Accepted by UCLA
March 19, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I was accepted by UCLA. Now what?

Im from out of state which means that im set to pay around 30000$ a year for college. I can probably get an interest free loan (from my dad), so I want to know if its worth it? I mean, its a 120000$ investment, which is a lot of debt to get rid of. Im probably going to be studying economics.
So, im calling to all you college grads, how long did it take you to pay off your debt and was the college worth having that much debt?
posted by freddymetz to Work & Money (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, it's not worth it. There have been a lot of posts about this lately. Here is one from the other side of this experience--someone who has over a hundred thousand in debt.

Also, your dad is willing to lend you $120,000? Would he be willing to pay for a cheaper college experience for you--for example, at a school in your state?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think this topic has been oft-discussed here. I would encourage you to apply for as many scholarships as you may be eligible for, and to try to make awesome grades so you can be competitive for university scholarships next year. If your dad is able to loan you the money interest-free, that's certainly better than a loan with interest and creditors breathing down your neck, but if you're concerned (not saying you should be) about your dad holding it over your head to control your life, you might think about other options to supplement.
That said, $120k is a lot for an undergraduate degree. I have a friend with that much debt who is about 28 and has not even made a small dent in her loan debt. She had a high paying job for the first few years out of school and now has a modest-paying one. If you're majoring in something where you can get a well-paying job (like business, engineering, etc.), it may not be so bad, but anything in the humanities will probably not give you the income you need to get the loans paid off quickly. Not dissing the value of humanities-- I have a history degree. ;-)
posted by ishotjr at 8:44 AM on March 19, 2010

This depends on a lot of things. What do you want to do with your degree? Where? What other educational options do you have available to you? Did you apply to other schools? Did you get in? Is anyone offering financial aid?
posted by craven_morhead at 8:45 AM on March 19, 2010

Two questions:

1. Where else have you applied/been accepted at?

2. Would you consider moving to Cali for a while before school so you become eligible for in-state tuition - and if you did this, would your dad still be willing to give you an interest-free loan?
posted by alaijmw at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

What are your alternatives? Was there any financial aid available?

We have another thread about a guy with $100,000 worth of student loan debt, and it's not pleasant for him.

$10,000 of student debt is a petty annoyance
$25,000 of student debt is a manageable obligation (this is your average debt load for graduates of elite universities)
$50,000 of student debt is life altering
And unless you are a doctor or a corporate lawyer, $100,000 of student debt is epic.
posted by deanc at 8:49 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, the $30k is only the tuition and doesn't take into account housing, food, books, and supplies. UCLA's estimate for an out-of-state student is $52k a year. That's quite a bit, especially considering it would only be $29k if you were a resident of California.

Just on the numbers, that's a lot of debt to start your life with. It can hang over you and really stress you out, force you to take a job that makes you less happy but pays the bills. I'd seriously consider looking for schools that are cheaper, possibly something in your state, just so you have both options.
posted by sharkfu at 8:51 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding PhoB. I was able to get help to pay for half of an expensive private school for undergrad, but just a few years out of school and my debt is still around $60,000 and it is crushing to pay off. The monthly payments are nearly half my monthly income.

Do not fall into the trap of wanting a big-name school for your undergraduate career. What really matters is your graduate career. Choose a cheaper in-state school or a school where you can get tuition mostly covered, and acquit yourself well.

This is your time to experiment and have fun and learn how to learn. Don't take on debt you can't afford to pay back. It will be a looming shadow over your college experience and will be much worse when you get out. Once you graduate with your BA, you cannot count on a job that will allow you to live a comfortable lifestyle and also allow money for savings, retirement contributions, and debt repayments.

I wish someone had told me this when I was considering schools. I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge and couldn't bear the idea of living an hour away from my parents. But it's not like they would have visited (they wouldn't unless I asked). I would have had a great time at a state school and gotten a full-ride scholarship. Instead I chose the big name and now have to pay dearly for it.
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 8:52 AM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I mean, its a 120000$ investment, which is a lot of debt to get rid of. Im probably going to be studying economics.
So, im calling to all you college grads, how long did it take you to pay off your debt and was the college worth having that much debt?

Also, I hate to say it, but you're going to be an econ major? And you can't figure out how much this would be to pay off? Without interest, this is super simple math. If you pay your dad a thousand dollars a month, it will take ten years to pay off. If you pay him five hundred dollars a month, it will take twenty. If you pay him three hundred and thirty three dollars a month it will take thirty. If you pay him two hundred and fifty dollars a month, it will take forty. Any longer than that and, frankly, he'll probably be dead before you're out of the red.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I fear debt. I went to one of those "Best Educations for the Money" type schools. My entire undergraduate education cost less than one year at UCLA. I don't regret it for a second. On the other hand, I have many friends who attended top tier schools through loans. Most are in their late 20s or early 30s, and they are still struggling to dig out of 5 or 6 figure debt. Many wish they would have been more practical. I think going to UCLA is great, but not if you are going exit with that much debt. If you can get scholarships, reductions or anything it might be worth it. If I was in your position, I would go to a more affordable school, kick total ass, and plan on going to UCLA for grad school when they pay you to go.
posted by milarepa at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

So, im calling to all you college grads, how long did it take you to pay off your debt and was the college worth having that much debt?

