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« Would You Pay $45,000 to Live Seven More Years? | Main | Interview with Timothy Sykes, Author of An American Hedge Fund »

October 15, 2007

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Agreed. People need to wake up. College is worth it, if you make even half-way decent decisions. Try to minimize the impact by saving ahead in something like a 529, get scholarships, and pick a school/major that is going to make sense with whatever your earnings are going to be and your student loan payments.

This isn't rocket science.

I totally agree! Maybe this girl should actually get a job as a LAWYER if she wants to be able to pay back her law school loans comfortably. OR she can suck it up and pay them back while sacrificing travel and home ownership while she works in a place she "feels close to."

What she's doing is akin to getting an MBA and then going to work for a non-profit. I'm all for it if people want to pay for crazy-expensive educations and then not take the high-paying jobs they qualify for. If you want to "feel good" about your work and earn way less than your degree can get you, then more power to you. But that's your choice; don't whine about not being able to afford a $300,000 house or a vacation in Hawaii.

I feel worse for the people who take out loans for degrees that don't even qualify them for good jobs. Take the pastry chef I read about who owes almost $200,000 in student loans but works in a bakery earning less than $8 an hour. Here's the thing: statistics show that's what pastry chefs earn on average!! She didn't look that up before deciding to take out $200,000 in loans?!?

At ABA-accredited law schools (virtually all US law schools) you are not allowed to work during your first full time school year. So you are looking at summer jobs or internships, then maybe a job during second year and you should definitely be working by third year just so you have good experience or a landing spot after graduation.

Night programs are often available and can be a great value option, allowing full time workers to take a couple classes at night each semester.

The biggest problem I saw with law school loans was that students took the full amount available and ended up with twice the amount to pay back after graduation. For example, I borrowed around 90k when tuition was probably only half that, something I wouldn't do today if I knew then what I know now.

I understand why she finds it frustrating if she wants to do good in the world. But since she got the degree, she should work in the field for a few years. Maybe do the other as volunteer work. Then she'll have paid off the debt and have valuable experience.

Most of our debt is student loans, but they come from getting a PhD, which took 10 years. And we expect to pay it back, that was the deal. Hence the frugal living and whatnot. I'm just glad that I made it through college with no loans.

It is amazing the debt people get into and then the complaints they make as if we should pay their loans off.

Debt takes time to pay off, but in the end she should make a bundle of money compared to what she could make without a degree.

It is amazing the debt people get into and then the complaints they make as if we should pay their loans off.

Debt takes time to pay off, but in the end she should make a bundle of money compared to what she could make without a degree.

While college is expensive, it's still doable for many people. I'm getting a B.S. for Business Management in December and I have a total of 20k in loans. While I certainly would like less in loans, I can live with this. I work while going to college to r3educe the amount I had to take out. I also went to a community college for my first 2 years and that cut it down. I know firsthand that college can be expensive, but I've seen classmates make this harder on themselves by taking more out for 'student loans' and using that money to live a comfortable lifestyle instaed of sacrificing for a couple years and borrowing less. Some are living as if they were still at home, having their parents paying the bills! they're ignoring the fact that the money will be due and they have to pay for it themselves. If you're a college kid, just be 'poor' for a few years. Education is an investment that will pay off, just don't make it a burden.

I went to a pretty pricey private law school. I knew going in that I was going to work at a firm to pay the loans back. But there was also a section of the school that was very devoted to public justice but, as this young lawyer learned, you are not going to work legal aid with law loans. What our school did was set up and internal scholarship fund to assist with students who upon graduation do public service which pays poor. I think that this is a wonderful solution because it was done within the school. No government / tax money to subsidized this. The students performed a fund raising campaign with alums until they had enough to create an endowment specifically for this reason. Now, we have students who can graduate with a first rate, ethical legal education AND can do public work. I know it is too late for the girl in the article but maybe she should use alum power and start this now at MSU Law School?

Just a thought.

I realize you are big into personal responsibility, I am as well. You offer some very sound advice, save for school, work hard to get scholarships, go to a less expensive school, work while going to school etc. I don't disagree one bit with any of that. However, I think it is a shame not to place any blame at all on the schools. I think it's outrageous that some of these schools can charge what they do. I'm not saying people like her should be allowed to walk away from their problem, they shouldn't, but I think these schools aren't doing their students any favors either.

Just my opinion.

