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High cost college (like St John's) vrs FIRE
Old 06-24-2007, 06:09 PM   #1
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High cost college (like St John's) vrs FIRE

Nords thread about college tours has me wondering about our next year's choice and Nords both spoke about St. John's being a great liberal art's education.. But is it really worth the cost?

It's a school my DD is very excited about but at $40- $45,000 a year VS $12-$15 at VA state school. I'm having a hard time being convinced any college is worth that much. It means a difference of over $100,000. Having had 3 kids go the State school route... it really is worth the excess cost. I was for it till we realized there is No Merit aid, only financial need based and since we've saved and LBOM it's all on our dime. It would mean DH giving up his ER and going back at least PT or me going FT.

Are Private schools really worth the extra cost?
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Old 06-24-2007, 07:06 PM   #2
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I've concluded that the answer is: No.
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Old 06-24-2007, 07:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by 5j404 View Post
Nords thread about college tours has me wondering about our next year's choice and Nords both spoke about St. John's being a great liberal art's education.. But is it really worth the cost?

It's a school my DD is very excited about but at $40- $45,000 a year VS $12-$15 at VA state school. I'm having a hard time being convinced any college is worth that much. It means a difference of over $100,000. Having had 3 kids go the State school route... it really is worth the excess cost. I was for it till we realized there is No Merit aid, only financial need based and since we've saved and LBOM it's all on our dime. It would mean DH giving up his ER and going back at least PT or me going FT.

Are Private schools really worth the extra cost?
My BA is from St. John's. Had the GI bill kicking in a good amount, but the rest was coming out of my pocket. The school came up with a substantial aid package - I suspect better than a state school could have, by percentage funded, but I still left school with a decent amount of debt. Was it worth it? Was it superior in some respect to a state school? I think so. Teacher to student ratio was very high. Instructors were there because they, in the main, believed in the Great Books program and were earnest searchers for the truth, the thing itself, rather than the Platonic shadows in the cave. I had done 1 1/2 years before that in honors history and literature at a state school based solely on my test scores (my HS grades suuuuucked). The honors program was similiar, but not as good.
St. John's taught me quite a bit about hubris, but a below average IQ guy I worked with at Mountain Bell taught me much the same lesson. I don't think any of the lessons learned at St. John's couldn't have been learned at no monetary cost somewhere else, but for sheer concentration of questioning, probing, troubled, wondering people it's hard to beat.
The school starts off plenty of doctors, lots of lawyers, teachers, state department people; the sharpest, most inciteful person in my class worked cleaning stables and later construction sites for many years after graduating. And writing a book or two. As for me, my first job out of St. John's was compounding custom composts for a mushroom growing plant. There was something about shoveling horseshit with my new degree that just felt....
One of the best things I've done in my life.
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Old 06-24-2007, 07:20 PM   #4
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Calmloki , being you say it was one of the best things you've done your life
To do it over again - How much debt would you be willing to carry when you graduated at 22?
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Old 06-24-2007, 08:13 PM   #5
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My plan is to fund up to 4 years of in-state school for my kids. Any more than that will be up to them to cover via grants, scholarships, work, or student loans. State schools here are a bit more expensive than most, but still not as much as most private schools.
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Old 06-24-2007, 09:23 PM   #6
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Calmloki , being you say it was one of the best things you've done your life
To do it over again - How much debt would you be willing to carry when you graduated at 22?
Using your numbers there's a $30,000 difference/year between St. John's and a state school. I wouldn't be surprised if you could cut that difference in half with the superior aid package from St. John's. So $60,000 increased debt coming out of the 4 year program, and no job that the Johnnie's degree will give the new graduate instant access to.... Yup, no brainer. I'd go for the Great Books program. Some things, and this from a thrifty squeeze a nickle guy, just do not easily translate into benefit/dollar spent.
The first year, for me, was probably the best, so even if she did a year she would be getting great value. The Republic, Greek language studies, Euclid, Ptolemy... dang - getting me all excited. I mean, it just blows my little mind to get sucked in by Euclid one baby step at a time: a point is that which has no part, a line is a breadthless length, and then BAM! 3:16, and the tangent to a circle is touching the circle at only one point (sans area), and into the real physical area between the circle and the tangent no other line may be interposed - yet that line has no breadth! As good or better than the religious experience of dissecting the forearm of a cat and looking at the articulation and what it allows and how it is accomplished - for me evolution and God co-exist quite peacefully. Yeah, it's a cool school. I sat in on 3-4 seminars (not allowed to speak) before applying. Had to go there so i could give the school the benefit of my prodigious intellect. Talked a lot my first year, less and less as time went on. Thought I'd be a big fish in a little pool - turned out I was a little fish - there are some people out there who really think.
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Old 06-25-2007, 12:04 AM   #7
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does your kid have an idea of what major they would be interested in? that can break down the large public school quite a bit. some majors are crowded and big, others are intimate and small. and also the quality varies depending on the major.