I'm in my early thirties and I haven't finished paying yet.
posted by anniecat at 9:07 AM on March 19, 2010

If you're going to pay for the whole thing yourself (even via a loan) it's probably a better idea to go to a community college for the first two years and transfer to a big name school for your junior and senior years. You can take your low level classes more cheaply and it will give you a chance to figure out what you really want to study before you pick the school/department that you want to go for. With any kind of student loans there's a risk that the career you end up wanting to pursue after college won't give you the kind of income necessary to pay off your loans.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Borrowing $120k for undergrad is insanity.

Go to an elite private school with generous aid if you can, and if you cannot do that, go to an in-state public school and get good enough grades to have top options for graduate school. First two years in community college is a variant of the second option.

(Of course, you will need once again to evaluate the prudence of debt for graduate school, the rule being only to borrow large sums for a very top professional program with reliably high incomes to their graduates.)
posted by MattD at 9:17 AM on March 19, 2010

You're making a bad assumption that you'll be able to graduate in four years.

Not because you're going to fuck around and waste time, but because California's budget woes are bleeding the state university system (among other things) dry, which means that a lot of UC students are having a hard time getting the classes they need in order to graduate because the classes get canceled. Read up on that and add it to your pro/con list. Is your dad okay with paying your tuition for six years instead of four?
posted by rtha at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Defer your admission and move to California for a year. Get a job. Save some money. Pay in-state tuition next year.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2010

Keep in mind that hardly anyone who can't pay the full cost of tuition out of their own pocket ever pays "sticker price"-- usually financial aid provides a package of grants and scholarships for families that can't afford to just write a check, and the amount of money in loans you end up shouldering is far less than the cost of tuition, room, and board. If for some reason you are facing the prospect of carrying that entire cost in loans, then you need to run away.
posted by deanc at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2010

I don't understand why your father is willing to pay for your education as a loan. Why notset it up so that he pays the $120,000 and you gift him $10,000 per year over 12 yeas, or $5,000 over 24 years.

Private loans between individuals need tocharge a nominal interest rate, anyway, in order not to run afoul of the IRS. On the other hand if your father were to pay the school directly this money would not be considered income nor would it be subjected to income taxes.
posted by dfriedman at 9:24 AM on March 19, 2010

Thank you for your numerous responses! Reading this topic is a bit like receiving a cold shower after the euphoria of being accepted.
I'm liking the idea of deferring for a year and gaining california residency (but do i also need to be a US citizen for that, as im German?).

What about paying the first year in full, working my ass off, and getting scholarships for the following years?
posted by freddymetz at 9:26 AM on March 19, 2010

dfriendman: I'm not a US citizen, so i would have to inform myself about German tax laws.

The idea was that he would pay my tuition now, but I would pay him the money back in my own time later on.
posted by freddymetz at 9:29 AM on March 19, 2010

Well you never said your not a us citizen. You can't just gain residency in California if you're not a us citizen. Further if you're not a us citizen in-state schools, which everyone has been referrig to, won't help you either.

Let me blunt here: do you come from a wealthy family? If you do, then by all means go to an expensive American school. If not, go where education is cheaper. All of the foregoig answers assumed you were a us citizen.
posted by dfriedman at 9:30 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about paying the first year in full, working my ass off, and getting scholarships for the following years?

This highly depends on your college, and there are no guarantees. As a sophomore, I was told by my financial aid office that there were no scholarships available to me (well, there were five--which I applied for and didn't get) because they all went to incoming students.

I'm liking the idea of deferring for a year and gaining california residency (but do i also need to be a US citizen for that, as im German?).

I don't know if this is still true, because I was told about this in 2003 or so, but can't German citizens go to college for free, or at least extremely cheap, in their country?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:31 AM on March 19, 2010

Do what burnmp3s says- transfer to UCLA after two years of community college.