Cashgoat --

That may be, but it's not like they're hiding their costs from people until after they graduate. She knew the cost up front and made the decision to go anyway.

"give me $40,000 and I'll give you $1 million back."

$40,000 over 47 years (65 years old minus 18 years old) at a 7% return yields $898,805! Humm and you did not have to do anything but let interest compound. If you withdraw this money with current capital gains tax of 15% versus making this money and paying income tax at roughly 28% you come out ahead. If you made 9% you end up with 2.107 million dollars at a tax rate of 15%.

Go to college and enable yourself to make more taxable income, the worst kind there is. I'm not saying education is not worth it, but there comes a point when the cost is not worth it.

There are plenty of people who can make an excellent income with and without college. For those that do without they saved a ton and will be able to invest that money for a brighter future. For those that need it, spend wisely! Will a State College offer less income than an Ivy league college?

Sorry, FMF -- I'm with Cashgoat on this one. :)

Take a look at the tuition increases for colleges: a first year may start out paying $, but there's no promise that their 4 years will be 4$. Tuition can (and does) get raised w.o grandfathering in the students that started with a lower rate.

So you can easily find yourself paying $ for year 1 but $$$ by the time you get to year 4. And you find that out in year 2.

I agree with the rest though, about budgeting and savings, but unless you prepay all 4 years up front, you can't expect to get a fixed rate or to know ahead of time if/when the rates will change.

There's some legislation in the works that's trying to address that issue (disproportionate increases in tuition) but I don't know if it's been approved.

Good comments from above -

That may be, but it's not like they're hiding their costs from people until after they graduate. She knew the cost up front and made the decision to go anyway.

IF YOU WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE, PICK A GOOD (STATE) SCHOOL THAT'S WAY CHEAPER!

If everyone quit going to the schools that are 50k/year, they would have to eventually lower their tuition (supply/demand)!

Annab --

Of course you need to factor in tuition (and other) cost increases. But those are fairly easy to estimate, so you know the costs (within reason) before you decide to go to a particular school. It's not like tuition is $10,000 one year and in year two they announce it's now $50,000 a year.

FMF,

Most law students do not have the time to work while doing studies, unless they are working as a legal researcher for a professor or taking paralegal work on the side. Very few of my friends worked for money in law school during the semester. Law students more are likely to make money doing work during the summer. However, legal work is an apprenticeship and if she is doing public interest law, her options for lucrative summer work is limited since most of it is legal aid with non-profit advocacy groups. Unless she is able to get a public interest scholarship, it's very difficult to leave law school without 6 figures in loans. I say this because my best friend is an immigration attorney and it was extremely difficult for her to find paid work as an immigration advocate in public and private practice.

Like your example, my friend went to a state university, but was an out-of-state student. This was a deliberate choice based on her interests in law and the specialty of the school she attended. I love reading your blog, but I think sometimes you ride roughshod over people's desires to study what they love when you advocate higher education strictly as vocational education. I do agree that it's important to be practical and school should be looked upon as vocational training, but someone who racks up student loan debt is not automatically a failure at life. But I agree I am tired of the whining.

Frankly, your assertion that she was unwise in pursuing public interest work right away kind of frightens me because it's a small step away from saying that poor people have no right to legal representation because they can't afford to pay for it. It's because of committed attorneys like Kristen that there are lawyers to help the poor and indigent. We don't support public interest law enough if you ask me and if we let this trend of high legal tuition continue, only wealthy individuals and corporate entities will be able to afford our legal system at $400/hr and the rest of working joes will have to go without. Another one of my friends worked many years as a legal advocate doing public interest law, but that's only because Harvard has a special fellowship to support her in line of work. Eventually she left for money and family reasons, but her heart is certainly not in the work she does now doing transaction law. As she puts it,"There's nothing like being in a courtroom. It brings out my competitive spirit."

I agree with you that I am damned tired of these articles as well. I picked my final decision for college based on dollars instead of what I loved to study or the long term prospect of finding a job. (I would have done better to go to my first choice school and sucked up the extra $8K in loans I would have taken over 4 yrs because I would have been able to get a way better paying job at graduation than I did.)

I think there are two sides to every story and where do public law schools get away with charging so much money? It's very expensive, even in VA, to attend a commonwealth university's law school even on in-state tuition. I mean, what on earth gives with the pricing? Is it merely professorial compensation that makes it so expensive? What's causing universities to raise their pricing? Lack of funding, etc?

