How much should I spend on my education?
February 9, 2014 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Go to the far away, cheap nursing school, or close, expensive one?

As the proud owner of an insanely expensive, relatively useless liberal arts B.A., I have decided to go back to school for an accelerated BSN (Bachelor's in nursing). I live in NYC and have been accepted to Binghamton's 12-month program, which I understand is around 3 hours upstate (I haven't actually visited yet). The tuition and fees for the whole year there come to around $24k. I have been wait-listed at Columbia, which I estimate to be somewhere between $40k-$75k, depending on financial aid. I am also debating applying to NYU (around $90k) and Pace (around $50k).

Now, the dilemma is that, although I am a very frugal person and the cheaper tuition is very appealing to me -- I would go to Binghamton if it were in the city in a second -- I also am having a really hard time stomaching the idea of moving out of the city for a year. I've been here for about two years, which is the longest I have lived in the same place since graduating college 5 years ago, and I have absolutely zero desire to move, settle in again, furnish a place, make new friends, or generally "go away to school" (been there, done that). I also have a very serious boyfriend who I live with and I admit I don't want to lose that support when I enter what is rumored to be a very stressful program.

I have the means to pay for any of these programs upfront, but obviously I would much rather have some money left over for graduate school, down payment on a house, wedding, etc. If I paid $90k to go to NYU I really would not have anything left when I graduated. I am 27 so some of these things may be coming up in the not-too-distant future. I have no debt.

My question is, what do I do?! I change my mind daily about this. As far as I know, name doesn't matter for nursing (although I want to work in the city and I think going to NYU/Columbia might give me a little advantage since I would do my clinicals here). On the one hand, I think I should just suck it up, move to Binghamton and come home on the weekends every once in a while, and stick it out to get a fast 12 months degree and be done, having spent relatively little money. On the other hand, I think -- I won't be in debt either way, I know people who have gone to NYU and think it was well worth the money, and it would be SO convenient (a 20 minute commute from my apartment). No moving, no new roommates, and I'd have my boyfriend to lean on and my friends in the city.

So, does anyone have any advice for me? Obviously, some of this is speculation since I've only been admitted to one school, but I have a good GPA, recs, etc. so I am fairly sure I could get into NYU or Pace (and could get off the wait-list at Columbia). I have until April to put down a deposit at Binghamton, which is enough time to apply for other schools but I may not hear back from them by that time.

Thanks in advance, sorry for length!
posted by queens86 to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Given your dreams of the future, keep yourself as debt free as possible so that you have teh money available for that grad school, mortgage, wedding etc

A year in a busy program and just three hours might fly faster than you think.

fwiw, i had a choice between big brand expensive Bschool (where name does indeed matter) and a 70% scholarship at the local state school. I swung back and forth over this decision as much as you did but 13 years later, given the global economy, cannot regret the lack of student debt in my life plans.
posted by infini at 10:46 AM on February 9, 2014

I have the means to pay for any of these programs upfront, but obviously I would much rather have some money left over for graduate school, down payment on a house, wedding, etc.

Once you spend money, it's gone, and it takes a long time to get it back.

I was making about what a high nurse's salary is many years ago, and I needed to save up 20,000 for a car while living in an expensive city. Between saving for retirement, rent, and living expenses, it took me three years to save up that amount of money. Meanwhile, I had run through that amount trying to support myself for a year in graduate school when my stipend ended.

Money you spend now is money that could be used for other things. Don't take that lightly unless you think you can recover it relatively quickly.
posted by deanc at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2014

Nursing is about placement for internships. Get a good placement for a rotation and you can get much better skills and contacts. Your performance for your pediatric rotation can be in a grubby 2nd rate hospital, or in a pediatric surgery ward of a leading children's hospital. These opportunities can be found from both good schools and bad schools. Find out where the school places their internships specifically, and find out where they place post graduation.

Experience: I dated a nurse through her nursing school. She attended a mediocre school at the top of her class and had excellent placements because they had a strong alumni network for placements, and as a top student - she got first pick.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

When my wife did her 2-year AA nursing degree, she had next to no social life as she was studying all the time. I imagine it's worse with a 1-year program. It might be easier to get through school if you were living where there was little to distract from your studies which Binghamton may offer. For only a year, the lower cost, and the proximity to NYC and your boyfriend, it may be worth it.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:08 AM on February 9, 2014

You live in NYC?

Apply to Hunter. They have an incredibly prestigious nursing program, and it's cheaper than any other school you mention in this post.

Why in the world would anyone go to NYU or Pace when they could go to Hunter? Columbia for fricken nursing school is too insane to even contemplate, sorry.

If Hunter doesn't have the type of program you're looking for or there's some other concrete reason you can't go there, then yeah, Binghamton for sure.

