I was accepted into Cal Poly as a software engineering major, and I was stoked. That was until I came to the realization that if I decide to attend, I'd have to take out loans to go. So the question is:
Is Cal Poly SLO worth going to knowing that I'd be in debt in the 40k-60k range after college? (depending on whether I graduate in 4 or 5 years)
My other option would be SJSU which would have little to no debt (0-5k) after graduation because I'd be living home with my parents for the last three years. I really like the engineering program at Cal Poly compared to SJSU but the thought of being in debt in this range scares me.
And for clarifications, the 40k -60k range debt after graduation is from Parent PLUS Loan, Unsub Stafford Loan, and Sub Stafford Loan. It's ~10k loan per year. And our EFC is 5.5k.
I'm not that good at weighing options when it comes to money, but I do know that based on recent Cal Poly graduate status reports, software engineering majors are making the most money. Some are earning over $100,000 their first year out of school.
First of all congratulations at looking at your college education as a business transaction. You obviously have the right attitude and maturity for college. So, given that approach, you need to do a cost benefit analysis based on available data.
Here is how you should make your decision:
(1) First, confirm the exact difference in cost between the two schools so that you have a measurable baseline. I see that you have already done this in your post. However, you need to go a bit farther in your analysis and include travel, incidentals, total cost of room and board, etc.
(2) Next, NTKS17 above is on the right track. You need to find out if the opportunities at Cal Poly exceed those at SJSU enough to justify choosing it. For example, which school has the superior internships and co-ops? Do not forget the co-ops! Some of these are highly paid positions while you are at school that lead to real jobs after graduation. Cal Poly traditionally has lot's of them.
(3) Find out the stats with regards to employment rates and starting salaries for each school. If you can make $100,000 a year after Cal Poly and only $65,000 from SJSU then Cal Poly would be the better choice because it would take many years to catch up in salary even with the debt.
(4) Look deep into your heart and see if you have a real preference at the gut level. Do the analysis and then check with your heart.
The question is that even with the cost difference, is Cal Poly still worth choosing. It is not a straight calculation.
By the way, I checked out salaries from other posts and $100,000 out of any school for your major is probably not possible. $85,000 is a number on the high end that is feasible. I've also heard good things about SJSU as well and that there are many companies that hire in the Silicon Valley from that school. Having said that Cal Poly is a very prestigious program and the location, for living, cannot be beat.
Hm... All of your comments are extremely helpful. But I still cannot decide. I will put everything into consideration as I decide what I shall be doing after I visit cal poly next week. Thank you for all of your inputs very much!
Are you going for the Open House at Cal Poly? I certainly hope so -- arrive for the Farmer's market on Thursday night and go to every event you can. This is the time to ask all the questions that you have. Also, don't forget the rodeo -- I really enjoyed it. After the Open House you will know in your gut if this is your school or not. We knew two hours into the program that this was our first choice and then turned down six other schools including UCLA, UCSD, UCSB and Cal Poly Pomona.
Something else to consider is that the Cal Poly cost of attendance is based on living on campus, which is very expensive. If you live off campus and don't spend a lot on food, you can shave your costs by $4000-$5000 per year. The first year it's required to live on campus, but after that you can live in a cheap apartment nearby.
My son is a third-year CPE student. He spends around $500/month for rent and $1200 per quarter for food, books, utilities and other misc expenses. Cal Poly's budget for all of that is $15,500, so my son is spending at least $6000/year less than the budget.
He also earned over $10,000 last summer in his internship, and will earn slightly more than that this summer. Internship opportunities are terrific for SE and CPE students.
You have the advantage of living in the Bay Area, so you won't have living expenses if you find a summer internship near home.
A couple of caveats: fees are rising every year, but that goes for SJSU as well as Cal Poly. And it's difficult, but not impossible, to land a great internship the summer after your first year. In order to get a great internship, you need to keep your grades up. SE and CPE majors sometimes struggle in the first-year software courses, so if you don't have a good basic background in programming, you risk having to repeat courses.
Having said all that, SJSU is a great school and has a very well-respected engineering department. Taking on debt in the $20-$30K range seems doable. More than that and you really should think twice about your ability to pay it back.
@OsakaDad: I wasn't planning on going to open house because I feel like I should be able to get all my questions answered on newly admitted students day. But since from what you said, I will try to check it out as well. Cal poly seems to be an amazing school considering you and your son chose it over such great schools! Maybe once I visited there I'll know for sure whether the school is worth it.
@dustin: 85k annual salary is the cap for a software engineer with a bachelors at Google?
