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Is it wrong to not want to overpay?

3kids2dogs3kids2dogs 458 replies25 threads Member
The costs of college have risen so much since I went to school; we will have over 40K in EFC and it just seems like so much money to me - $160-$180K+ for an undergraduate degree.

I went to law school and I keep coming back to the fact that my class included kids from all different kinds of undergraduate schools - Ivy, T20, Private, Big State, Little State, Commuter - literally everywhere. And we did fine and we all got the same degree. I just know from experience that when I went to get my first job, people looked to where I went to law school, not undergrad. And after that, when I went for my second job, they weren't interested in my education at all, just my experience.

My daughter is bright, works hard and takes pride in her grades. She wants to be a doctor. Even if that doesn't come into fruition, I'm guessing graduate school is in her future.

Based on my experience, I want to steer her away from the Duke's of the spectrum and onto the honors colleges at State schools (including OOS) that would provide merit aid and bring the cost down from our EFC.

I just can't figure out if this is unfair to her. I want her to have a great college experience, one where she will be happy and successful. But in general, I am the type of person that purchases things in the "better" category - in the "good" "better" "best" categories. We don't need the latest and greatest. My car is a Honda, not a Mercedes. We live in a median priced home in our town. My phone is 4 iterations behind, etc. We obviously have a good income (hence the EFC), but is it wrong to not want to overspend on an undergraduate education when graduate or professional school is in the future?
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Replies to: Is it wrong to not want to overpay?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83771 replies743 threads Senior Member
    Considering how expensive medical and other professional school is, some financial evaluation about whether she can reasonably pay off the debt on the pay level after completing professional school is in order. Amount spent on undergraduate can matter in this context.
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  • websensationwebsensation 2132 replies40 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    Not unfair at all. It has to be dependent on your own situation. Also, I know many families whose kids are going to medical schools or have graduated from them, and I can honestly say it doesn't really matter which college you go to if you plan to go to a medical school. Many of relatively rich families I know sent their kids to undergraduates for free, so they can use the money for medical schools.
    edited June 2019
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6642 replies2 threads Senior Member
    Kids can do very well at a wide range of universities. Our kids can get a great education and great opportunities at schools that cost $75,000 per year, or in most cases can get a great education and great opportunities at a school that is a lot less expensive (probably including your in-state public university, but probably also including other options).

    My oldest did very well at a university that we could afford. My youngest is still in university, and has a great research internship over the summer and is getting a great education at an affordable school. Both will be very well prepared for graduate school (or medical or veterinary school, if that is what they choose).

    "I went to law school and I keep coming back to the fact that my class included kids from all different kinds of undergraduate schools"

    I went to a very highly ranked graduate school and discovered the same thing.

    I think that we need to see what is available to us and to our kids and use some common sense. However, I think that the lesson that money is not available in unlimited supply is a very important lesson for kids to learn.
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  • tkoparenttkoparent 470 replies10 threads Member
    OP, it seems you are talking about two different things, one a personal philosophy that tends towards "better" rather than "best" and the other the reality of higher education costs these days. Setting aside your personal philosophy, your intuition that no one will care about the undergraduate school once your daughter pursues a graduate degree is spot on, so it really does not make sense to spend money now that you may need to spend later for graduate school. Even if she does not go to graduate school, it really will not matter much what school your daughter attends, so long as she is happy and challenged and does well. There's so much pressure to believe otherwise these days, but it is nonetheless the truth.
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  • ultimomultimom 259 replies3 threads Junior Member
    No need to overpay. However, there has got to be some differences between schools in quality of teaching and opportunities for undergraduates. Even though it has turned into a marketing group, the impetus behind the original Colleges That Change Lives book was to point to schools that actually did a better job at educating than other schools, including schools with more selective admissions. Finding a good fit and figuring out which schools do a better job is the tricky part.

    Both the honors programs at big universities and the LACs are touted because these programs make it easier for students to connect with professors at mentors. This was one of the primary characteristics touted in the CTCL book that made a difference in boosting the level of accomplishment of the students. As an Austinite familiar with what is going on at UT Austin, I know that the college of natural sciences is putting a lot of effort into undergraduate teaching and mentoring in order to increase student success (and graduation rates for the statistics keepers). Big universities add honors and other special programs in order to compete with attention given to undergrads at LACs.

