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Old 01-04-2010, 08:06 AM   #41
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All of this sounds so familiar! We live in Virginia, have one daughter at a small private liberal arts college and another at Duke. Both are good students, the older one got a partial merit scholarship just like the OP. The other one endeared herself to us by getting a significant merit scholarship at Duke.

We chose the solution that the OP is proposing. That is, we were able to put enough in their 529 plans to cover four years of private school, and that money is theirs. Win a scholarship or go to State U, and you may have enough for grad school.

I can't help thinking that we (the parents) ducked the issue of whether the expensive private college is worth the money, and dumped the decision on these 18 year olds. However, it seems to be working out OK so far.

A similar decision may be looming when one or more of the kids wants to pursue a PhD in English or some other un-remunerative field.
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Old 01-04-2010, 09:16 AM   #42
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A similar decision may be looming when one or more of the kids wants to pursue a PhD in English or some other un-remunerative field.

I went through some of that with my daughter . She decided to drop out after her second year at U of Mass and go to the Fashion Institute . That did not work out so then she decided she wanted to be a stand up comic . She's not funny . Finally she graduated from U of Mass in four years since I had said four years was all I was paying for with a liberal arts degree . She then spent time waitressing (Mom all the graduates do it until we find ourselves ) until I permanently shut the check book . She then got a job at Boston U and went to grad school . Happy Ending ! She is now a professor and head of technical education at a small college .
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Old 01-04-2010, 09:39 AM   #43
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It is very interesting to find that on a forum populated by people whose biggest dream for themselves is to quit working, their biggest dream for their progeny is that they attend big-time universities.

If the acorn does indeed fall close to the tree they would be better off becoming civil engineers or actuaries or nurses at state U, avoid debt and have Mom and Dad start funding a Roth for them right now. And get the first decent federal job they can get. Look around here and see how many of us are government workers or government retirees.

For most big time U. graduates, the ROI is not real impressive even if they keep at it for a normal career span. Today's costs are so great that IMO they only make sense if someone else is paying- a scholarship, an ambitious parent, the Army or whomever.

Ha
While I don't disagree with your post in general, I don't understand or agree with everything.

1) I don't seem an overwhelming push for Big Ticket U here. I see a lot of advocates for State U. I guess you and I are reading the pulse of this thread differently.

2) What worked for us may not work for someone in a cycle 20-40 years later. This is not the same world as I saw when I finished high school and college. The number of job offers I had after getting a bachelor's from state U was limited only by the number of interviews I wanted to make. But, your point about govt jobs may be stronger now. My first offer was from the fed, and once I had a couple offers in private industry I didn't consider it at all.

3) I may be in the minority on this forum, but I think that a career choice that interests you is more important that a direct path to early retirement. For one thing, I think your odds of work success are higher if you like what you are doing, and that's going to get you the raises, bonuses, promotions, stock options, etc, that enable early retirement. For another, you're probably going to be in the workplace long enough that you ought to have a decent shot at enjoying what you do, or at least not hating it.
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Old 01-04-2010, 10:37 AM   #44
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I went through some of that with my daughter . She decided to drop out after her second year at U of Mass and go to the Fashion Institute . That did not work out so then she decided she wanted to be a stand up comic . She's not funny . Finally she graduated from U of Mass in four years since I had said four years was all I was paying for with a liberal arts degree . She then spent time waitressing (Mom all the graduates do it until we find ourselves ) until I permanently shut the check book . She then got a job at Boston U and went to grad school . Happy Ending ! She is now a professor and head of technical education at a small college .
So much depends on the individual. Just because someone is accepted into a certain college does not mean Junior will succeed. I had to explain to my parents that if I went to Oregon or Stanford or U of Colorado (accepted at all 3 - and parents were going to foot the bill less scholarships)....that I would waste "their hard earned money" as a softball playing, partying sorority chica ...so, "please sign my into the Navy so I can travel"...long story short - I turned out just fine - not the classic route, but successful with professional certifications, graduate school, and career fields I have thoroughly enjoyed through the years.

Let Junior make these decisions, because s/he will own them, and the follow through is on him/her.
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Old 01-04-2010, 11:31 AM   #45
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I agree with the other lawyers who posted that it is the law school which matters. You will be foreclosed out of many jobs if you do not go to a big name school. I was number 2 in my law school class at a mid-range school. I couldn't get interviews at certain firms just because it was not a top tier school, no matter how well I did or whatever else I brought to the table.

Initially, I thought it wasn't a big deal because I wanted to practice close to home. But there was a point where I considered moving and it effected where I could work. I decided that I was better off as a big fish in a small sea. I had a client that went to Harvard law, practiced at big law in NY, and then started his own business back home. Even years after being out of the practice of law he got headhunted. What an insurance policy for a bad economy!
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Old 01-04-2010, 12:42 PM   #46
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I can tell you how this worked out in our case.
...