Call the admissions and financial aid people at UCLA now, ask them about deferring your admission contingent on satisfactory completion of CC coursework. They should be willing to help you with this if you were a good enough applicant to accept as a freshman, and you won't have to worry about going through admissions all over again in two years. Maybe just asking about this seriously will magically make a bit more work-study or other financial aid materialize, but I doubt it. The UC system is in REALLY bad shape and they probably want you in part because you're a cash cow as an out-of-state student. Don't be a sucker for the UC, we need to get our own act together without milking undergrads dry. I went to UCSD, and it was good, but I would never have gone into serious debt for it.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar position as you when I applied to college. My mom couldn't pay for a swanky Ivies and even my merit scholarships weren't enough to justify taking the loans myself. I got into a good state school as an out-of-state student and knew I couldn't swallow that kind of debt. I called the registrar, explained my situation, and said I'd be attending Ohio State if we couldn't work something out. They wound up giving me a full ride; I suggest you at least try this approach. I never would have attended if I'd had to pay out-of-state tuition. Just now, I was faced with the opportunity for an excellent MA program that cost as much as you're gambling, an opportunity that would almost certainly make my chances at a top 3 PhD program possible, but I decided that 100K in debt was too much for graduate school. It's obscene for undergrad.

I resolved as a high school student that I wasn't going into serious debt for an undergrad education. Unlike grad school (at least in humanities) where the simple prestige of your school often puts you head and shoulders above the competition, undergrad is more about excelling in your classes, making connections with older students who will eventually offer good connections, pursuing internships over the summer, and generally maturing into someone who values hard work and vision. You can do that in-state without the $150k price tag.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2010

After reading that you're German, I don't know if you will qualify for the super-low community college tuition available in most states. This is the first thing you should find out and work through. It may be worth deferring college entirely for a year to get citizenship/naturalization/whatever qualifies you for in-state tuition.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:35 AM on March 19, 2010

Where are you getting the $30,000 figure from? That's instate. The UCLA budget estimates for 2009-2010 say "add 22,716" to that number for out of state.

You're not looking at $120,000 worth of debt, you're looking at $200,000. No way. That's madness.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:42 AM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Many European schools have study abroad programs - sometimes the partner schools include some top US schools. The best part of these programs is that they are often reciprocal - i.e. visiting students just pay the fees to their home school, not to the host school.

I.e. Finnish student could go to Ivy League school for a semester for nothing and visiting Ivy Leaguer might be paying $30k+ for his year in Helsinki for a school that charges (basically) nothing.
posted by zeikka at 9:49 AM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Go as cheap as you can to get your degree. Once you've been out of college and into your career for a year or three, no one will even ask what school you went to very often.

If you're looking to go into an academic career, then it makes more of a difference.
posted by Citrus at 9:56 AM on March 19, 2010

It's all about return on investment:

Is the 120k for UCLA going to earn you more long-term money and happiness than the 40k you'd spend on a state school? Maybe.

Is it going to earn you 80k+ interest worth of extra earning power and happiness? Unlikely.

Unless you're planning on getting into a hyper-specialized field, where UCLA is THE place to study, I doubt it's worth it.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:06 AM on March 19, 2010

Many European schools have study abroad programs - sometimes the partner schools include some top US schools. The best part of these programs is that they are often reciprocal - i.e. visiting students just pay the fees to their home school, not to the host school.

This is a great suggestion. In my experience, schools like UCLA and other great CA universities have vibrant and thriving study abroad communities.
posted by muddgirl at 10:12 AM on March 19, 2010

Absolutely not worth it. Hell, UCLA law school is not worth that price.
posted by The World Famous at 10:33 AM on March 19, 2010

UCLA is a fantastic school. The things going on there right now are very exciting. A top university education is expensive. I've got a kid there, although I pay in-state tuition, I've got to rank the education she is getting as far above the norm.

I'm going to recommend going.
posted by Edward L at 11:01 AM on March 19, 2010

What about paying the first year in full, working my ass off, and getting scholarships for the following years?

You can't work in the US with a student visa.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:07 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

There was a time when I'd have said go for it.

I'm not sure I would say that now. The debt load is just too daunting, the student loan system in the United States is screwed, and the future cost is just too great.

Plus: UCLA is indeed a great school, or it has been historically. But California, right now, is not a great place to go to school, especially to a school in the University of California system. As a result of the recession and an ongoing year-to-year state budget crisis (the details of which are too tangled to go into), draconian budget cuts are happening, with much more to come. That may not affect you directly, except perhaps in terms of class size, but it will dramatically affect the quality of the school.
posted by blucevalo at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

My friend does pretty well for herself on a UCLA econ degree, but she is a local.

You might consider going to an LA-area community college for two years and then using the transfer degree to get into UCLA at the California resident rate to finish up your bachelor's.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2010

You might consider going to an LA-area community college for two years and then using the transfer degree to get into UCLA at the California resident rate to finish up your bachelor's.

I don't think he'll be able to get a visa for community college, and the citizenship process takes a lot longer than two years.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:40 AM on March 19, 2010

You need to study more what it's really going to cost, and you have to be really really clear on why you're going there specifically - "it's a great school" is not sufficient for that level of bill.

Next you need to find out what your dad is really good for, to be crass about it. An interest-free loan from a parent is a whole other animal than say the $100K + in mostly private loans in the example others are linking to. But you need to know, not guess, at both what you have available to you and what the terms are going to be of repayment.