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  • MarianMarian 13230 replies83 threads Senior Member
    What @cptofthehouse said. Very thoughtful post.

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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3770 replies25 threads Senior Member
    @3kids2dogs Back in the day, I opted for state flagship + honors for reasons of cost. It positioned me very well for grad school and I had the good fortune of choosing among a number of fully funded offers. One of my daughter's good friends, who currently is pre-med, is getting a great low-cost education at a public + honors, including faculty sponsored research opportunities.

    Remember that with public+honors+merit your child will have classmates who are similarly capable and similarly constrained financially. She will not suffer socially, academically, or professionally by seeking out affordable options. Great professors can be found anywhere and they will be eager to work with students of your daughter's caliber. Honors programs often come with very nice perks (early class registration, university-sponsored field trips or cultural events, etc.). And don't discount the bragging rights of being able to say, "I worked so hard in HS, that I was able to attend college tuition-free."
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  • CreeklandCreekland 6885 replies93 threads Senior Member
    What one chooses to spend their money on is up to them. Colleges and cars is a great comparison. Most folks look carefully choosing a car - esp if new - and go with the one that is the best fit for them providing what they want in a car at a cost they are content with, sometimes financing part of it and sometimes not. Do the same with a college.

    Visit those that look good on paper (test drive), then contemplate what is important to you (your daughter) and see what ends up being the best fit for her/you. On paper consider the possibilities for merit aid that can make some nicer schools less expensive. Otherwise consider the "usual" fit aspects like large/medium/small, Greek/non, urban/suburban/rural, etc. For med school take a look at whether the school supports all applicants (often a lower acceptance rate) or screens their applicants with a pretty high bar (often an impressive acceptance rate, but note that some who could have made it in don't get a chance to apply).

    I'll add my usual note from what I've seen in 19 years of teaching... Those who want to go to med school do the best when they attend a school where they are in the top 25% of entering stats, both for GPA and SAT/ACT. This doesn't matter for super high ACT/SAT scores where "everyone" at the school has high scores, but matters a bit with 1400, 1300, 1200, etc scores. Often those scores are a testament to how good of an academic foundation the school provided. It doesn't really say how intelligent the student is, esp if the 1200 student has a UW 3.8+ GPA at their school. When kids get to college they are in the pre-med classes with their competition. If the competition has a stronger, deeper foundation the student without it will usually feel "dumb" and get demoralized. They end up assuming they aren't good enough. Put a similar stat student in a situation where they are starting at par with their peers and they often do well.

    Many students will find something they like better than pre-med or just realize it isn't what they like, but there's no reason to put them in a situation where they are likely to fail due to perceived (vs real) matters.

    If the students are high stats and joining other high stats kids at top schools, no problem. They can be as competitive as their peers and often thrive by being with academic peers (more than one has told me this - they love it). Some of these who have chosen much lower schools (NOT meaning state flagships of any sort, but much lower - think average SAT of 900-1000 and a 1500+ student with no real special honors options for classes) have told me they're bored and wish they had chosen something that fit them better being envious of those who did. They still made it into med school, though quite frankly, not as "higher ranked" schools as their peers. When becoming a doctor, that really doesn't matter much TBH. All become doctors. I'm not at all up on the differences in med school. My middle son is in one, but he made his own decisions on where to apply and attend and is super happy with his decision. His undergrad is in the Top 30s, but was also the least expensive school for us beating our state option and even high merit offers (full tuition) like UAlabama. He had high stats and is one who thrived being with his peers. It wasn't free for us, but we didn't mind paying our share at that cost. No regrets at all. One of his best friends from school is a lad who chose a free low stat school and is also currently in med school - not the same one, but with regrets about undergrad. In hindsight he tells us he'd have picked a different option (he had options - just went with free).

    Pick your own car/college based upon what fits the two of you the best, finances included.

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  • eastcoascrazyeastcoascrazy 2604 replies22 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    Full disclosure: i am a little biased towards UNC. My own kid went to UNC undergrad (out of state), became very involved in UNC summer overseas research with the medical school because he had a business minor and they needed someone with those skills. He spent two grant supported summers in Malawi and one in Nicaragua working with UNC med students and faculty as an undergraduate. He stayed in North Carolina after he graduated, worked and established residency there before applying to medical school. He just finished his second year of medical school at UNC with a full tuition scholarship.

    edited June 2019
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