She graduated in the midst of the recession, and got a great job which she loves. I don't think she would have gotten that job had she gone to a lesser school.
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Al, are you trying to feel good about paying for the cost to attend Washington University? Our company recruits candidates from local state universities as well as Ivies. My daughter (a 3.9+ student in electrical engineering from a big state U) have received many, many job offers.
Yes, unless things have changed drastically since I was doing recruiting (1990's), I think the key words there are, "she", "daughter" and "engineering". IIRC, T-Als DD got her degree in Bio-Medical Engineering?

We were 'encouraged' by HR to seek out female/minority candidates. And there just were not that many females graduating from the engineering programs, and every company wanted to interview them. I think as long as she had a decent GPA and reasonable interviewing skills, she would have offers flood in, regardless if the degree was from a more mundane accredited school, or a top tier.

I assume companies still are trying to fill tech ranks with more female representation, and I assume females are still way under 50% of the engineering graduates.

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Old 01-04-2010, 02:35 PM   #47
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Interesting thread. Funny that Duke is mentioned since I had no clue about its academic reputation growing up and all the way until some point half way through college. In spite of growing up and attending college 15-25 minutes from the Duke campus. And tons of my high school classmates ended up at Duke. As great of a school as it is, it is still a tier below the Ivy level schools (in my opinion at least). And very expensive. For a general degree I suppose it has a good reputation and it would get you further in somewhere far away like NYC or California versus a degree from one of the state U's nearby.

Some fields, such as civil engineering, it doesn't have a particularly good reputation. If a recent grad with a bachelors from Duke in civil engineering handed me his resume I would question why he didn't go to State U down the road - could he not get in or handle the academic rigor at State U so he opted for the "name" of Duke?

In general, if one plans to go to graduate school, then the undergrad is of lesser importance. Excelling and standing out in one's undergrad field is more important IMHO. Getting published, being active in leadership and/or research, doing co-op or internships etc. will get you noticed by grad schools.

For some fields like law and MBA, the rank or reputation of the graduate school is vitally important. The undergrad degree is almost worthless it seems. Locally, the big law firms only hire from "top 10" law schools and the top portion (10-33%) from the local "top 25" flagship state U program. And they must be published and/or do prestigious law review. Very rarely does the undergrad degree do more than act as window dressing on an applicant that is qualified on their own. Many law firms even say in their "recruiting section" on their website that a qualified applicant will have a law degree from a "prestigious law school".

I could get a job at any law firm in town most likely (top 25 education, decent grades, etc). The DW went to a bottom tier law school just a few minutes down the street from Duke on the other side of town from where I went to school, and wouldn't get a second glance from any of the elite law firms in town (unless they felt like hiring her to appear more diverse).

To get back to the OP's question: I would look very closely at the costs for attending the different schools. If you really want to give a certain amount of money to your child for college or whatever he chooses to spend it on, then lay out that amount and tell him he can pick where he wants to go and can keep the rest. It looks like for the OP the cost differential between, say, Duke and a state school is a little over $120,000 over the course of 4 years. Would your son like to have an extra $120,000 to put towards the finer things in life, such as a car, a house, a wedding, study abroad, graduate school, backpack trip through Europe, seed money for a business, etc? From a strictly financial perspective, I don't know that the pay differential for someone with a history degree from a state school vs Duke will be a whole lot.

I found that in all of my numerous history classes I took at a 30,000 student state school (I got a BA in the humanities to complement my engineering degree), they were all very small, probably around 20 students. Same with a number of other subjects. I think the fear of getting lost at a big school is overblown, and you learn to establish support networks, study groups, etc quickly to cope with the rigors of academic life.

Networking would be the biggest reason I see to pay up and go to a more prestigious undergrad institution. Better to drink beer, break laws, live, laugh, and love with the future scientists, politicians, and business leaders of America instead of your average run of the mill student at a lesser school. You are establishing a social network directly with those friends and associates you meet. That social network is an asset you can use throughout life to network, get jobs, get business leads, etc. In hindsight, it may have proven useful to join a fraternity just for this purpose. I have noticed the difference in social networks and professional accomplishments between my law school classmates from the top 25 school vs DW's classmates at a bottom tier school.

Interesting issue, and ultimately it is a very individual decision based on a family's priorities, means, and the students' desires and achievements, expected career trajectory and plans for graduate school. And to complicate it further, this all must be decided while the kids are still, well, kids. Kids who don't necessarily understand that $120,000 is a lot of money and that their best plans in 12th grade may change 4-5 times before they turn 21.
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Old 01-04-2010, 04:50 PM   #48
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Lots of good comments. Like parents all over the country, we wonder whether more expensive colleges are really worth the money. For many parents, the question is whether any college at all is worth the money. How do we know, other than by trading anecdotes?

