engineering School, or down in Florida. The next place I went to work the other 3 were fired within 6 months so I don’t even know where they went to school, they could not manage multiple projects and keep their budgets in line.

Then on my next positions I became the hiring and managing engineer. It was a rare GT Engineer or Archtect that made the cut over the long term. Then it was only one or two that had been schooled at another firm by Engineers from other schools. The employees that were hireable and made good employees were from the above schools, Plus Virginia, and Tulane. The absolute worse mistakes were hiring from HBC’s, the difference in ability, knowledge, coupled with work ethic is night and day.

We later found out why Georgia Tech grads had such problems. Upper management who had zip engineering knowledge hired one of their Asst. Professors for a newly created upper management position. Here this person was supposedly teaching in Engineering, and had formerly worked for DOD, and had a Cost Estimating Patent. Well what a fraud. She slept her way up in DOD, was sent to training for sleeping with the General, never stayed a position for more than 2 years. She was promoted up and out. The Cost Estimating Patent, she didn’t come up with it, the 3-4 men did, she just got her name inserted on it. Then after she was forced to retire from DOD. She went around and tried to make money with consultants selling the program. She couldn’t even explain it. She bragged that she could make $200-400K a year as a consultant by saying she was an Assistant professor at GT. Teaching classes, well she never did, that she brought in guest lexturers and didn’t pay them. She went around and asked out side architects and engineers to speak to her class. Then she took credit for it. She sent me to a Value Engineering or Leeds conference and tried to still say she did it. I told them oh know it was my presentation and another architects presentation. Put our names on the speaker list. She tried to say I was insobordinate for doing that. The fact is she was incompetent and couldn’t do it. She had a mail order doctorate. So she could only be a bully and try to say you were insobordinate if you tried to expose her. She also wanted to give contracts to her friends without properly bidding them.

You have seen the news reports about the double dippers at Georgia Tech. The professors stealing. They haven’t even gotten to this baffoon yet. Karma is a Biatch, they will Rita.

I will never allow my children to go to Georgia tech when I know, how blatently incompetent some of the engineering professors are. No college professor’s aim should be making $200-400K a year in consulting.

For engineering, the best engineers come from schools that are located in small towns. Big Schools with big research. Engineering Professors, that are nerds and want to be their to educate the students and not make big bucks. Some one who is passionate about educating the next round of engineers.

Now to Study Architecture you need to be in an old city with great Architecture. I have had a good Architect from SCAD, just like from UVA.

jarvis

October 20th, 2011
12:28 pm

@SPARKY, thanks for the reference of data. USA Today should be embarrassed as should the AJC for quoting them.

Somewhat on topic, I’d like to see how much of the student loan debt can be contributed to “for-profit” institutions that also have an insane default rate. Phoenix University and its counterparts are just a giant bubble of fraud. Just a matter of time before they lose their business licenses in my opinion.

Those are Federal Loans they are misusing. The gubberment will crack down eventually and crack down hard.

Tech Grad

October 20th, 2011
12:30 pm

Who/what is Bronte and Austen?

30-yr Higher Ed Admin

October 20th, 2011
12:38 pm

If you want to learn how high-priced schools hood-wink parents into paying for “the edge” that they fail to deliver, read “Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting our Money and Failing our Kids and What We Can do About it” by Hacker and Dreifus.

Maureen Downey

October 20th, 2011
12:41 pm

@jarvis and sparky, If you read the Felix Salmon blog and the comments below, you will note some disagreement on his debunking. In addition, please note that the Wall Street Journal has addressed this same topic.

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/08/09/student-loan-debt-surpasses-credit-cards/

As has the NYT, which reported in April: Student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year as more students go to college and a growing share borrow money to do so.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/education/12college.html

Maureen

Call it like it is

October 20th, 2011
12:41 pm

College is a complete 100% scam! 95% of college grads dont even work in the field they major in. You start on the ground floor you bust your butt and you move up the chain. The sheep skin is useful to get you in the door.

