I am trying to decide between some programs that have admitted me for Fall 2012 and I wanted to see what people's advice is as far as the finances.
Cal Poly Pomona: tuition $7,000 (haven't heard from financial aid yet)
USC: $43,000 ( -$7000 scholarship)
RISD: $39,000 (-$8000)
Couple questions: Who helped you figure out the details of the finances? (the devilish details on loans...)
and.... when you first got your initial offer from the school, did you ask for more? Do people do that?
I think its wacked to spend that kind of money ( the private colleges) on an LA degree. You're better off going to Cal Poly and not having the huge debt burden when you get out. They keep saying that student loan debt will be the next bubble to burst. If you keep looking, you may be able to find more scholarships.
Pomona, unless you have a massive trust fund.
The question you should ask yourself is how will you pay for the rest? How old are you, and if you are in your in your late 20's to mid 30's do you have a savings plan, diversified investments, retirement plan, etc? If you have enough in liquid and savings, go for it... but if you have to take on loans, be careful.
If money is an issue, Cal Poly Pomona is a fantastic choice. Their program is excellent, has a strong and well known history/alumni, and their students compete very well to the elite schools without breaking the bank. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what school you go to. Any independent-thinking and inspired person could do very well in any environment good or bad. Once you get a job in the field, you will be working next to those who only have a bachelors in a unknown school and the Harvard grads. You won't even be able to tell where they came from. The elite grads may get paid more out of school, but they probably have higher student loans with interest to pay off.
I believe the financial planner's advice is to only take out as much in loans as you expect your first year salary to be ($35k if you expect your salary to be $35k, $50k in loans if you expect your salary to be $50k). If the federal IBR (Income Based Repayment, where the maximum monthly payment is 15% of your adjusted gross income and after 25 yrs the balance is "forgiven") program is still in effect after you graduate you might be able to handle a larger loan; though I suspect the IBR was set up to help take "toxic" student loans off of banks' books and my not last long.
Check your bank to talk to a financial adviser. The schools' financial aid office may also be able to help you (they normally keep track of loans and risk as their ability to assign federal aid is dependent on repayment by graduates). I personally talked to practitioners, faculty and the financial aid staff at the architecture school as well as a few recent grads. good luck.
Agreed, that it is a bad idea to take on too much debt. We just paid off our school loans last year and it took 8 years of aggressive payments finish them off. If I were you, I would work while in school. I know that they say "you will be so busy you can't work", but you can do something somewhere. Even if it is just enough to cover your living expenses. Then I would choose the cheapest school that is accredited. Usually, your first employer will care what you know not where you went to school. So be the best student at Pomona and at $7,000 a year you should be able to work in the summer and on weekends and skate with little or no loans.
Here is some hardcore financial advice. Don't get the MLA. This field is supremely saturated right now with many more grads than jobs and by the time your done, there will be little, noticeable improvement. You will be deeper in debt (you will have some student loans whether you go the economical route at Cal Poly) and struggling to find work. I will agree that the the employment preference pendulum has swung towards those with advanced degrees, but without any hard and practical work experience in this field.
Your on the horns of a two pronged dilemma. One horn is that you can seek refuge in grad school from moribund job market for the next two years. The other horn is that you can struggle and attempt to find work in that same comatose job market that will be marginally improved in the next two years and save yourself a small sack of moola while your struggling.
Roll the dice.
Good luck with the financial aid. I'm surprised you could get so much. When I went back, I couldn't get JACK - SQUAT. Even the bogus 'gov't loans' I was eligible for were a joke. Upwards of 9% interest! When I did my loan calcs from the feds, the repayment of the student loans was the same monthly payment as a new BMW. I have a better rate on one of my credit cards. Seriously think about the debt you are piing up, and if you have a BLA, how much debt you have from that as well. I just could not justify the expense to myself.