@Vballmom: Wow, I've heard that off campus is cheaper, but I would not have guessed that you'd saved that much just by living off campus. I'd be living with my friend who owns a house near cal poly, so I'll just hope there is a friendly discount! As for those internships, it's really great to know that there are terrific opportunities for SE and CPE majors. I do have some background with programming but it's not solid. I believe it shouldn't be too hard to get do well in the program as long as I'm committed though.
After all these great feedback, I am really leaning towards Cal Poly as of right now, even with that amount of debt.
You'd probably have an easier time time getting a job as a software engineer from SJSU that Cal Poly, since you are right in the middle of the S. Valley.
Cal poly is a hands on school... but honestly, with your major... you will receive just as much hands on as you would at Cal Poly... you can't do your major without 90% hand's on, regardless of which college you attend.
I happened to read your question and felt I needed to comment. I know nothing about the relative merits of the two programs you mention, but I unfortunately know a bit about how tough it can be to deal with debts from student loans, having seen many people around me(including employees) struggle with them.
Please DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE how much of a burden a debt like that can be, especially when you are trying to get your career off the ground and there are almost certain to be unforeseen complications or financial difficulties – don’t over-rely on that dream job with the high starting pay to cover it, especially since the pattern at many companies nowadays is to run those new hires hard and weed them out – only a few will still be there after a couple of years.
Right now our son is considering attending Cal Poly and from what I know it is an exceptionally fine school, but if it meant having to go into serious debt it wouldn’t be an option.
Both your picks do well, so after you graduate (and assuming there won’t be a tech bust), your job prospects and salary should help. The nice thing is you live in Silicon Valley, so internships might be close by (please keep your grades up if you want a good internship).
Why not live at home every year while in college? No need to reply. Something to think about.
Wow this one is tough one for me. Many of my friends are SJSU graduates, and I took a degree from there.
However, as an ex-engineering hiring manager I have told every HR person I have ever worked with, if the resume says Cal Poly we interview the candidate. I have tremendous respect for their teaching program, their hands on attitude and the skill and determination of the people who graduate.
Also I don't see being in San Jose as a big plus (aside from that's it's a great place to live), because if the engineering firms need you, they will move you from anywhere. And the trip from SLO to SJ is only about 4 hours.
Is 40-60K a big debt? Yes and no. For an engineering degree at a top notch school definitely not, this is actually dirt cheap. Compare this to the car many young engineers buy after only a few years out, you're not going deep in the hole, provided, ... provided you do well and end up with the degree. But if the market isn't there, and you do not fare so well, then that's a bunch of bucks to pay back.
Both schools are heavily impacted right now. You might want to see if there is someone you can contact to see if you can realistically graduate from either school in 4yrs (might change the financial question).
My choice, I'd bet on myself and go to SLO, but you should end up happy with either choice.
@VentureMan: Your advice is very much considerate. It would indeed make sense that in software engineering at any college would require lots of hands-on action. The amount of money I'd save going to SJSU seems really enticing. Having no debt after college seems it'd give me so much freedom with my money. However, I feel as though a degree at Cal Poly would open more doors. Ugh, back to square one.
@Ingagi: Thank you for the input Ingagi. I understand that I shouldn't underestimate loans, and I haven't. What I'm planning to do say if I do take the loans and go to Cal Poly is work right after graduating to pay off the loans, using every bit of my salary to rid myself of those debt. I'd be living at home for a year or two so most if not all of starting salary will go straight to paying it off (PLUS loans and the other loans). I should be able to pay it off within a year to two years even if I get the median starting salary of 54k for Cal Poly based on the the link provided by eduparent. Nevertheless, I know I cannot rely on this plan given that jobs aren't guaranteed, and your new information that firms are implementing a plan in which they weed out the weaklings further shows how fragile my plan is. And now, thinking while I'm typing this, I feel as though I'd be behind if I spend that whole year paying off loans.
@eduparent: Thank you for your input as well. The link does prove great use and it seems pretty legit. I do know both schools are great schools, and both has their perks and cons. And the reason why I don't want to live at home every year for SJSU is because I want to dorm first year no matter where I go. That is a deal I had with my parents and it's more about preference than cost in that situation. We can definitely afford to pay first year dorm without using the loan, but my dad just wants the loan in case we need some backup money.
@Lou Costello: Your post provides some insightful visions. My uncle graduated from SJSUI'm comforted knowing that Cal Poly looks great on resume. As for your commentary on the debt, I am happy after reading it knowing that it isn't necessarily a huge debt, it is whether or not I'm able to get the degree and whatnot. And I for either schools I will be striving o graduate in 4 years, like everyone else, but with competition, that means that they'll be limited cramp classes and with the California budget system wack, I find it difficult to even think of graduating in 4 years.