Then decide. Close as few doors as you can manage until you have to make a decision. But no, I wouldn't take on that kind of bill without a feeling like "I live to do X and to achieve that at the highest level I need to go to UCLA." I went to a small, cheap (but good quality) college and that is a decision I never regretted. I also met 90% of the best people I've ever met there so you never know what an experience is really going to mean to you.
posted by nanojath at 11:46 AM on March 19, 2010

Also keep in mind that UCLA tuition is certain to increase multiple times over the next four years.

And that German universities are very good.
posted by The World Famous at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think we need more information here:

1) What German/European universities have you gotten into? From my limited understanding, those have much saner tuition bills (don't you only have to pay fees?) than a top-notch US university, and will also get you a high-quality education. Given that, are you sure you want to go to a school where you'll always be last in line for financial aid, due to your nationality?

2) What are you post-undergrad plans? I know several Germans who have done 6-12 months of research in the US for the Masters-equivalent degree. This is a good way to get connections/references for your future PhD. If you're planning on grad school, a name-brand undergrad won't matter for your career ... and the way to tell that a grad school really wants you is that they're offering to pay your tuition AND a livable stipend =)

3) Wait, what? Your dad can afford to give you an interest-free loan of $120,000 to be paid off on an unspecified timeframe but isn't willing/able to help you pay for undergrad? And you want to put yourself in a position where he can hold that over your head? I would absolutely hate to have financial ties to my family like's hard enough establishing yourself as an independent adult. Y'all need to sit down and have a frank conversation about this and your expectations.

(disclaimer: I graduated from a name-brand US university with a science degree, and it was perfect for me. However, I have no debt, and don't think that it would have been worth it if I had a house-worth of debt hanging over my had)
posted by Metasyntactic at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

No. This is a ridiculous idea.

1. Rtha is right. It is so difficult for students to get into the classes that they want at the UCs and next year is going to be even worse. (I am a UC grad student.) It will likely take you 5 years plus summers to graduate and you're going to be in huge classes and often ones that don't interest you, just because you're trying to fill a place.

2. Also, don't assume that you'll actually get into the econ major. 'Round here we "weed" students in our lower division courses by having tough exams. In my department ~60% of students that take all of the required lower division courses don't make it to upper division and only 2 of our lower division courses (stats and methods) count toward a few other majors.

3. You COULD go to a city college for 2 years and transfer in. These are the city colleges that have a transfer agreement with UCLA. Transferring is quite common here. Many transfers have trouble stepping up to the workload at the UC though (although there are exceptions...)

City college tuition for an international student isn't as cheap as it is for a local, but it isn't as much as going to a UC.

Here's Santa Monica College's international student tuition (I think that SMC is the primary transfer feeder into UCLA, but there are others) :
The tuition for international students accepted to the academic undergraduate program for is as follows:

Non-resident Tuition $ 222.00 USD per unit
Enrollment fee $ 26.00 USD per unit
SMC Health fee $ 14.00 USD per semester ($11 per Winter or Summer session)
Student Association fee $ 19.00 USD per semester/session
Student Identification Card $ 13.00 USD per semester/session
Health Insurance Policy $ 390.00 USD coverage for one semester and one session

Again, don't do it.
posted by k8t at 2:04 PM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I second blucevalo. If you live in another freaking country, DO NOT COME HERE. The money isn't worth it.

Also, California colleges want you out of state, out of country folks specifically because they can charge you a whole lot more for the education.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:14 PM on March 19, 2010

Did you apply for financial aid / scholarships and if so did you receive a response from the financial aid office yet? Often, if a college wants you -- you have good grades, they think you would add diversity to the campus climate, etc. -- they will give you a scholarship or grant for a substantial amount of the tuition bill. So I would wait and see what financial aid they offer, if any, before deciding.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:18 PM on March 19, 2010

I'd say gamble on that much debt only if you are talking an employable degree from Harvard, Princeton, or MIT.. places like Stanford and Yale can pay off too if you exploit the culture well. You'll find many places with undergrad economics programs every bit as strong as UCLA's for half that price.

LSE actually has Ivy level reputation, connections, etc. but their overseas tuition is only $20k, maybe less for Germans. Germany, Switzerland, France, etc. will all have universities with very strong Economics programs too. If you're looking to earn lots, merely gaining Swiss or Luxembourg connections might help enormously.

You should not believe any search results claiming to rank "world universities". A British magazine discovered they could produce a ranking that massively favored Anglophone universities, especially British ones, by valuing diversity extremely highly.

For example, any ranking the places the University of Manchester on par with the Ecole Polytechnique for engineering is pure bullshit, even British companies know that EP creams every British engineering department, including Oxford.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:06 PM on March 19, 2010

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