Should I go into debt?

<p>The biggest thing I've learned from this audition process is that the auditions are the easy part. It's the money that provides the stress. Overall, I've been admitted into some nice programs, but there is no way I can afford any of them. Im paying for my education myself, but I am technically middle class so financial aid will not be high. Is going to a school for musical theatre worth $50-$80,000 in debt? With performing being such a tough business, paying off big debt will make it virtually impossible to pursue a career.....I've considered going to community college, but the majority of BFA programs make their transfers enter as freshman or sophomores, so I would still have a lot of debt. Any advice?</p>

<p>I think your question is considered by many college applicants and students deciding whether an undergraduate education in ANY major is worth taking on substantial debt. IMO, having lived through paying back $40k for my H's law school debt, the answer is no. </p>

<p>You've already applied and received acceptances at schools that you feel are too expensive for you but you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with your FA packages. For this you really just have to wait to see what each school is willing to give you. Just make sure you submit all the required FA documents as soon as you can. </p>

<p>But more importantly, you may still have time to apply to some schools with tuition in your price range and even some BFA programs at schools where you might qualify for merit scholarships. I recommend you work on this ASAP! There is nothing worse than realizing in April that you can't afford to attend any of the schools that you applied to. Find a financial safety NOW!!! Good luck! :)</p>

<p>As a dependent student (under the age of 24 for financial aid, unless you meet other specific criteria.... veteran, ward of the court until age 18, married, or supporting legal dependents yourself) the only loans you will be able to take in your name without a co-signer are the Stafford (and Perkins if you qualify and the school awards it to you.) The freshman Stafford loan limit is $5500. This goes up to $6500 for sophomore year and $7500 for junior and senior years. In order to take out these loans your family will need to complete the FAFSA. If your EFC is low enough you may also qualify for a Pell grant of up to $5500. Your state may also have aid programs that you may qualify for... although you mention you do not think you will qualify for much aid. </p>

<p>In order to take out more than the Stafford loan limits you will either need an adult to co-sign a private loan, or your Parents can apply for a Parent PLUS loan. This is a loan in their name, not yours. </p>

<p>How much can you afford to pay for school? </p>

<p>Is there state school with a theatre or musical theatre program that you can commute to from home? The Stafford loan plus some earnings from a job can often come close to covering tuition at many state schools (depending on the state that you are in). </p>

<p>Are any of the schools you have been accepted to ED schools? Or are they all EA or Rolling Admission? If any of them are ED, you will have to make a decision quickly about whether or not you can accept the admissions offer.</p>

<p>In terms of attending CC for a year, that could be an option, but you are correct that a lot of BFA programs will require you to spend four years at the program anyway. You could explore schools that accept sophomore transfers and allow them to complete the program in three years. This may be possible if you end up at a BA or BFA program that would accept the CC courses to meet a general education requirement. </p>

<p>Do you have a chance of academic merit or talent aid at any of the schools you have been accepted to or have applied to?</p>

<p>The income based repayment plan will help you cope with your federal loan debt. Using this plan, you won't really need to worry about how much you take out in FEDERAL loans because your payments will be capped at a percentage of your income. To find out what that will be:</p>

<p>1) Estimate your first income post graduation. For this example, let's assume $24,000.
2) Subtract the federal poverty from your income in #1. For a single person, the poverty level is $10,890. So income - poverty level = $13,110.
3) Your maximum yearly amount paid to student loans will equal 10% of your disposable income. 10% of $13,110 = $1,311.<br>
4) Divide the above number by 12 and you have your monthly payment, in this case: $109.25.</p>

<p>The payment amount is not dependent on total loan debt unless your total loan debt would give you a payment lower than $109.25.</p>

<p>As far as private loans go, you have to be VERY careful. Interest rates on private loans can be as high as 11%. The loan companies are not interested in your ability to pay, they are only interested in getting their money back. They do not offer generous repayment plans like the federal government does. They often will only give you 10 years to pay them off as opposed to the federal government who will give you 25 years. </p>

<p>Federal loan limits over the course of 4 years limit your debt to $31,000.</p>

<p>So if you needed $50,000 over 4 years, you're looking at taking out $19,000 in private loans. If you took out $19,000 in private loans at 11% interest, you are looking at a payment of $261.73 for 10 years after graduation.</p>

<p>If you combine the federal and private loan payments, you are looking at paying $370.98 per month. Now, that number is not absolutely terrifying, but its a little on the high side for my taste. </p>