@FMF

That's a good point (planning for the increases ahead of time as part of the overall costs).

This is slightly tangential, but I think one big part is knowing what questions to ask when making the decision on what college to choose. I think most people have a sense of how to (let's say) pick a car or another big-ticket item, but it would be interesting to get a sense of what the criteria could be for choosing Uni A over Uni B.

and @beastlike: that's an excellent point.

Whoa, sorry to blow up the commenting page, but have you read of the schools that have taken two different approaches to the issues raised by mapgirl?

First one: Yale offers free tuition to music students:
https://tinyurl.com/39pxby

Second: Wisconsin U makes engineers pay more than other students(cause they can make more in their careers): https://tinyurl.com/2qvesc

Graduate college and face this job market.

Mapgirl --

1. Riding roughshod? Maybe. I'm just getting fed up with this topic. ;-)

2. I'm fine with people going to school for more than just to get a job (such as simply to improve themselves), but I can't stand it when they do so and then complain that their debts are now too high. Hello? Didn't you think of this before you decided to spend $100,000?

3. I didn't say all people who take public interest work are making bad decisions. Not even close to it. What I am saying is that if people chose this type of work, they need to think about what it will pay them and what they'll have to pay to get a degree to do this work. Otherwise, they could make an unwise (and very harmful) financial decision.

4. How can they charge so mauch money? I'd say it's supply and demand. There's so much demand for the available supply that they can raise prices almost at will. Why is there such demand? Because going to college is a good financial deal and can make you much more than you'll spend on it (if you do it correctly.)

I don't mean to sound like an ass, but she shouldn't have gone to law school. For those who don't know, Michigan State University College of Law is not part of Michigan State. It's actually the old Detroit College of Law (a private school) that moved to East Lansing and worked out a partnership with MSU to borrow the name. It's arguably ranks behind UofM, Wayne State, Ave Maria and University of Detroit Mercy in the state of Michgan. Bottom line, if you are going to pay private tuition dollars, you better be getting a tier 1 or tier 2 law school education. This is a tier 4 school.

That said, I think you give way too much of a free pass to these schools. Inflation on tuition is through the roof and it is due to one simple thing: the ready availability of loans. The federal loan system utterly destroyed cost control in higher education. It's worse at places that have billion dollar endowments yet still charge students through the nose.

I also think it is reasonable to recognize that a law student with no prior work experience wouldn't fully understand the ramifications on their life decisions that their student debt will require. Sure, they need to be more diligent. I felt I was, but I didn't realize how much my life would be shaped by the fact that I had my debtload from law school.

FMF, I'd say they can raise the price like crazy because there is a perception that it is a great deal and the availability of cheap credit. It is not because graduates do well financially. Lawyers at one end of the spectrum do quite well, but most make very average salaries for the education level.

I also have to mention that this is an important problem in the field of law. Because, we are pricing our talent out of public sector jobs. They can't afford to be public defenders, etc. Some of us still have a notion that this is a profession, not a job, so we take quite seriously that there's something systematically wrong when we've created a system that hurts those who need legal help the most.

It's because of student loans that tuition has gone up so much. The schools are not getting any static from students because they're not seeing the effects until after college. Tuition went up over 100% while I was in college...and their excuse was "getting to the regional average." That translates to the other schools in area are screwing their students, we should too.

JACK, I am sorry to disagree but MSU basically bought a law school and moved it to Lansing. It is better for rankings and general ego to say one has a law school. And not to be splitting hairs but MSU Law is a tier 3 school, Wayne State, Ave Maria and University of Detroit Mercy are all tier 4 along with Cooley which belongs in its own ninth circle.

Let's compare:
Ave Maria - Private - $30K - Tier 4
Detroit Mercy - Private - $28K - Tier 4
MSU - Private - $28.5K - Tier 3
Wayne State - Public - $31K Out State - $28K in state - Tier 4 (but has a ranked IP program)
Michigan - not a part of consideration...if you got into Michigan law, none of the above should even be considered.

I have to agree with Eric. The vast majority of students don't comprehend the hole they're digging - only GRADUATES (and drop-outs) do.

I'd consider myself financially savvy, but all the bills for university went to my parents. I was told "sign here", and I did. Now that I'm out of school, I warn highschoolers away from my alma mater. It's a really good school, but it's too expensive for any of the families I know.

