No Brainer? Cost vs. Reputation choices

I think I’m stressing out more than my S21 on this (and way more than husband), but the folks at CC have been so great so… LOL!

I’m trying to balance being financially responsible with my natural instinct to do whatever I need to make my kids happy, especially S21 who has had his senior year basically ruined by COVID.

S21 is going into sports management. He wants to lead a professional soccer league (preferably Chelsea) some day, so strong on the business, but with a good dose of industry focus. His schools were are chosen by literally looking at curriculum and focus of program. Exception is his reach - UPenn Wharton, because, well, Wharton. Still waiting on hard targets of UMich, Rice, and Syracuse. Syracuse would be a safety, but SM is one of their more competitive programs. It’s his first choice closely followed by UMich.

Of his 4 admitted schools that are still in the running (actually admitted into 6), we have:

Miami (OH): full tuition scholarship, new honors program with study abroad stipend, and direct admit to dual degree program so he’d come out in 4 years with BS in Sports Leadership & Management and Masters in Econ (or something in Farmer).

UMass: $16K scholarship. Isenberg direct admit. Sports Management.

Loyola-chicago: $25K scholarship. Quinlan Sports Management. Can also do dual bach/masters degree, likely in 4 years.

IndianaU: $10K scholarship. Direct admit to Kelley (would minor in Sports Management).

All of these are within budget. We’d want S21 to get the $5.5K loan just for liquidity, but we’d help pay some or all of loans depending on his job and D25’s college cost. Of these 4, despite Kelley’s reputation, I’d go with Miami just because I don’t see any reason to pay, essentially, double to do to others. Are any of those schools worth $50K-$70K more over course of education? However, I’m open to arguments against that (point of this post).

Now, if he gets into the other 4, we have a money problem. Based on what the other FA packages listed as EFC, we likely won’t get any FA from these others than the student loan. I must not have put the right numbers into cost calculator because the EFC from IU was $25K more than what I remember seeing in the fall. Otherwise, I would not have S21 apply to UMIch/UPenn/Rice. We could do it if 1) income remains stable, and 2) I took out of my IRA, didn’t contribute to D25’s 529, and didn’t contribute our retirement funds. He should get some merit aid from Syracuse, and if it’s more than $20K, then that closes the gap enough that we’d might just have to take out some for senior year. It would still be 3 times as much as Miami.

Are any of them worth it, even to have a degree from Wharton? $250K - 300K over 4 years vs. $80K (Miami)? It isn’t like he is aiming for a Wall Street job. I don’t think his salary out of school in professional soccer is going to vary much, though I get that contacts/network to get jobs might be better with the T20 schools.

It seems like a no brainer, but I want to provide S21 something other than cost savings as reason to go with less expensive options. We even told him we’d bank at least $20K if he chose Miami to have at graduation. I think he thinks Miami is settling as he is putting Syracuse on a pedestal for sports management (first to offer Bach degree).

This may be moot because he might not get into those pricey 4, but want to be prepared with justifying breaking his heart if he does get in.


As a soccer-mad family I have to ask – is a “sports management” degree necessary to work in professional soccer? Admittedly I have not investigated this, but we have a tenuous tie to NYCFC and my impression is that connections are paramount, and that it doesn’t hurt to have played D1 soccer (because, connections).

Working for a pro soccer team is many, many peoples’ dream, so I am guessing it doesn’t pay a lot and so I’d probably not pay for prestige in this case, because I don’t think prestige helps all that much. That said, if your son were to attend Wharton he might change his mind about what to do after graduation, and then Wharton would open many doors.

The advice above could be all wrong; but – and this is outside the scope of your question! – I’d have your son focus on MLS internships as well as focusing on the 2? American sports groups that own EPL teams. Have him research their admin staff through linkedin and see where they all went to school.


The odds of your son managing a professional team straight out of school are slim to none, regardless of his education. If your son goes into sports management, he is more likely to coach HS soccer, work for a college team (if he is lucky and works his way in), work in a gym, maybe for a youth sports organization etc.

It seems that several of these schools are not affordable. Wharton is great, but how will you pay for it without risking your retirement? I would have him research the affordable options, look at internships and where their grads go, and choose. Maybe he can double major?

Reputation of sports management programs does not necessarily mean highest ranking school. One of my kids attended a tiny state school that most have never heard of before. This school attracted kids from OOS because evidently it had a very strong sports management program. These kids had wonderful internships.