It strikes me that Universities are filled with professors who research all sorts of things. Some of the topics even seem pretty weird. But I can't find any serious research on the value of college. It obviously varies by student and by career choices, but that just makes the research more interesting. I wonder why professors don't study this? (and I think I know the answer ...)

The only study I've ever seen that tries to adjust for the quality of the student entering college is by Alan Krueger at Princeton, which compared the most selective schools with the next tier and got mixed results. Estimating the Payoff to Attending a More Selective College: An Application of Selection on Observables and Unobservables
Not a ringing endorsement of spending the extra money.
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Old 01-04-2010, 07:26 PM   #49
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Let us all be thankful we didn't have to make this decision.

Plano East graduate had to decide: stay and help family or go to Harvard | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News
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Old 01-04-2010, 10:21 PM   #50
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Interesting issue, and ultimately it is a very individual decision based on a family's priorities, means, and the students' desires and achievements, expected career trajectory and plans for graduate school. And to complicate it further, this all must be decided while the kids are still, well, kids. Kids who don't necessarily understand that $120,000 is a lot of money and that their best plans in 12th grade may change 4-5 times before they turn 21.
That says it all - it's a trade-off among all these factors. Kids do have to realize that money does not grow on tree and cost does matter. The name or reputation of a school is of vital importance for those pursuing a law or MBA degree or a career in law or business where networking will contribute to one's success. In this case, the cost to attend a prestigious institution may be justifiable.
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Old 01-04-2010, 10:21 PM   #51
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Having attended both Rice University and the University of Texas and with a son that graduated from Texas A&M I am personally convinced that the top rated elite schools are not necessary for a rewarding career.

Yes, as a mid level engineering manager I was eager to hire top students from top schools, but my long term experience was that after the first job the school did not matter nearly as much.

The "cream always rises to the top" as the saying goes.

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Old 01-04-2010, 10:25 PM   #52
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Having attended ... the University of Texas and with a son that graduated from Texas A&M...
I'll bet the Thanksgiving holidays are interesting around your house.
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Old 01-04-2010, 10:27 PM   #53
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Having attended both Rice University and the University of Texas and with a son that graduated from Texas A&M I am personally convinced that the top rated elite schools are not necessary for a rewarding career.

Yes, as a mid level engineering manager I was eager to hire top students from top schools, but my long term experience was that after the first job the school did not matter nearly as much.

The "cream always rises to the top" as the saying goes.

Cheers,

charlie
Charlie,
That's true for an engineering career. When reviewing resumes, I look for experience as opposed to the name of the school. For an intern position, GPA and the name of the school plays a bigger role.

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Old 01-05-2010, 01:17 PM   #54
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Latest NYTimes commentary on latest Kiplinger's best values in public universities: The ‘Best Values’ in Public Universities, as Handicapped by Kiplinger’s - The Choice Blog - NYTimes.com
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Old 01-05-2010, 01:48 PM   #55
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Latest NYTimes commentary on latest Kiplinger's best values in public universities: The ‘Best Values’ in Public Universities, as Handicapped by Kiplinger’s - The Choice Blog - NYTimes.com
UNC Chapel Hill seems to top the list every year. Interesting that my other alma mater rounds out the top 10. "After aid costs" for in state right at $6000 for both schools. Fairly easily payable out of pocket for the average middle class family.
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Old 01-05-2010, 01:49 PM   #56
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Kiplinger has some good raw data - it gives you some idea of how talented your prospective classmates will be.

But, it doesn't say anything about how much your income potential rises by going to school B instead of school A. Or even, how much it goes up by going to college at all.

I'd like to see that kind of information.
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Old 01-05-2010, 02:46 PM   #57
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I attended an SEC school, and graduated from a top tier Ivy.

I saw absolutely no difference, except that some of the Ivy professors were big shots, and for the most part I enjoyed the SEC school much more. And the weather was better at the SEC school. And way more heterosexual girls.

The Ivy might have been able to open doors for me, but I was too dedicated a slacker for that to matter much.

Ha
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Old 01-05-2010, 03:38 PM   #58
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I am impressed with the amount of thought you all are/have put into this issue. My story covers the 2 extremes. My parents couldn't afford to help me with University-in fact my father actively discouraged it. I paid my own way through both undergrad and grad business degrees and was only able to attend part time. It took me 10 years of tough work. So moving ahead 35 years I wanted to even the ledger a bit so paid for 100% of my only child's undergrad and grad degrees, plus all room and board plus 2 new cars and $2,000/ month in spending money. I know this was overly generous but the kid has turned out to be an exceptional young woman and I have not regetted anything (so far at least).
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Old 01-05-2010, 04:03 PM   #59
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...And way more heterosexual girls.
I can't tell if you think that is a negative or not.
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Old 01-05-2010, 04:31 PM   #60
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I can't tell if you think that is a negative or not.
definitely positive for "straight" men.
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