$100,000 in debt for a dream college?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, writes a graduating senior at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High. After earning top grades, test scores, etc., the well-rounded student got into three dream universities — but the financial-aid offers were meager. She’d have to borrow $100,000 over four years or ask her near-retirement-aged parents to drain their life savings.

. . .  I could either take on the debt for a brand-name school and pray to the deities of the job market that I’d get a job lucrative enough to pay it off (which is what many of my peers are doing, I learned), or I could graduate debt-free from a less prestigious school and hope that I’d get hired despite my not-nearly-as-impressive-but-decent undergraduate credentials.

She’s heading for a state university, where she plans to graduate at the top of her class with minimal debt, get a good job and start saving so her kids can go where ever they want.

She’s bitter about having to say no to her dream schools, but she’ll enjoy the freedom to do the work she wants. It’s no fun being a debt slave.

If your parents can’t afford private-college tuition, but are paying your state university bills, don’t whine about it, advises Ann Althouse. “The culture has truly tipped, with everyone feeling entitled to things they can’t pay for and assuming somebody else over there will pay somehow, some time.”

About Joanne


  1. She could try to transfer into one of those schools as a junior; the job prospects might be better, or at least clearer, then.

  2. Save the dream college for graduate-school. In many fields there really is money for scholarships and stipends there.

  3. There are other options besides taking on a lot of debt or settling for a state school. My DH wanted to attend Stanford but his parents couldn’t afford to send him. So he did ROTC and cobbled together enough other scholarships to cover all but 2%. That he was able to pay for via part-time and summer jobs. Yes, he had to serve in the Army after graduation but he gained a lot of leadership experience from doing so. Not too many organizations will put 22 y.o. new college grads in charge of a couple dozen men and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. He used that experience to help him get into one of the top MBA programs after his Army commitment was up.

  4. cranberry says:

    She got into Cornell in May. Problem solved.

    As an aside, after this past year, I’m not that impressed by Stuyvesant.

    • Is it because of the cheating, or how the cheating was handled? Not that I’d condone cheating, but it sort of feels to me that at this point it’s basically a universal problem.

      • cranberry says:

        Both. My older children attend boarding schools which take cheating very seriously. It is taken as seriously as theft. Students are expelled for cheating. If it’s a first offense, they may be suspended. Such disciplinary incidents are part of the record which colleges see. Cheating is not a universal problem if the adults in charge are willing to uphold disciplinary codes.

        Smart students are smart enough to realize when cheating’s not worth it. At present, it is worth their while to cheat at Stuyvesant. It’s not only this NYT article, nor the regents’ episode. Stuyvesant students were also willing to discuss cheating on the SAT at the time of the Long Island cheating. http://www.schoolbook.org/2011/10/12/pressure-and-lack-of-repercussions-are-cited-in-sat-cheating/

        I also find the writer’s snide comments about students at public universities, such as “Strong Island lax bros and girls who are convinced that Queens is not part of New York City,” to reflect a very narrow, entitled and arrogant mindset. An established cheating culture and student arrogance belies the students’ self-image of being the “best and the brightest.”

  5. I’m amazed that a supposedly-smart high school student would even contemplate paying more than $100,000 for a degree in “undecided”. Who is filling these kids’ heads with such crap?

  6. Rob,

    A bunch of people who have said for the last 10 years or so, “get a college degree, on average, a bachelor’s degree holder will earn more than 1,000,000 dollars during their lifetime compared to a high school graduate”.

    Unfortunately, that figure is so misused, so in reality, it’s more like 450-480 thousand over the period of a lifetime. Now if you expand that to a work related environment of 23-67 (44 years, it works out to approximately an additional 10 grand a year).

    Parents of middle and high school students should google ‘college is a ripoff’ by Marty Nemko. It’s an eye opening experience that no one should miss.