Is it necessary? No, but there is a move toward a business or business-focused degree in the industry, much like a decade or so ago, there were more and more health administration or arts administration programs. Would a general biz degree work? Yes, but schools with sports management will/should have more robust industry internship options and contacts. Not all programs are alike. I can give a whole TED talk about it. Some are more fitness/rec focused. It was a matter of looking at the curriculum of various programs to see which were in the business school or which had a business focus/concentration/etc.

I agree that the entry jobs regardless are going to be about the same. He spoke to a guy who graduated from UMich 3-4 years ago and is in group ticket sales for some NHL team. Loves it, and maybe he got the job because of alum contacts, but really, I don’t think the quality of the program had anything to do with it. Try explaining that to an 18 year old. :slight_smile:

This seems like you would be endangering your retirement and financially limiting your next kid’s college choices if you spend for these more expensive colleges. Would it damage family relationships if you gave one kid more for a dream college but had to limit the other kid’s college choices as a consequence?


Exactly. D25 already thinks we love her brother more than her.

I guess I just needed validation from other parents and to put it out there for any “did you consider this” points. CC has been great for that.

Thanks for reading.

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I kind of feel like landing a dream job working for a professional soccer club is like landing a job as a successful actor. People do it, but it is SO hard, and more people fail to achieve their dream than succeed. So on the one hand I wouldn’t want to squash anyone’s dream – and hey, your son could be one of the ones that makes it happen! But also, I wouldn’t put all my eggs in the “get a great job in the EPL” basket.


Perhaps you, spouse, and kids need to all get on the same page about the family financial situation, and that the limit of the parent contribution is $X (total for all years) for each kid (perhaps the later kid can get a college cost inflation adjustment). Also, the kids need to know the federal direct loan limits and the realistic amount of student work earnings (part time during the school year and during the summer) if a college is slightly more expensive than $X/4 per year.

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I went over a spreadsheet that had the cost difference over 4 years. He is a smart kid with a mathematical mind who wants to go into business, so I thought that would be good. However, there is a certain emotion of wanting to got someplace and after disappointment after disappointment over the last year, he just wants to not be disappointment.

Easiest child by far until this year. LOL! Hard to have a “come to Jesus” when you just want to hug him.


It sounds like you have done a lot of research. I agree with much of what Cinnamon is saying…getting sports management jobs is difficult (a ‘reach’), even coming from very good schools. I mean being in ticket sales 3-4 years out of Michigan is not a positive indicator, IMO.

Have you looked at placement from each of these programs? I agree that SM at Syracuse is a very good program…but many of the students in that program have what I would call a hard, Northeastern edge to their personalities. Students are competitive with each other there, full stop.

Again, agree with cinnamon that he doesn’t have to be a sports management major to work in sports. Regardless of his major, make sure he develops good quant skills…those are really important in the sports industry right now, lots of teams and organizations are hiring math, econ, and other analytic majors, and bypassing sports management majors.

I would not take money out of your IRA to fund his education, so for any schools that require that I would say they are unaffordable. Keep us updated on acceptances, and if he gets in to Wharton, IMO that would be a different calculus.


I am a mom to a FD at Miami. She is a Presidential Fellow and in the UASP program which is the predecessor to the the new Prodesse scholars. We learned so much about Miami last year. As an OOS, it was an unknown to us. I have heard wonderful things about their SLAM program. Talk to Miami or do a little googling and you will find that Miami truly has so many successful grads in a variety of fields. I know at one point they had more CEOs in the top 50 companies than any other university. They may not get the press of some schools, but they are truly a great university. Just his last month they were a top school for number of Fulbright Scholars. My FD simply loves the campus and the small town. She can walk from campus to beautiful places to hike or walk to uptown for all it has to offer. Miami has such an abundance of clubs, rec sports, Greek Life, service organizations, and so on. I really don’t think he could go wrong. I am a firm believer that a student will do best post college if they have no debt. If you can choose a school that will allow you to only use your savings plus whatever he can earn with a campus job, sounds like you could avoid loans. Congrats on his options!


I’m glad you reminded me of that “northeastern edge”. I noticed that during the “Orange Day” event we went to last February. The program was impressive, but I did notice that personality trait among the kids in the presentation.


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Thanks! I’ve seen you on the Miami board. Happy to hear your daughter is enjoying her first year.

I love the new honors program (and the dorms they will be in), and the SLAM virtual session was great. I was a little unsure even with full tuition scholarship whether it would be a good choice because it is very low diversity (son isn’t a minority, but he is used to a 40% AA student population, not 4%) and that it was in a small town, but trip to campus and honors and ability to come out with a Masters degree just makes sense. I think he will be happy there.

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just an idea - take several teams - and research their staff. See where their staff went to school; maybe had internships, where they worked before. I wonder if there are any commonalities in that - or perhaps patterns or anything of interest.