Take Kennesaw State. The economy stinks, but in the past couple of years that school has grown by leaps and bounds. New student center, new dorms, new soccer stadium and on and on. The fees are off the hook. Dont park on campus, your still getting charged parking fees. Dont eat on campus, they still will charge you for meals.

Our public schools struggle, but KSU has no worries and they still take our tax money. Complete trap, but its one we cant get out of.

aon

October 20th, 2011
12:51 pm

Maureen, “your reader” sounds like he is marching through the land of milk and honey with rose-colored glasses on. Only at good schools will you find smart people who are destined to be successful in life. Really? At the end of the day only two things matter: (1) what you do with what you have, (2) what you bring to the table (experience, skill, etc). I have friends who have graduated from “named” colleges that have never been successful because they were unmotivated (hard to let go of mom and dad’s credit card) or their expectations were so inflated they could never find the “right” job (i.e., “I graduated from X, I should not have to take a job like that). “Your reader” is an elitist jerk.

network

October 20th, 2011
12:54 pm

for the record, my wife attended Brown, majored in French Civilization. She landed a job on wall street after college and never looked back. These days, she probably gets a call from a recruiter at least once a week. and I have time to play golf (yesterday), and waste time on the ajc boards.

dc

October 20th, 2011
12:56 pm

My kids knew we would cover in state, with Hope scholarship (so basically…living expenses). Want to go out of state, borrow the delta. Want to screw around and lose the Hope, borrow the delta. Amazingly….they both graduated after attending in state schools, and kept the Hope the whole time. Oh…and now one is in grad school going for a valuable degree (P.A), and the other has an outstanding job.

Us parents are really stupid about college. We agree to basically open up the checkbook, and let the kids decide where they want to go, what they want to study (if??), and where/how the want to live. PLEASE, if you have young kids, set firm ground rules from an early age on all of those. Our kids aren’t stupid..they’ll make smart decisions if they feel the impact personally.

Maureen Downey

October 20th, 2011
1:03 pm

@aon, I have to tell you that my experience differs in that the kids I have met who get into Harvard and Princeton and Yale are extraordinary. Their motivation and their accomplishments are extraordinary; that’s why they are the seven out of 100 applicants who are accepted. I doubt you could find too many unmotivated students getting into those schools today. Every person I know who graduated Harvard in the last 10 years has an incredible job.
Ditto for the students who win the Foundation Fellowship at UGA. I personally know four students who won it, and their achievements extend well beyond perfect grades, perfect SAT scores and 10 AP classes. They are leaders in numerous other areas. (I sit next to a former Foundation Fellow, Kyle Wingfield, who landed a job with the Wall Street Journal in his early 20s — he’s a very, very smart guy.)
Maureen

AMHS Dad

October 20th, 2011
1:13 pm

@MannyT~I concur with your assessment, if you have the talent to get accepted to a highly selective college or Uni, it’s evidence that you have been vetted by some of the best institutions in the world. That alone will have you highly favored in the eyes of say a Goldman Sachs, or The Black Rock Group.

Andrew Ferguson’s book is ok if you want a humorous look at one dad’s journey into the college process of getting his son into college. The book I would recommend is by Michele Hernandez;
A Is for Admission: The Insider’s Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges
http://www.amazon.com/Admission-Insiders-Getting-League-Colleges/dp/B004Y6MVG2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319129973&sr=1-1
For me the knowledge in chapter 11 is well worth the price of the book, it change my view of what I thought about the college admission process.

Maureen, if you know of any other good reads on the process of getting into highly selective schools please share. Also, what are your thoughts on attending the large research institution compared to their smaller liberal arts brethren(preparing the undergrades for grade school).

Progressive Humanist

October 20th, 2011
1:25 pm

In about 12 years I would like my now 5-year-old daughter to go to a small, high quality teaching college at a state university (the one where I teach comes to mind, but I don’t know if I’ll be that lucky) and hope she continues with her current interest- biology (I know it’s a long shot). That way she gets a good education from professors focused on teaching rather than inexperienced TAs muddling through grad school, and we won’t incur much debt (her college fund is growing but no telling how much college will cost then). If she wants to pursue a graduate degree after that, then that would be the time to look for a more prestigious research university. I’ve got a couple degrees from large research universities and I don’t want my daughter going there until she’s a full-fledged adult with a clear career path.

