Overpriced Schools part II

This is sort of a followup to my Overpriced Schools For Design, Visual Effects, Photography, Whatever post about schools and going into debt getting an education.

There’s a good book out on the topic of student loans called the Student Loan Scam. Every student should read this before they go into debt for an education. As you can guess, it paints a somewhat unfavorable view of student loans… but there’s lots of good information in the book on how to get a loan and what to look for.

Obviously, there have been many people that have used student loans to great success. The problem starts to occur when you get private and technical colleges marketing themselves heavily and making impossible promises to impressionable 18-22 y.o.

Let’s take a recent conversation I was involved in. My sister runs a high-end flower business (mostly B2B) in L.A. A gal that works for her is looking to get a degree in graphic design and was weighing the merits of going to Otis College of Art/Design vs. going to UCLA.

She was going to have to get financial aid for the whole tuition + living expenses. So Otis’ tuition of about $20K/yr was offset by the fact it was a 2.5 year degree vs. UCLA’s 4 year degree at $10K/yr. Either way she was probably going to end up $75-80K in debt.

However… she didn’t realize that California State schools are cheaper than UC schools (not a good sign for getting her homework done). You can go to Cal State Northridge (which has a great graphic design program) for about $2500 a year.

So this is where the student loans become a problem. To many students, most of which have trouble thinking 6 months in advance, a big chunk of money 4 or 5 years down the line that they have the rest of their life to pay off doesn’t really impact them the way it should.

A four year degree from CSUN that’ll leave you 20-25K in debt is a much better investment in yourself, than a degree from OTIS that will leave you $75K in debt… which is crippling to a designer or photographer just starting out. And I don’t want to single out OTIS… Academy of Art, Full Sail, and their all their ilk are massively overpriced for what they offer.

The education you get is not going to be substantially different from the education you get at a state school… except a state school degree will be applicable to many other fields. That’s pretty useful if you decide you want to change careers.

Anyways… read the book and make your conclusions. But my experience has been that if you’re coming out of undergrad with more than $40K in debt, it’s probably a really bad investment.

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