Oh, and I've checked back on the numbers: My yearly tuition increased over 20% in the four years I was there. Increasing, even as my grant-based aid went down year after year! No wonder my parents told me that after year 4, I was on my own.

Should students make better financial choices? Of course. But way too many of them get out into the real world with a mountain of debt much larger than they expected. You may be sick of hearing about it, but the more teens and parents hear about this, the better prepared they are when it comes time to make their own college decision.

I think you need to qualify that college CAN be a good investment. Treated badly, it can just as well end up a bad one.

I agree with the commenters who say that easy loans are making tuition go up. This is basic economics -- more money chasing goods causes inflation of the price. The increase in tuition costs is well ahead of the inflation rate, and there doesn't seem to be any good explanation. But people go ahead and spend the money because it is the only apparent way for their children to get ahead. For many people, it seems like the minimum required to pursue a middle class standard of living.

There has been little accountability with how colleges and universities spend their money. And their endowments are growing and growing...at what point are they responsible for spending some of that money to defray tuition costs?

https://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/23/business/yourmoney/23every.html

Unfortunately, it seems that the workplace now requires a college degree because the high school diploma has been devalued and doesn't guarantee any kind of skill level.

This situation makes me very angry. I agree that people need to plan their finances in order to attend. However, very soon the costs will outstrip most people's ability to save even this much.

my undergraduate business degree cost less than half of what it costs to go to most schools for 1-2 years. i graduated with 0 student loan debt because I worked while going to school.

my MBA cost me $14,000 of which I have a $10k loan at less than 7% interest rate which is tax deductible + 3% discount on top of that for paying on time. basically free money.

i essentially have very little debt, an established working/business history, and could easily get the same job that someone who owes $150k in debt can get. the only exception being the very top fortune 500 company positions who cater to those graduating from ivy league/top private institutions. i am not interested in these positions anyway.

its all investment vs. return. go to a cheap school close by, live at home or with several roommates in affordable housing, get your schooling done in the littlest time possible (most schools charge the same tuition on 12 or more credits. so you might as well take 15 or 18 per semester)

people need to stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to party for 4-5 years of their lives.

I don't have anything new to add but just wanted to say that I really appreciate the comments addressing the larger picture of many educated, qualified professionals not being able to afford to do public service type work and some of the needier segments of society being adversely affected by as a result. (This post seems to have generated a lot of great discussion. I found points made by Anitra, Lord, and Amy very interesting as well.)

This is a very important point and part of a larger trend overall, which applies to many fields, not just in law. As college costs increase, it will be more and more difficult for graduates to justify taking on public interest type jobs, which are generally much more lower paying than other jobs graduates could get with the same degree. This will have a tremendous impact not just on those graduates but on the populations they hoped to serve but may not be able to afford to serve with the rising costs of their degrees.

For some, school loans can take decades to pay off, leading to postponement or eventual abandonment of plans to taken on essential to society but low paying positions. This may be a tangent to the main point of the post, but is an important side point in my view. Of course, this issue could be a addressed in a variety of ways; I'm not suggesting college costs would necessarily have to go down or stop rising in order for there to be a solution.

I don't know the whole story, but I'm guessing she may have gone to MSU in the hope of having a better chance to get hired by a law firm. I knew oodles of people who graduated from Cooley and Wayne State and ended up working in other fields when they didn't get hired by a firm. Maybe she "chose" Legal Aid because she wasn't hired by a firm - I've seen others do that for a time.

Though college costs a lot, it's worth the investment. Let's say someone would tell you, "give me $40,000 and I'll give you $1 million back." Do you think this is a good deal? I do.
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How's this for a deal: Give me $40,000 and I'll give you back one-half of everything I earn above minimum wage.

Idiot--an MBA is an absolute cakewalk compared to a law degree....which is a cakewalk compared to a science or engineering M.S or Phd. Why do you think everyone and their mom has an MBA or law degree??? Not too many M.S. or PhD's in Engineering.....

Maybe you are tired of these articles, but many, many more high school students and their parents need to see these articles. The current spin in our society is 'go to college'. No one talks about the debt, the potential careers and salaries you can earn. These 18 year old kids are just brainwashed and pressured to go to college and pick a degree. I was one of them. No one tells them to stop and think about it. No one tells kids to truly look at the careers they could have, what those careers pay, and what the monthly payment on their loans will be. More articles like the one you quote, as well as your own comments need to be read by potential college students before they fall into society's spin that they MUST go to college at 18 and graduate with a degree, any degree.