(well done to your son with Miami! my kid was hoping for something similar to that last year! )

**and my D16 is in this spot for professional grad school. Name vs price.


My daughter went to a more diverse high school too. She has friends from a variety of backgrounds. Miami is working to increase diversity.

I saw the board approved the SLAM Masters.

Thank you! If she can be this happy with all the COVID restrictions, I have no doubt she picked the right place!


I also question the wisdom of a sports management degree. My D has a friend who landed great internships and a fabulous full time job with a major NBA team straight out of undergrad. He majored in CS and got a masters in business analytics. He also networked like crazy (attended sports analytics conferences paid for by his scholarship). Their school does not have a sports management major.

There’s a mom on here who has a son who coaches for a minor league team. Landed that job right out of undergrad. I think he majored in econ. And he played the sport.


If you pay less for college, you can subsidize living costs while he does unpaid internships in his preferred field to build his resume and his network.

Just a thought to add to your confusion…


I have two minor things to add, nothing with the wisdom of other replies so far.

One, I have a friend from my college days who was a CPA, worked for what was Price Waterhouse at the time, and later ended up working for a professional baseball team. I don’t know, it just occurred to me that a profession like accounting would be super portable, and could get one in with professional sports. Just a thought.

Two, when my kid was thinking of taking on debt for college, there was something that was compelling to him, and I share the thoughts with others in case it may help. Debt is no abstract thing. It means you will have less money than you earn for many years. And with a lot of debt, you will have a lot less money than you earn for many years. While your friends are buying new cars, you’ll be putting money into repairs on an older car. While your friends are getting apartments in the fun part of town, you won’t be able to afford to live there. While your friends are all eating out at restaurants whenever they want, you will be saying, “I can’t afford it.” And don’t forget about travel if that’s important to him. Vacations are the first to go when finances are tight. And a really big one, that is especially relevant to his situation, is the ability to actually take lower paying jobs, even internships, or move to expensive areas in order to jump at certain opportunities. If you’re saddled with debt, you have to consider pay in every decision, and can’t take lower paying jobs that might actually be the better choice for positioning yourself for your goals. Or you just can’t afford to live where the jobs are that you want. Debt limits choices. You will, for many years, have at your disposal less money than you earn, and that will limit your choices. That ought to be a factor in decisions, especially in ones where big money is not expected right out of school. If you can go to a good school without debt, that’s huge.

Finally, I’d almost say the same to you about sacrificing any of your retirement. What is giving away that money going to mean to your stability and freedom in retirement. Is he going to pay for your vacation when you can’t afford it? And, of course, it could be even more scary than not getting a fancy vacation. If you will have way more than you need to do everything you want, then, sure, throw it at the kids, though.

Good luck. Will be interested to see how it plays out. These things are SOOOO hard.


@Mom2SandG , long ago I worked in baseball and was offered the opportunity to manage 2 different minor league teams. Business manager, not on-field manager. It would be extremely rare for anyone to be given the job of managing a major sports franchise as their first job out of college.

I turned down both offers because even as a twenty-something, living in a tiny town making a small salary to work 65 hours a week from Spring-Fall and 40 hours a week during the offseason did not sound like the path I wanted to take. Everyone does it with the hopes of making the major leagues, but it is just as unlikely for the business staff to advance that far as it is the players.

The kicker is I got the offer not because I graduated with a sports management degree from a big name business school. I got the offers because I worked for the owners in other capacities. Most of the minor league managers I knew were hired because the owners were familiar with them previously. The truth is, you get in on the smallest of levels, bust your butt for years, and maybe get called up to the next still-low-paying level where you get the chance to bust your butt for another few years hoping to get called up at some unknown in the future.

This is not a career a student wants to go into six-figure debt for college. if he doesn’t make the big leagues, that sort of debt could crush him for decades. Most of the minor league business managers I knew (in baseball, hockey, and soccer) lived in modest homes in small towns with stay-at-home wives looking after small children and pinching pennies.

If your son’s dream is sports business management, at this point Miamo OH is his best, and honestly ONLY smart option at the moment.

Good luck to him. it’s tiring, all-life-encompassing, and not well paid at the lower levels, but it’s a fun industry. If he likes it, he’ll love it.


These are great points. Instead of paying $500/month on loans, he’d have at least $20K nest egg to start his life which will be low paying at first. And, I told him that if his choice saved us, then we would be more likely to say “yes” to study abroad, traveling after SA, taking an unpaid internship/shadowing opportunity, etc.

He’s on LinkedIn. Guess I need to have him look at the career paths of higher ups and recent grads.