MLA Decision Time

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  • #164118

    Hi forum!


    I’ve been accepted to the following MLA I programs for the fall 2011 semester:
    City College

    It’s time for me to make a decision, and I need some advice…


    Here is my financial breakdown:



    Tuition/Fees: $40,056 per year

    $40,056 minus $4,000 scholarship per year for three years = $108,168

    Cost of Living: $30k per year for three years = $90,000

    $108,168 + $90,000 = $198,168 in total

    Minus 73,000 in savings = approx. $125,168 in loans



    Tuition/Fees: $39,482 per year

    $39,482 minus $4,000 fellowship per year for three years =  $106,446

    Cost of Living: $30k per year for three years = $90,000

    $106,446 + $90,000 = $196,446 in total

    Minus 73,000 in savings = approx. $123,446 in loans


    City College:

    Tuition/Fees: $9,060 per year

    $9,060 for three years = $27,180

    Cost of Living: $30k per year for three years = $90,000

    $27,180 + $90,000 = $117,180 in total

    Minus $73,000 in savings = approx. $44,180 total debt



    Strictly financially-speaking CCNY is obviously the best choice, and the opportunity to study/intern in NYC is appealing. And I live in NYC so I wouldn’t even have to move – although my hour-long commute from Brooklyn on the subway would be pretty grueling so I might have to move a little closer, anyway…


    Then again, Penn is Penn. And RISD looks like a wonderful program… I have to wonder if I will get the same quality of education or the same access to resources at CCNY that I would have at Penn or RISD. Probably not, right? In the case of an MLA program, do you truly get what you pay for?

    I don’t want to put myself in an insane amount of debt after three years. I also don’t want to waste 3 years in a program that isn’t worth the time – regardless of how inexpensive it is to attend.

    I keep going back and forth on this; would somebody kindly offer me some perspective and wise words to aid in this very important decision?

    Thank you!

    Heather Smith

    Personally, I would not take on anymore debt. I can’t tell if you have any experience yet? I am not sure that getting an MLA will make you any more hire-able in a few years…but you will have overwhelming student debt. Assuming the economy picks up, take a look at what you will make per year and then figure out what your student loans repayment will be.

    Lets say you owed $30,000.

    Your monthly payment on Income Contingent would be approximately $315 a month if you made around $50,000. Check out starting salary for an LA. Now, consider if you get married, both have an income and you both have loans…you could easily be paying a mortgage. I have friends that are just getting ready to graduate that talk about doing the Income Based…don’t be fooled by that one. As soon as you do not qualify for it (you must reapply every year) you will automatically be bumped up to a Standard Repayment Plan with no option of choosing another repayment option. Other tricky statements in loan repayment options including your debt will be forgiven after 25 years but you will be taxed on the forgiven amount. The last thing we want is a huge tax bill right at retirement. We could choose a lower graduated payment plan…but your interest will keep building and building and building. Look hard at those numbers. Will you be able to pay that back? That is the real question in my mind. Will your loans stop you from purchasing a home? How much will you need to make in order to qualify for a home and pay back your student loan debt. Check out income to debt ratio calculators to get a better understanding of what I mean.

    I would possibly go for a Masters…but not in Landscape Architecture…it would have to pay and it would have to have job opportunities. I completely understand the desire to hide out at a university…with the assumption that it will pay off. Perhaps others with more experience could help you out more. Just those numbers though? Uff da!

    Good luck!

    David Kornmeyer

    I got into Cornell for MLA 1 its about 28k so not to bad but it should be worth the money.


    I’d save money and go to City College.  I just don’t see you getting that much more value at UPenn and RISD (both are outstanding programs but you will be absolutely crippled by that much debt).  I’d only go in the hole $100K for an MD or DO.  I also think being in NYC will give you lots of access to resources that will benefit you later. I’d do LA as a hobby before taking on that.


    If you put out the effort any MLA program will get you where you want to be (at least in a normal economy).


    For what it’s worth, from somebody who went to a tiny state-school program in the Southwest.

    Jay Everett

    I would think it would be a long time before you could pay off that kind of debt. You will probably be making maybe 5-8 thousand dollars more than someone with a BLA when you get out, depending on where you are in the country it could be low 40Ks to mid 50Ks. Most senior landscape architects don’t make over 85K a year.


    If those are your only 3 choices, City College is the way to go. Tuition costs have gotten completely out of hand, but thats another topic all together…

    Theodore Tegen

    I’m with everyone else on this one, City College is the logical choice.  At the other two schools you will end up with med-school type debt with nowhere near the salary potential.  Do you have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture?


    Also, don’t use your savings for tuition and living expenses.  Put that $73,000 into the stock market (mutual funds or the like), over the 10 years you will be paying your student loans after graduation, your interest income on the investments should be roughly 3-4% higher than you will be paying in student loan interest.  The beauty of federally backed loans and compounding interest…



    Jordan Lockman

    I am not even sure that an MLA is worth more outside of Teaching than a BLA.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Do the math.

    The monthly payment on a $120,000 loan would be approx. $1,200. If you get out of school and are making $55,000 you’ll be taking home about $3,200 a month. After you pay your student loan, you’ve got $2,000 to pay for all your needs (food, rent, communications, clothing, health care & entertainment). In most major cities it’s easy to spend $1,000 on rent… have fun with that MLA… when you’re living in a van down by the river…

    Unless you have a full-ride scholarship or your wealthy parents are paying for your masters, you’ll have crushing debt for the rest of your life. Frankly, I don’t see the advantage…

    Trace One

    isn’t anybody giving out any scholarships anymore? When I was at Penn, absolutely everyone there except the Saudi’s got money from the school, straight out grants..

    I think you have a good list, tho – east coast is the way to go, IMHO..especially Brooklyn..Although UC Pomona won a substantial amount of student awards last year..

    mark foster

    The way states are cutting expenditures, I wouldn’t count on the tuition staying constant anywhere. 

    Jason T. Radice

    Question…do you have a BLA or BSLA???


    An MLA is really not worth that kind of money.  I got a full ride for my masters at the University of Michigan and even then I don’t think it was worth it.  There are literally no jobs in this field.  And if there are, you’ll be making like thirty grand a year with a masters.  How sad.


    I just found out that I got into Cornell, too!


    It is certainly less expensive than Penn or RISD…


    I don’t have a BLA – I have an english major from a small liberal arts college several years ago.

    Heather Smith

    Run, don’t walk. I am kidding. Sort of. My husband has a bachelors in English, a teaching certificate and a bachelors in landscape architecture. None of these degrees has equaled financial stability. I would seriously consider getting a masters in something different. I love landscape architecture…but you have to be able to pay those loans back.


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