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When is it worth paying a premium for a "dream" school?

paize038paize038 Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
TL;DR - Music Education at Baldwin Wallace with 100% job placement rate and $50,000 in loans(split between student and parents) or Youngstown State University with "very good" placement rate with no debt?

I like to "think out loud" so below is my process:

Daughter has been accepted for Music Ed to 4 of the 6 schools she auditioned at. She's down to choosing between two: Youngstown State University's Dana School of Music and Baldwin Wallace Conservatory - each of which cooperate with the university's Education College for the Music Ed degree. Both schools are accredited and have 100% of their students passing the Ohio licensing exam. A graduate degree is probably desired at some point, although not necessarily right away.

BW claims a 100% job placement rate for their Music Ed graduates and they were very frank during the site visit about how much attention they pay to the students - basically, you can't hide. They WILL talk about how you're doing. They stress early classroom participation so you know right away (as in the first few weeks) if you're cut out for teaching or not. My daughter liked both of the flute professors there, although they are both adjuncts. She is setting up a private lesson with one or both of them for this Friday, followed by an overnight hosted by BW for admitted Conservatory students. Their people in admissions and financial aid offices are very friendly and helpful. My husband and daughter were VERY impressed with how they presented their program. Both really liked the campus as well. It's very likely that the caliber of student would be higher than at YSU, and daughter is one that responds to peer competition.

Cost no object, daughter would be at BW in a heartbeat. But BW will cost about $62,000 more than YSU over the 4 years of undergrad. Since most of that premium would be in loans (about half hers and half ours), we're not convinced that we SHOULD pay the premium for the supposedly better school, even though we can. (We calculated the total loan amount and payments we would be responsible for if we choose BW for daughter 1 and a similar cost for daughter 2...and the loan payment is about 75% of the amount we're putting away in cash for college now. We'd have the loans paid off well before retirement.) Plus, daughter would be required to work to provide at least $12,000 of her own money toward tuition (in addition to her spending money). There would likely be no money to upgrade her instruments, or additional experiences (traveling, extra private lessons, etc.). So, she'd graduate with a great degree, the same instruments she started with, and about $27,000 in debt.

OTOH, YSU has a really strong local reputation for their music program (Daughter2's cello teacher works with a violinist who got her undergrad at BW and is currently working on her master's...at YSU). My daughter's private teacher for the past 2 years is the only flute professor there, and she's a full-time professor (not an adjunct). We don't know as much about the statistics of the Music Ed degree (job placement rate, etc.), but my daughter's 1st flute teacher also teaches at her high school and came from there...and daughter likes her very much (as opposed to teachers & student teachers she's had from other programs). Next weekend, my daughter will be participating in a Master Class at YSU's Flute Festival with her private teacher/flute professor. We'll also get to ask some of the questions we haven't yet, such as job placement. Daughter has been on YSU's campus several times for previous flute festivals and private lessons, but hasn't done a real tour...but at this point she's kinda "meh" about the campus, even though YSU has been doing (and continues to do) a lot of improvements on and around campus. The average caliber of student would likely be lower than at BW, which just means she'd have to find her motivation either within herself (ideal) or from outside sources. Although she really likes her private teacher and has absolutely no qualms that she has more than 4 more years of stuff to teach her, daughter is also looking to get input from other sources. Financially, we'd be able to fund supplemental experiences, such as private lessons with a variety of instructors, master classes, maybe some summer week-long intense camps with great teachers. And since daughter would only have to work enough to earn her own spending money, she'd have more time for these extra experiences. Plus, we'd be able to upgrade her instruments when needed. So from YSU, she'd graduate with an acceptable degree, upgraded instruments, additional experiences that could improve her playing skills, and no debt.

Daughter1 freely admits she will do "just fine" regardless of where she goes. She just doesn't have any excitement about YSU like she does for BW. I do think a lot of it is due to familiarity - with the professor, with the campus, and the fact that it's only an hour away from home (BW is 2-1/2 hours). And it's Youngstown...not the same *sparkle* as being 20 min from Cleveland. But if YSU has a good job placement rate, I just have a hard time recommending going into debt just to have some *fabulous* 4 year college experience and letting that dictate the next 10 years of her life. If YSU has a mediocre placement rate, or the expected salary is much lower than for BW grads, then the premium may be worth it.
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Replies to: When is it worth paying a premium for a "dream" school?

  • 123Mom456123Mom456 Registered User Posts: 161 Junior Member
    I think it is worth paying more ONLY if it is affordable to you. $50,000 in loans to make it happen would scare me even if they are paid off before retirement. It is money you won't have for your and her future. Also requiring D to work may not go as planned. What if she is offered an unpaid opportunity that would serve her well in the long run and would have to give that up just to work for next years tuition? I think your doubt about all the things you couldn't do with the higher tuition is important.
  • mom2andmom2and Registered User Posts: 1,979 Senior Member
    Tough decision. Not sure how easy it is to get music ed jobs. I would run the numbers for her on how much the monthly payment would be for her loans and also what the typical music ed teacher makes. It may be worth it if you think she can get more students (assuming that if she is teacher in a school she would also offer private lessons) by have BW on her resume than Youngstown.