<p>If your rent in NYC is $400 per month (sharing an apartment), your transportation costs equal $125, your phone at $50, your internet at $20, utilities at $100, and food at $300, you are spending $995 without student loans. Add in your student loans and you are at $1,365.98. If you are earning $24,000 and paying 15% to taxes, you are bringing home $1,700 per month. So you would have about $334.02 left to spend on other expenses. That's a pretty tight budget. But if you are earning $600 a week waiting tables, its doable. If you are working in a regional theatre or non-eq tour for $350 a week, its not as doable unless they are paying for your housing and transportation.</p>

<p>Do your own math and come up with your own numbers as you try to decide what's best for you. Just remember, when there is a will, there is always a way. Even though you may not be able to go to your dream schools, you may either be able to work for a few years and save up money, move to a large city and start taking acting and dance classes while working, or earn an associates in a high demand field (such as nursing) and work part time with great pay while working on your BFA. Or practice your craft in a training program you set up on your own while getting a degree in something other than theatre that you could also see yourself doing. There are many paths to a career in the arts, and there is only one right way - the way that works best for you. I speak from experience, I did not start off at my dream school or in my dream major, but I am still doing what I always wanted to 13 years later - it CAN be done, but it takes hard work and perseverance. </p>

<p>Good Luck!</p>

<p>^^^I would just caution BroadwayKing that even if the federal loan payment is based on income, interest will still accrue on the balance.</p>

<p>I'm new to this but I'm it seems to me that $50,000 is the least a student will need to borrow if they aren't getting any parental help, unless you can go to a state school in your home state. The private schools my son has applied to all charge $30000/yr + for tuition alone. Kids should also know that they will be hard pressed to rent anything in NY for $400/month unless they share 4 to a studio apt. We live in Brooklyn, I really don't know how young people come here and survive without help these days.</p>

<p>Absolutely! And unfortunately loan rates through the government have been as high as 6.8% lately, which can really make your balance grow fast. When I was in school I consolidated at 2.4% - that's a big difference in rates, especially when you consider the economy was better then than it is now, yet rates were lower for education. </p>

<p>But, there is also a clause in the new law that any unpaid balance at the end of 20 years of payments will be forgiven and you will only pay income taxes on the left over amount. So if interest accrues, you never make enough money to pay off the loan, and you still have it 20 years later, your loans will be forgiven.</p>

<p>However: Also know that student loans can affect your ability to buy a car or a house down the line. If you don't understand how, try looking up the income to debt ratio and read about how that affects your ability to buy a home. If that is on your radar, its something else to consider.</p>

<p>Also think down the road about your 2nd career. Almost every actor has one. I have numerous friends who have been on Broadway, sung at the Metropolitan opera, performed in TV series, and movies, yet still had day jobs - even while on Broadway or at the Met. Many successful performers have another marketable skill they can use to pay the bills. I've know performers who write for magazines on the side, manage political campaigns, develop websites, make small scale demo recordings, and even transcribe medical records in the dressing room. After they've had their fill of performing, many go on to get a graduate degree and teach, or move into another career - I just spoke with a colleague who is going to medical school at age 30 after spending the last 8 years performing professionally. Some choose to avoid going back to school and enter real estate, sales, banking, or open a small business (even possibly a youth or community theatre) and take their time to work their way up. </p>

<p>If you are considering a 2nd career that will cost money (i.e. law, medical, business school), you will almost definitely need to take out loans to pay for it. If you are already in a lot of debt from undergrad, it can really limit your choices of where you go for grad school.</p>

<p>Its a lot to think about, but that's what you have to do. Don't let your emotions overpower your logic. Carefully research all of your options and lay them out in front of you so you can see the bigger picture. The most successful people in life are not always the ones who charge out of the gate the fastest (i.e. go to the biggest and best schools), they are usually the ones who took their time to build. If you need some inspiration, read "Built to Last" its a great book on how successful businesses built their corporations for the long term.</p>

<p>AND - enjoy the holidays.</p>

<p>Unfortunately, you're right. Which is why grades and test scores matter so much for the independent student. Its a message we ALL need to try to spread around. I teach at an institution where a 3.8 and high test scores can net a half-tuition scholarship up-front before other aid. I know there are other schools that do this as well. But the students have to do the research and work hard in high school. I tell them they need to think of high school as a job that can pay $10,000-20,000 a year towards college. That's a killer job to have at age 15.</p>

<p>As far as the apartments - many of our students use their alumni network and find sweet deals in the $400-500 range. They are not living in Manhattan though. Most of them are in Queens, Astoria, or up around Spanish Harlem. Not the best location, but its what they have to do to get what they want.</p>

<p>Man......America has really made lthe path to education way too expensive and difficult.</p>

<p>This thread has lots of good posts on this topic:</p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/musical-theater-major/884188-money-issues-worth.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/musical-theater-major/884188-money-issues-worth.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>There is an especially good post by chrissyblu detailing typical "start up" costs for performers.</p>