Tech '10

October 20th, 2011
1:28 pm

@another comment: I believe you will find that the professor you speak of is a rarity, However, if she is still there and you have proof of your claims, please let someone in an authoritative position know, so that she may be ousted.

open minded

October 20th, 2011
1:32 pm

I totally disagree:

A person should go to the college that’s the best fit (academically, financially, socially and recreationally), not the highest rank. I honestly believe that 90% of the nation’s colleges have the potential to prepare students well. Students just have to make sure they study and take advantage of all their school has to offer while attending. Plus, a student can pursue their interests anywhere. Colleges don’t perform magic and miracles; life, even in college, is still mostly what the individual makes of it.

“Things like where a buddy or girlfriend is going are pretty much out the window”. I agree that following the buddy should be out the window, but I strongly disagree about the girlfriend part. That is a ridiculous and crass generalization. Some people actually find their spouses in their hometowns. We’ll never know how many duress marriages end in divorce because the participants had to forfeit their true earlier desires to be “practical”. Quite frankly, the author of that note should get out more. It’s culturally accepted in the Midwest and Great Plains for people to start undergraduate school already married. Some even go to prom married. Therefore, it’s actually possible that people can find true love before the age of 20.

Oh, and there’s always graduate/professional school. Many professions (such as law & medicine) require advanced degrees any way. A student doesn’t have to attend the highest ranking school for their bachelors’. They just have to make sure they have a 3.5 and good GRE/MCAT/LSAT scores for a top graduate school.

DeKalbite

October 20th, 2011
1:33 pm

“At a first-rate school, you tend to meet and know first-rate people and this will follow you through life”

What exactly are “first rate people”? Are these people the intelligent people, the kind and caring people, the very good looking people, the motivated and hard working people, the dependable people, the wealthy people, the healthy people, the contemplative people, the people who love to volunteer and help others, people who are leaders, people who will make great parents?

IMHO – “first rate ” people can be found everywhere in all schools and colleges and all walks of life.

You can get a good education in most colleges. My child went to UGA on the Hope scholarship and also worked part time (her choice) and in the summers. We saved and invested most of the money we had saved for a private school education. She came out of college with $100,000 in the plus column which we turned over to her when she graduated. This sounds like a lot of money, but considering Emory is $40,000+ a year in tuition, this would not have even paid for the tuition in top tier private schools. Her friends, many of them at top notch colleges including Ivy League schools, were not all so lucky. They either have no savings or they are heavily debt. Some have good jobs. Some are unemployed or underemployed. None of them have the choices she now has.

I can’t understand why anyone would take a student loan out for a private school. Luckily for private colleges, it seems very few people share my opinion.

AlreadySheared

October 20th, 2011
1:38 pm

Hmmm… I truly don’t know.
“Get into the best college you can afford” sounds suspiciously like “Buy the biggest house you can afford” (because, of course, house prices always go up).

Conventional wisdom is always right, until it’s not anymore.

Personally, some decades ago, after a strong freshman year elsewhere, I applied as a transfer student to Emory and Ga Tech. I was really fired up about going to Emory, but would have had to borrow a TON of money to go there (I was paying my own way). I chose the dramatically more affordable Ga Tech. After the fact, I have absolutely no regrets about that decision.