i liked my public school experience, but am tempted to seriously consider smaller privates for my kids - mostly because of the one-to-one factor. also look into their alumni - what are they doing now, how involved are they etc. also, i know certain privates do have very generous aid for the right kids - either from grades or other reasons.

good luck.
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Old 06-25-2007, 12:17 AM   #8
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Extinct bird - that was our basic plan too (and we've followed it for 3 ) but now our 4th and final seems to fit this school... and we have ways to make it happen or is it because we have ways to make it happen it's even on the radar? It seems these choices are harder when you've got money as opposed to when you just didn't have it.

Calmloki - I never considered the option of her getting what she could from a year or two - I've tried to have the kids figure out what school they felt they could live at comfortably for 4 years of life and get there degree rather then get caught up in transfering around and being perpetual students.
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Old 06-25-2007, 12:51 AM   #9
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I went to a great Great Books college (Shimer College, now merged with IIT Il Inst of Tech) and it was wonderful for me. I was fortunate to have almost all of it covered through scholarships, my family was pretty poor. My youngest son is going off to state college this fall. I encouraged him to look at some interesting small colleges but he really likes the programs at the California state college he is headed for. Its hard to figure out what is the best but presumably you know your kid. Older son went to U of AZ but didn't work out there. Came home and went to Jr college. Then state school & Masters. If I thought my kid would flourish in a small school I would pay the difference including delaying retirement. Maybe I am fortunate that my son wants to go to a state school.
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Old 06-25-2007, 12:59 AM   #10
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Nords thread about college tours has me wondering about our next year's choice and Nords both spoke about St. John's being a great liberal art's education.. But is it really worth the cost?
Loren Pope seems to think so-- the book is worth a read.

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It's a school my DD is very excited about but at $40- $45,000 a year VS $12-$15 at VA state school.
Well, the choice seems to be having a crappy motivation at an affordable school or having huge motivation at an expensive school. Your only fiscal solution to the problem (and it's not your problem!) would be to find a way to build your daughter's huge motivation at an affordable school. Good luck with that.

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I'm having a hard time being convinced any college is worth that much.
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My plan is to fund up to 4 years of in-state school for my kids. Any more than that will be up to them to cover via grants, scholarships, work, or student loans. State schools here are a bit more expensive than most, but still not as much as most private schools.
Instead of you having to choose between her college and your ER, let her make the choice. Offer to fund four years at State U and anything beyond that is her problem. That's a great acid test for the depth of anyone's motivation...
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Old 06-25-2007, 09:08 AM   #11
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Bright eyed - She's really interested in Writing.. and all the authors we've met pat us on the back and say how great we are supportive expect to continue that for ever. On the practical side she's thinking publishing , editing will suport her passion.
Nords Yes she'ld be willing to take on the debt, but we've also spent years convincing them all to LBYM so this is a hard leap to take for all of us .
Her siblings have manage to graduate college with little or no debt and it's setting them up well for the future. And i'ld like that for her too. Like all parents we want what's best for her, a place to grow and thrive. We'll see if it's St John's after her overnight vist. I just wish it could be at a lower cost.
I know we can make it happen with her . but man it would be such a no brainer at the State U. Now we have to head back to the drawing board and either pay for college over a longer period of time 8-10 years instead of 4 or give up this leisurely life we've begun to enjoy and go back and earn extra cash.
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Old 06-25-2007, 09:24 AM   #12
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I'm a graduate of a small, private college, so I'm biased in that direction. I do think things happen in classes of 20 that don't happen in classes of 200.