    It is also hard to judge from school's job placement rate what really means. Is that any job or a full-time job with benefits?

    I would not pay extra just for the "sparkle" but would if I thought the education and training would be truly superior AND if I really thought I could afford it without a lot of pain.
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 20,408 Senior Member
    I think that $27K of debt is FAR too much for a music ed student.

    The less expensive school is, as you point out, likely to result in far more access to special opportunities. Yes, it is not new to her, but I would bet that she finds it much more absorbing when she is actually living there, having the college experience. (Perhaps you need to reassure her that you will respect her space and pretend that she is much farther away: no parental drop ins unless she wants them. :) )

    mom2and's point regarding what that placement rate really means is well taken.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 9,005 Senior Member
    edited April 3
    Agree that $50K is way too much debt for someone who will be a music teacher.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Super Moderator Posts: 20,109 Super Moderator
    paize038 wrote:

    BW claims a 100% job placement rate for their Music Ed graduates


    What exactly does this mean/ Where exactly are graduates placed?

    Percentage that work in the Ohio Public School system
    Percentage that work in private or parochial school where licensure may not be necessary
    percentage working at music school giving ad-hoc classes?
    Percentage giving private lessons?
    Percentage working at Starbucks, Walmart (which still counts in job placement)?

    Have her consider getting a special ed extension
  • paize038paize038 Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    She will only have about $27k in debt, which is less than the expected 1st year salary. The rest will be ours (and we may not have it in loans - we may be able to sell some non-retirement investments). Basically, we had intended on having enough saved to pay cash for the less expensive school even with no scholarships, but due to our own choices and past circumstances, did not amass as much cash. So we're willing to take out a certain amount of debt to get to the total amount we intended to be able to give her...just making the payments during and after she's in college rather than totally before.

    One intangible that is very hard to figure out is how will she respond to each program? Will she have a fire lit under her in one program, pushing her to succeed? Will she get dull in a program that just doesn't fit her as well? I'm an engineering sort, so I REALLY don't get how the "feel" of a program affects the artsier students. But I saw how she blossomed during a very intense 3 week camp where she was surrounded 24/7 with serious music students who were as good or (in a lot of cases) better than she was. So there's that.
  • lz57c4lz57c4 Registered User Posts: 418 Member
    YSU is fine. BW is not worth an extra 62k.

    Think of all the 'extras' that 62k can go toward over the next 20 years of her life and yours. And really, it's much more than just 62k when you factor in interest. Use the calculators as others have mentioned so you can fully understand the additional COST of going to BW.

    Think ROI. The ROI of YSU may be many times that of BW.
  • Old_parentOld_parent Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
    As a current debtor (I rolled my school debt into my 30 year mortgage), I'd advise against incurring debt. Debt is debilitating and whether a school claims 100% placement, the debt is still yours to pay. When you graduate, even with a relatively high salary, your take-home pay never allows you to pay off the debt and lead a normal life. With a low starting salary, you can afford only to pay interest at best. There are no perfect schools.
  • paize038paize038 Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    sybbie719 These are perfect questions for D to be asking both schools. And Iz57c4, I'm all with you about the ROI. I'm a numbers person so the decision would be easy for me. Actually, I'm an engineer, so I'm drawn to the most efficient path to the end goal. End goal being a grad degree, or a particular career. Not having debt has GOT to make that path quicker. Husband is also an engineering type, so fully understands the numbers game, but ALSO straddles the line with the artsy daughter in wanting to encourage her passion and not let it wither. Of course, her passion may blossom at the more expensive school with the ideal environment, only to wither when she's in the drudgery of working to pay the loans and can't do the fun things she's passionate about.
  • redpoodlesredpoodles Registered User Posts: 2,081 Senior Member
    edited April 3
    The dream school comes with a 62K albatross. Rates go up every year so it might even be more. Are you sure it won't weigh her (and you) down significantly?

    Better to be free of this kind of albatross and have the energy to make more music.

    Also, if she can't maintain her passion in a less than ideal environment, then maybe this is the wrong business for her to be in?
  • Old_parentOld_parent Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
  • atomomatomom Registered User Posts: 4,207 Senior Member
    Only worth if you can easily afford it without borrowing. Which you can't. Also, I'd take that 100% placement rate with a big grain of salt. (S's school claimed that, too, for his major. Maybe they didn't know S was still unemployed?) Was that just one year/one major/small number of people? What about the year/class before that, next year, etc. What if those graduates lose their jobs due to a district budget cut after a year or two? I would avoid debt if at all possible.
  • eastcoascrazyeastcoascrazy Registered User Posts: 2,318 Senior Member
    Have her run the numbers of exactly how much a music tracher can expect to earn, and exactly how much her monthly student loan repayments will be. Add in rent, food, car, etc., and especially taxes, for a first year teacher in your area. It is a sobering exercise.
  • TiggyB62TiggyB62 Registered User Posts: 1,350 Senior Member
    An extra $62K in debt is not worth it for a music ed degree.
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