Sorry to Be A Party Pooper

October 20th, 2011
1:41 pm

A great number of you people have no business on a college campus.
If you want to go to a college based on an ad you saw for it, you definitely don’t need to be there.
If you were “recruited” for a proprietary school and took out loans based on that recruitment, you should be presumed unable to form the logic necessary to contract and therefore be relieved of your student loan debt.
If you need student loans for undergratuate college and you are not planning to attend a top-tier school (here’s a hint: Auburn and Clemson are not top-tier), you might as well go to Kennesaw. Your education will be worth about as much because you are going to end up making $40,000/year no matter what you do.
Invest your money in career training, not college, dummy. Buy some tools and apprentice as some sort of mechanic or technician.
Also, if you are a parent who has ever, even for a split second, contemplated co-signing a student loan with anyone (yes, even precious Junior), you are the epitomy of stupidity. You are the result of boiling and refining a million tards and then scraping the bottom of the condensation tank.
Y’all take care, now.

dre

October 20th, 2011
1:47 pm

Lee @ 8:27 am: could not agree with you more. I hire only about 10-12 people per year, but I pay little attention to where as opposed to how. There were 4 examples this year alone where a GCSU grad was hired over 2 UGA and two Auburn grads with higher GPAs because of WHAT they did in college. These 4 well-rounded, creative thinkers are doing well.

dre

October 20th, 2011
1:51 pm

network: No one believes you. Am sure you’re stuck in the ground floor (literally) of some corporation’s IT department, so stop the idiotic faux gloating. LOL

DeKalbite@Maureen

October 20th, 2011
2:00 pm

Having taught gifted for years and years at the highest achieving schools in DeKalb, I have many former students who went to Yale, Harvard and Princeton – several that stood out even in those colleges. I agree that all of these former students who went the Ivy League route are exceptionally smart. However, these kids would have been super successful anywhere so I wonder if it’s the schools that make the students or the students who make the schools. There is a difference.

I keep up with a lot of them, and I’m so surprised at what they are doing – rarely is it what I expected them to do. A math whiz that went to Yale is an artist, a physics major at Princeton is a software developer, several went the Teach for America route, and a number ended up in Africa or third world countries working for non-profits. A few are in medical school or getting PhDs and probabky more will eventually join them. They all enjoyed their respective colleges, but truthfully their intellectual peers who did not go to these three schools are doing pretty much the same in terms of jobs or post graduate degrees. I consider an amazing job as one where you enjoy what you are doing most every day.

Vox Populi

October 20th, 2011
2:06 pm

Sorry…college is not an “investment” insofar as getting a better job, making more money, etc. It is sad that a college degree has become cheapened to imply this.

If one wants job training there are plenty of technical “colleges” & cosmotology/cooking/security guard/graphic design/etc “$chool$” available. Perhaps an engineering degree is a different animal, but a degree from a liberal arts school is intended to enhance the worth of the individual to himself & to society.

First & foremost, spending 4 years at college should teach you how to act with manners & civility, and to get along with others who may hold opinions at variance with your own. No…just because someone “calls you a name” does NOT give you “the right” to shoot him. A college degree should provide an opportunity for students to reflect on the past, present, future…and the nature of…civilization, itself. And believe me, western civilization needs all the help it can get, moving forward…
Not everyone should go to college, or needs to…and NO ONE has any sort of “right” to go to college, just because “that’s what rich folks do!”

Most student financial aid is a rip off & should be outlawed. You want your kids to go to college, maybe have a better life than you? NEWS FLASH! Save your money. Even then, your kids should expect to WORK their way through college…so you’d better teach them that old-fashioned survival ethic, too. No free lunches; no entitlements.

Too many college students today can barely read & write English. How or why they ever made it into college is a crime that only devalues the worth of all college degrees. Not everyone can, should, or needs to be a brain surgeon. Plumbers make a great salary without being able to recite Shakespeare’s sonnets from memory.

P.S. I was initially an advocate of the HOPE scholarship…but it has only ramped up grade inflation, as many feared. Now they want to fund state colleges based upon how many they graduate. Guess what that will lead to?

Joe

October 20th, 2011
2:23 pm

“Her friends, many of them at top notch colleges including Ivy League schools, were not all so lucky. They either have no savings or they are heavily debt.”