Many students at these schools pay much less than list price. It is worth getting a financial aid offer, and perhaps even negotiating. Schools compete for good students.

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Old 06-25-2007, 09:50 AM   #13
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Offer to fund four years at State U and anything beyond that is her problem. That's a great acid test for the depth of anyone's motivation...
I think that's a good idea. However, note that in many cases, what will happen is that the private school will be, even with scholarships, $15K more per year than the state school. The problem is that no level of motivation will enable her to get that much dough. No one will lend her that much.
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Old 06-25-2007, 10:23 AM   #14
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if she is considering working in a field that requires a masters (either after a few years of working or immediately) to get decent work, then definitely go w/ the state school. if masters is not a factor than you could feel better about slunking it all in at the undergrad.

i have quite a few friends from high school who were average students, did well at their average public university and went to ivy grad schools or other high caliber schools for masters, jd or whatever other degrees...
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Old 06-25-2007, 10:25 AM   #15
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The real cost difference between private and public universities is usually much less than it appears. It depends a lot on the student him/herself. My kids and I just went through the actual financial numbers for the first college years. In the end we chose UT Austin (son) and Texas A&M (daughter), but not because of cost. The final cost at 2 private universities are actually lower after scholarships and grants. The rest are about the same. Only two private universities had final higher cost, 10K to 15K higher annually.
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Old 06-25-2007, 12:00 PM   #16
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Trombone Al we've found the same thing- "The problem is that no level of motivation will enable her to get that much dough. No one will lend her that much."
That's why I know a lot of the extra cost will effect how WE GET TO LIVE for the next 5 years If it's a great fit it and she thrives it would be worth the cost but you can't predict how well your kid will do off on there own - and at a net cost of $30,000 more a year (this college gives no scolarships, grants on merit just need based) It's a big gamble. If she makes the most of it awesome if she fumbles ouch .
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Old 06-25-2007, 03:30 PM   #17
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She's really interested in Writing.. and all the authors we've met pat us on the back and say how great we are supportive expect to continue that for ever. On the practical side she's thinking publishing , editing will suport her passion.
Can you get her interested in proofreading?
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Old 06-25-2007, 03:52 PM   #18
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Are Private schools really worth the extra cost?
Depends on the kid. Depends on the school. It's always wrong to generalize on this subject.

Despite the information you've shared, we really don't know your daughter. And there are lots of top quality liberal arts schools out there, many costing much less than St John's.

Do you think she'll thrive and grow at State U down the road? Have you folks visited other top notch private schools, perhaps some in the $30k range?
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Old 06-25-2007, 04:24 PM   #19
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Al - if I let her proofread my stuff she'ld know I was talking about her. Besides if she had her way all the Spelling, grammer, typing, challenged people like me would be forbiden from writing things down . She definately did not get any of her writing etc. ablities from me. I 'll take credit for the compulsive reading though.
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Old 06-25-2007, 04:43 PM   #20
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Youbet I know every kid is different . Being this is my 4th we've visited many colleges over the years. I'm just having a hard time accepting that my tight hands are going to need to open up be cause this is more than likely a great fit for her.
It been good to hear that there are people who are frugal who have felt thier high tuition costs were worth it.
I definately find it it harder to spend more money on things that will do, just to have better, like updating a waterheater or apliances before it breaks or cosmetic braces, new house siding. What do you hate to spend money on?
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