FMF,

I'm on the fence about this. I agree there is personal responsibility but I do fault the Universities to some degree. Universities are no longer places of higher education, they are big businesses selling lifestyles to teenagers. It's no longer about the best education (well except ivy leagues) it's about who has the best football team, exercise facilities, group activities, clubs etc.

I don't think kids entering college can comprehend the amount of debt they will incur getting their degree. I think they are too immature. It's easy for kids to generalize how "easy" it will be to pay it off once you graduate. They are young and think they will live forever. What they don't realize is maturity sets in a few years out of school and your priorities change.

You realize a few years out you need to be more "professional" but can't afford to because you are locked into debt for 10 years paying off an education that was supposed to give you a heads start over non-college graduates. Instead you start off your "adult" life with a penalty.

I'm in a unique situation, I've seen both sides. My college was paid for, my wife's, she paid her own way. So we had a penalty for years. When and if we have kids I plan on having a long talk about career options and yes, I plan on including careers that don't require a degree. Of course thats over 20 years away so hopefully this mess will be straightened out by then.

FMF....I agree with you about 80% on this one. But the thing is....if college tuition keeps going up well beyond the rate of inflation as it has for the last 20 to 30 years, more and more people really ARE going to be screwed and there won't be much they can realistically do about it. We really need to start asking some hard questions about why college costs keep going up beyond the rate of inflation year in and year out.

"Maybe you are tired of these articles, but many, many more high school students and their parents need to see these articles. The current spin in our society is 'go to college'. No one talks about the debt, the potential careers and salaries you can earn. These 18 year old kids are just brainwashed and pressured to go to college and pick a degree. I was one of them. No one tells them to stop and think about it. No one tells kids to truly look at the careers they could have, what those careers pay, and what the monthly payment on their loans will be. More articles like the one you quote, as well as your own comments need to be read by potential college students before they fall into society's spin that they MUST go to college at 18 and graduate with a degree, any degree."

just what I was going to say......kids and parents need to realize that there is more to it than going to college, choosing a degree, and living happily ever after. A lot of wages for many degrees are dropping and people have to adjust for this in their strategic thinking....a lot of jobs that require a degree and 1-5 years of experience these days pay less than I made as military enlisted with 4 years in

There are other options out there which are becoming much more cost-effective such as technical schools. 8-16 months of inexpensive school for a trade job (electrician/HVAC/plumbing..etc) that pay decent is becoming a lot more attractive to a lot of people. If I was getting out of the military again today I'd be going to a vocational school. I could easily put myself through school on my GI bill and by working part-time. A good friend of mine did that and is earning about the same as all our college grad friends who are paying off $40k+ in loans and 5 years of time.

Funny, this post reminded me of the people who bought houses they couldn't afford a few years ago and are now complaining that they can't make their payments.

As a part-time Economics instructors, one of the keys we use in discussing economics is that people make rational decisions that won't purposefully make themselves worse off. Unfortunately, some people make their decisions one sided on emotion without taking the financial aspect into account and then have to be faced with a harsh reality.

I agree on the most part. If people want to work for less money they have to accept the consequences of that decision. You can't eat your cake and have it too. That said, I rather not have all positions at in non profits or in the government to be filled with the leisure class. At some point graduate school needs to be more affordable, so people have some more leeway for they want to do.

I'm not really all that sympathetic to undergrads though. The fact is the best private istutions have tremendous financial aid programs that does help lower income and to a lesser degree middle class families. Just because the sticker say 45k doesn't mean it's actually 45k. And state schools represent tremendous bargains. For an individual to gradudate 25k-40k in debt because of 4 years of college is not a terrible trade off.

For an individual to gradudate 25k-40k in debt because of 4 years of college is not a terrible trade off.
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Actually, it's a terrible trade off if you end up with a minimum wage job. :)

Minimum Wage! Did you see the comment I left for you at Trent's blog? I am starting to think you are some kind of troll as some people say you are. (FMF, if MW wants my email address, please forward it over. Thanks!)