<p>I would recommend to anyone planning on a career in theatre to avoid incurring any large amount of debt. Read the thread that EmsDad linked, and keep in mind that the info in the post by chrissyblu is years old and you can count on the costs of living in the city being much higher today. The nature of a theatre career is that you are going to be unemployed (as an actor) probably most of the time. Even if you are working in an Equity show, ~$2000/wk may sound like a lot but once you see how much is deducted from that before you even get the opportunity to spend it, you'll realize that living in the city on what's left is not always easy. Not to mention that chances are good that it won't last for long and you'll be back to square one. Of course you'll be working your day job, as most new grads will so make sure you develop some skills for that day job to be a good paying one, as well as one that allows you the opportunity to audition, and to come and go as necessary if you are fortunate enough to book a job. Having a large amount of debt is a killer to new grads, generally, but to theatre grads, it can result in killing your opportunity to be able to pursue what you love. And no one should ever put themselves in the position to be paying student loans off for 20+ years. Please give this a lot of thought before locking yourself in to a situation that you may very well come to regret.</p>

<p>^ I couldn’t agree more. </p>

<p>As for the escalation in rent, you can get a pulse on that by checking out rates on Craigslist from time to time. Most new grads I know who went to school outside the city start out in Astoria or the various neighborhoods in Brooklyn and keep their rents down by tripling and sometimes quadrupling up. In looking, keep in mind that the desirability of a place has a lot to do with its proximity to the trains and the price will often be proportionate. I have two friends who thought they were getting over by settling in Bensonhurst partially because it allowed them to keep their cars. Big mistake … It seems like one advantage people who went to school in the city have is that they tend to be hip to finding decent places around Manhattan ... </p>

<p>I’ve since moved to LA and have a 1br guest house in Toluca Lake that’s running me $1200 and was actually a very lucky find. Again, you can get a general pulse on rent by checking Craigslist or Westside Rentals and there’s a nice thread on Backstage that gives abreakdown of the various neighborhoods in LA where new actors tend to settle ... with one or more roommates ...</p>

<p>Oh, and as for Chrissyblu’s post on the linked thread, the big winky following my “trust fund brat like me” comment didn’t copy when she did the block and move … ;)</p>

<p>I decided if I do go to my University of choice, I'll take basics at my local community college over the summers' which will be a lot cheaper. AND work over the summer and during the year (it's possible, I know MT majors with jobs.) I would also apply for in-state residency my 2nd year.</p>

<p>^^^^Just check to make sure all of those "basics" will transfer. Even with a BA in MT, not all programs will take GE units from a community college. As a transfer, my D has had to retake a couple of classes that she thought would transfer from our local community college. She is in a BFA program, but the only place we know of (including both BA and BFA programs) where it looks like everything would have transferred was UCLA, and only because her cc classes were from a So. Calif. cc and the classes are basically pre-approved by UCLA thru the California IGETC transfer program.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I would also apply for in-state residency my 2nd year.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Please do not count on this. You cannot use residency in a state for the purposes of attending college to satisfy the residency requirement for tuition purposes. This is not an easy task. Also, do your homework about transferring credits. The description in the course catalogs typically have to match. When my D took a summer class prior to freshman year, she had to get prior written approval from the registrar's office. They had to review the course description first because the course name and description did not match completely.</p>

<p>Will taking the general education classes at a local CC allow you to complete the MT program a year or a semester early? Go part-time? Not take an overload of credits to graduate on time? If not this will not save you money, unless the school you will be attending requires you to pay for each credit individually, rather than by the semester. Many schools charge you by the semester as a full time student taking between a certain number of credits (generally 12 to 19-ish depending on the school), you only pay by the individual credit through 11 credits or if you an overload.</p>

<p>Like Cantera mentioned above, make sure to check the residency requirements at the school you will be attending. In many states you cannot receive in-state tuition if you go to the state for the purpose of attending college. Many states also consider the residency of the parent not the student (regardless of whether or not the parent is contributing for college).</p>

<p>If you work over the summers and during the year will you be able to cover the COA with your earnings and federal loans? Will your parents co-sign a private loan or take out a ParentPLUS loan that they will ask you to repay later? </p>

<p>Please don't take these posts of questions from those on cc to be discouraging or non-supportive. Just the opposite. You were correct in you OP the process of figuring the ins and outs of paying for college is daunting, with so many questions to ask. :)</p>

<p>My parent's are not taking out a parent plus loan...so I'm hoping to work over the summer, during the year, and maybe do Music Theatre Wichita. I'm also talking to the heads of some programs to see about making the financial part work out for me.</p>