I’d venture to say you’re just making this up to justify your daughter’s decision to attend a less prestigious university. Elite private colleges are almost always cheaper than state schools, due to their generous financial aid packages–for which even children of middle-class professionals usually qualify. Take a look at any of the “Best Value” rankings, and you’ll see what I mean. I’m not sure if you’re ignorant, resentful or some combination of the two, but your assertion about the cost of selective private institutions has no basis in reality.

no mas

October 20th, 2011
2:39 pm

Those of you who do the hiring – I have a question:

My daughter is thinking about transferring from a well-respected small private women’s college in Ga to GCSU. She will be a majoring in a liberal arts field, and plans to go to graduate school, either to teach or to become a lawyer. Good choice, or stay where she is?

DeKalbite@Joe

October 20th, 2011
3:36 pm

“I’d venture to say you’re just making this up to justify your daughter’s decision to attend a less prestigious university…”
My child attended the high achievers magnet in DeKalb from grades 4 through 12. When they took the SAT in 7th grade at Kittredge to qualify for Duke’s TIP program, most students scored a minimum of 1,000 all the way up to 1,400+ iin math and verbal combined. The Chamblee High School manget kids had many students score above 1,500 in math and verbal so they are courted by top tier schools. CHS students are very smart, but most are not wealthy so they went to top tier schools on scholarships and loans. Very few got the “free ride” you are describing, and these are some of the smartest kids you’ll ever meet.

It was more my decision than her decision to attend UGA. Obviously with $100,000 saved for college, she was not a candidate for many scholarships. My husband and I both worked so our income level along with the money we saved really put us in the category of being able to pay for a private school on our own, and trust me – they do look at your financials. Where did you get the idea that these private schools just handout money? If that was true, we wouldn’t have a student debt problem would we? Crunching the numbers, it just didn’t seem like a good return on investment.

It’s hard to believe you don’t understand the impact the economy has had on recent college graduates. Downward pressure on wages has put many of her friends in a bind when paying off college loans. Maybe you don’t know a lot of young adults in their twenties.

UGA is a terrific school. My dsughter has a good job and money in the bank. Full disclosure – she did go to a good private school for her graduate degree – but she had plenty of money to pay for it. I’m not resentful at all. I’m extremely grateful that she was able to get a good education and even more grateful she is gainfully employed. That is the main purpose of college after all – gainful employment. No one wants to end up without insurance living with their parents.

Progressive Humanist

October 20th, 2011
3:49 pm

no mas (or Roberto Duran),

Compare the tuition costs. Despite what Joe says above, state schools are much less expensive unless the student gets scholarship money or some sort of financial aide. By now you know exactly what her current school costs, so compare that to GCSU.

As far as getting into graduate school, universities will take into consideration where a student got their undergraduate degree to some extent, but it’s only a very small part of the equation. The larger factors would be her GPA, her GRE score, and her field of study.

I believe that the idea that small private colleges are more highly respected is a misconception. In the business world state universities tend to have better name recognition unless you’re talking about an Ivy League school. I got my master’s from a small private college, but it’s the BA and PhD from public research universities that I’ve found hold more weight with the public and employers.

GCSU is a good choice and liberal arts can be studied just about anywhere at the undergraduate level. Once she gets to the graduate level, UGA and Georgia State are both good in-state options for what she wants to do.

Dan

October 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

So how does one determine the best colledge? and the phrase “best you can afford” suggests a correlation between cost and quality, which is not necessarily so. What your primary subject matter is will greatly influence any objective determination of what is the best school. The key is selecting a discipline that has a commercial purpose. Or if you choose to follow your heart and your heart is in philosophy, history, literature, or the generic “business” be prepared to live a lifestyle that is less materialistic, learn to enjoy your chosen career and not expect someone to pay you as a colledge graduate when there is no demand for that particular expertise. What you learn is far more pertinent than where you learn it.

Sk8ing Momma

October 20th, 2011
3:55 pm

@another comment – Are you referring to HBCUs when you make this comment?: The absolute worse mistakes were hiring from HBC’s, the difference in ability, knowledge, coupled with work ethic is night and day.

Do elaborate! Graduates from which HBCUs?