FMF: I know what you mean about the whining. Really I do. But I think your commenter Carissa is right. Kids and parents about to start the college path ought to get a grip on reality. My mother leveraged her opinion and shunted me off to the school with the best financial aid package. I wasn't too crazy about it, but c'est la vie, the loans have been paid back. You know, you do have the choice to click off the page if you don't like reading about it. *winky*

I LOVE this write up. I am sooooo sick of hearing people whine about this stuff. The media is constantly piling on student loan companies and financial aid offices for the piss-poor decisions made by students, who by the way are adults and should be held accountable for the choices they make. An 18 year old can vote, go to war, smoke cigarettes, have sex, and they should be able to make sound financial and life decisions.
I am so happy to see people comment about this stuff. It is refreshing to know that the entire world is not full of whiners and people who want to back out of commitments they make. Well done.

My sister spent 4 years in a convent before deciding that life wasn't for her. Now she works for the church, perenially complains of lower wages ($36K in Wash DC). But she won't work at a for-profit company, because she can't get those jobs w/o a college degree...yet she's continuing with her plan to get a *theology* degree. Still appears to be out of touch w/ the lack of a financial upside to get that degree, and a graduate one thereafter. Her plan is to teach.

I've tried reasoning with her; sure, I'd like to be emotionally fulfilled by my work, but I'd also like to own a home, travel and enjoy life. When you're young, it's an either/or scenario. Do the feel-good work after hours or on weekends. Make the money when you're young, let it compound, and once you're in a stable financial position, then you can take the non-profit gig.

I know an Ivy League MBA will cost me about $150K. I also know that my in-state elite MBA is a Top 20 school, and will cost about $80K. I know what the loan repayments will be, estimated at 8%, repaid over either 10, 20 or 30 years. I know how much of a salary bump I need to make repayment feasible in 10 years. I'm visiting schools now to assess whether the Ivy League pedigree is worth the incremental $70K in tuition and expenses, as well as whether the salary differential between the schools can justify it. I also know not to trust the numbers - $110K avg to start, after the Ivy, vs $75K avg to start, after the in-state; I will question both schools whether the numbers have been adjusted for cost-of-living. If most Ivy grads work in the Northeast, and most UNC grads work in the South, those average starting salaries are far more similar than they appear.

Then again, that's why I majored in Finance and Marketing, and she is majoring in Theology.

I'd rather work the high-paid, highly focused career now, while I have the energy and enthusiasm for it, and build wealth. I fully plan to have all loans paid off and substantial savings by my mid-40s so I can teach, run my own business, and have a much more diverse and flexible career path.

@Margo --

That's a good idea, and I'm not trying to rain on it. But I think that once a person spends years getting an education, paying for it, and then furthering the career, they're not very likely to tank it all to do the "work for the people." That's a huge investment of both money, time and effort, plus the realization that at 40, you're probably just hitting your career stride.

That's why it's problematic when college outprices interest: if it costs more to get the qualifications than one can reasonably be assured to make, then either 1) people opt out of the field or 2) make an economic sacrifice for a sense of career fulfillment.

Also (again, not trying to down your idea) but say that what you really want to do is teach and you've spent 20 years doing something besides that. When at 40, you look for a job in the new field, you're competing against the 20-somethings that are new to the field (just like you will be) and the 40-somethings who are now hitting -their- strides in that field.

Not to say that you can't do it, because I think you definitely can. But I'd caution against going for the big $$ instead of the big dreams.

So if there's a way that you can do both and progress your skills in both areas, then do that. There's nothing stopping you from making a business right now (check out the blog: Iwillteachyoutoberich.com) and you can also do some teaching while you're doing the F&M thing.

I guess what I'm saying in a long winded way, is that the danger in compartmentalizing your career in that fashion is that you may very well have to make much larger sacrifices later to achieve both goals, because you set yourself up for making a switch. And if you don't want to do it before you've even cashed a paycheck, it's going to be harder once you're used to the cash (the "golden handcuffs".)

But if there's a way to do both at once, then you might maximize your chances at success.

The basic problem raised in the article in question is that law school (especially the top ones) now costs so much that we are producing a generation in which our most promising young attorneys simply can't even think about going into the public service. It's not a question of having to live more frugally than is entirely comfortable--it's a question of not being able to afford it at all. (Loan repayment assistance programs can help but are rarely sufficient.) It's bad for all of us when otherwise willing attorneys are stuck in soulkilling but highly-paid jobs for several years before they can even start to hope to work in the public interest. Remember, unlike in, say, business, you can't choose to work in the profession without the degree.

