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December 17, 2008


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Keep in mind that you need to look at more than just the starting salary, as even in more lucrative careers this can be discouragingly low. The mid- to long-term salary projections provide a better basis for the cost-benefit assessment. As an example, I spent close to $100k for my law degree, but chose a position with a starting salary of under $40k. Based on this, it would appear to be a bad decision. However, this salary rises fairly rapidly, so the 5 and 10 year salary levels give a much better picture of the true benefit being obtained.

Unfortunately, the very good state universities (e.g., UMich) have experienced rapid tuition increases just like the rest of them...they are *not* cheap options anymore, even in-state. $5500 a term in-state (plus many fees), over $16K out-of-state at Michigan in fall 2008.

The Ivies are actually more affordable than is commonly realized. For example, Harvard expects no family contribution for families earning less than $60K/year (with a relatively small "self-help" component for the students themselves to contribute). ( Other peer colleges have similar programs. Even before this (well before this), I managed to graduate from an Ivy with less than a third of the debt my brother did graduating from a good state university several years later. Richer schools simply have more money to give out and can commit to need-blind admissions.

Where people get screwed is going to the mediocre schools that charge outlandish tuitions and don't offer much in the way of either genuine education or career boost in return. That's a large and ugly dead zone of lies and self-deception.

You have a very limited view of not for profit. You think Libby Dole or Michelle Obama were hurting on their non-profit boards? Or, heck, all professors and doctors technically work for non-profits. My local United Way pays over 500K to its lead, and that's just one person in one non-profit.

Your point holds true if you're approaching the concept of education as nothing more than vocational training.

A good college education can, and should be, more than a simple means to a financial end. There are harder-to-measure values at play here. Education has an intrinsic value and a great academic experience isn't just a matter of dollars and cents.

I agree somewhat with dogatemyfinances.. there's tons of money to be made working for "Non-Profit" organization. This is especially true for those organizations that do not publish the details of how they spend their money. I've read news of "Non-Profit" organizations only contributing <20% of what they've raised on the actual cause. Since I cannot find that paper, take it with a grain of salt. But below is an excerpt from Forbes charting the major "Non-Profit" organizations in U.S.,

Our database also includes each charity's top compensation to a single employee. This includes salary, benefits, one-time payments and deferred compensation, and may be for a previous fiscal year. The average is $512,669, up 3% from last year. The recipient is usually the top person, although not necessarily the current one. Eighteen nonprofits paid someone upwards of $1 million.

I suspect that many Harvard students are either getting essentially a full scholarship or have parents for whom the cost of paying full-freight just isn't that big a deal. If you had no or minimal college loans and wanted to work for a not-for-profit, why wouldn't you?

When you're thinking about college and career, you need to consider what you're actually going to be paying out, not the sticker price. A relatively inexpensive state college a plane ride away is not necessarily a good deal if you are not offered financial aid.

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