Obviously if you go to some crappy state school you're not as likely to make as much as someone who went to any Ivy. I get so tired of people who try to argue that college isn't worth it. I'm 30, work on Wall St. and make over $500,000 a year which is increasing rapidly. I took out a ton of loans to pay for my Ivy League degree and I could have paid them off with my first year's bonus check. Virtually everyone I know in my industry went to an Ivy or similarly high ranked school (e.g. Stanford, MIT), it's not 100% necessary to go to a top school to land a top job on Wall St. but there are very few in this business who don't have that background. So work hard, stop sitting around thinking of ways to save a few extra thousand a year or find a bank that pays you an extra 0.5% on your measly savings account and instead concentrate on EARNING MORE MONEY. That is the quickest way to wealth (assuming you don't blow everything you earn).

Am I the only one whose biggest problem with this is the fact that she has such a long commute?

Its about 45 miles between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Ninety miles a day. She probably spends over 200 bucks in gasoline just for her commute each month. I've spent lots of time in Grand Rapids its alright but there isn't any thing so great about it to make living there better than K-zoo.

Kalamazoo if anything is more liveable for twenty somethings since the major university is sort of in town.

Although Grand Rapids has a far better bar scene ...

Not to diminish the educational effort required of any grad program, but comparing the stress (and workload) levels of my friends in B-school and my friends in law school? Um, it leads me to the conclusion that the law students have a much tougher go of it, overall. I think that the best point made in the post is that 1) people don't compare what they stand to earn in their field of choice with what it will cost to achieve their objective, and 2) students should live like students. In the medical school around these parts, the adage is "Live like a student when you are in med school, and you can live like a doctor when you graduate. Live like a doctor when you are in med school, and you will live like a student forever after." It's a veritable insurance policy for your future to be frugal in the years of study, and enjoy the fruits of your labors later. Alas, lots of people aren't willing to even consider that...
Jerry

I agree in some respects, and disagree in others. College is getting ridiculously expensive and that is a problem. The solution isn't simply to have parents save more and the kids get scholarships (not EVERYONE can get one). That is part of the solution, and can be a solution on an individual level, but doesn't solve the grand problem.

I agree with points 2 and 3... As far as 4 goes, the premise is correct, but the assumption that people (particularly 17-18 year olds who have not had much experience managing money, and maybe poor advice from parents) don't always understand what they are paying and what they are getting for it. If your sole purpose in life up to 18 was to go to school and get good grades and money stuff was taken care of, you might think education is the most important thing and bills/money will take care of themselves. Then one day you figure out that it doesn't.

People need to hear about this so they don't repeat the same mistakes.

Also, one year my tuition jumped a full TWENTY percent from the previous year. Each other year had increases as well. Budgeting for increases is good, but I don't think I ever would have predicted 20% in a single year.

Ok, I understand being tired of the "whining," but at the same time, the cost of getting a degree, even an undergraduate degree, is outrageous. Take my profession, for instance. I am a teacher, my undergrad loans ended up being just shy of $30K. I went to a regional state university, lived on campus (in the cheapest dorm) and worked 3 jobs while going to school to pay for living expenses. In spite of having a near-perfect ACT score and an excellent HS GPA, I did not qualify for merrit based scholarships. My parents were not contributing to my education beyond what they had saved for that purpose (not a lot), but their income made me ineligable for need-based grants or even a subsidized loan. The unsub. loans I was eligable for didn't even pay for all of the in-state tuition. Now, as a teacher, I am required to be halfway to a Masters degree within the next 4 years on an average salary that qualifies my family for federal welfare aid. I took the highest salary available and am required to pay 12% of my salary (over and above the usual witholdings) to teacher retirement. Before I can get paid, I have to submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check at my expense. I have no classroom budget and yet still have to somehow find a way to put worksheets and the like into the hands of my students to provide them the best education I can, so that $$ comes from my salary, too. By the time you take all that stuff out I have less than $1300 to live on per month and my student loan payments are between $500-600 a month. You do the math. I did not go into this profession expecting to live a life of luxury or even own a car that is less than 10 years old, but I do expect to have a liveable income. When a Department of Transportation sign turner (you know, the people who stand there with a sign that has stop on one side and slow on the other) makes $5k more than I do (and that person only has a HS diploma or GED), I get very frustrated. I don't expect to have my loan debt forgiven, I believe in paying what I owe, but, I also know that the current cost of higher education is prohibitive for those professions like mine that are required for a society to thrive. Don't tell me, "you should have made better (cheaper) choices" or, "you should have chosen a different degree." I took the cheapest route possible and still came out with suffocating student loan debt.

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