FWIW I know some SUNY-Binghamton alums and a little part of me wished I'd grown up in New York State so I could have just gone to Binghamton for college and been done with it. It seems like a great school with a great reputation in a cute college town. I know you don't want to move for a year, but you know, it's a year.
posted by Sara C. at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

You will be BUSY in nursing school and that year will fly by!!! The difference between $24000 and $90000 is a lot of money. I would suck it up, go upstate and save your money. Good luck!
posted by fresh-rn at 11:10 AM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Personally I think being broke (and not able to go to graduate school for the foreseeable future) would sort of tarnish the joy of graduating from nursing school after 12 months. It might seem like you'd swapped short term gain for longer term pain.
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:18 AM on February 9, 2014

Sara C., I would love to go to Hunter but unfortunately they require a lot more pre-reqs than any other school in the area, and I wouldn't be ready to apply until next year. I feel it's better to take the opportunity that's in front of me, plus I don't want to stay at my current job another year! Otherwise, that would be my #1.

Also, the two people I know of who went to NYU did get jobs right after at NYU-Langone hospital. I am not sure where Binghamton grads usually get hired but I know of one who was hired in the city, and the program does have a good reputation. In the long run, I am not sure that it matters too much.

I think you guys are right ... I know in my heart what the right decision is but I am just trying to find a way around it! I think I'd regret spending 90k on a degree I could have had for much less. Thanks everyone who has answered so far.
posted by queens86 at 11:23 AM on February 9, 2014

It matters whether or not you're likely to get the kind of job you want if you go to the Binghamton program vs. NYU (or another NYC program). If you're just as likely to get the kind of job you want out of either program, for ~$65k, it's worth it to spend a year in Binghamton.

What you say about it is "as far as I know name doesn't matter," and it's probably worth the due diligence to figure out if this is right. Because maybe name doesn't matter, but networking and location do. If it turns out that SUNY Binghamton is basically a feeder for all kinds of NYC nursing jobs, then you can probably safely go to school in Binghamton and return to work in NYC a year later.

But if that's not really the case, and SUNY Binghamton nursing grads find it tough to break into the NYC nursing job market, you'll want to know this ahead of time instead of coming to this realization next year at this time.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:46 AM on February 9, 2014

So far this is pretty unanimous, but I think that's partly because folks are looking at the $24k/$90k difference and that makes it an easy choice. If it ends up being a choice between $24k and $40k and you can afford it either way, it's not quite as obvious. $16k is still a big amount of money, but moving (twice in two years!) is expensive, and the personal and emotional tradeoffs are substantial.

BTW, I am a grad student who normally lives in Ithaca, spending the year in NYC. There are very real reasons to want to stay in NYC and not a smallish town in upstate NY. This is especially true if you already have a social network and a partner here. And that "three hours upstate" number varies a lot depending on when you're driving and what part of the city you're driving into. I've done Ithaca - Brooklyn in 4 hours, but I've also done it in 6, and if you don't have a car, you'll be relying on the Shortline, which definitely takes longer. Feel free to MeMail me if you want a more detailed take on what it's like to be in an LDR between upstate NY and NYC, or if you have other questions.
posted by dizziest at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

SUNY Binghamton is the best SUNY there is, (although there is some argument over that!) and one of the 4 university centers in the SUNY system: Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Stony Brook. Hey, did you look into Stony Brook? That might be too far as well, but it is really well-regarded. They have an accelerated program.

(FYI for non- NYers, SUNY =State University of New York).

It is likely that NYC hospitals feed from Binghamton in some regard-- it has an excellent reputation which has only gotten better in the last 10-15 years. Many students have opted for a SUNY since the economy has turned and they have only gotten more competitive and selective.

Don't forget that SUNY has Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Check into internship placement there for when the time comes.

The actual moving to Binghamton will be pricey, but rent in upstate NY is laughable next to NYC rent. If there is any way to hold onto where you live in NYC and rent in Binghamton, look into that.
posted by oflinkey at 12:15 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think your clinical placements are going to be key, because making contacts at those clinicals is going to be important in getting a job when you're done. Where do the Binghamton nurses do their clinicals? How about Columbia? Having someone who supervised you during clinicals and can speak well of your work can be important to getting a job afterwards as a new nurse, and (even more important) getting paired with someone good for training as a new hire. Just because Binghamton grads CAN get hired in NYC doesn't necessarily mean it will be easy, and if you know you want to stay in NYC long term it may be worth the extra 16K to facilitate that for yourself along with all the other benefits of staying in the city.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 1:07 PM on February 9, 2014

If Columbia can really be done for $40K, it's worth thinking about. Moving in and out of NYC is a headache and generally very expensive.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 3:44 PM on February 9, 2014

I graduated from the most awful community college nursing program in the state of Colorado (my school lost accreditation the next year, for reals). I had zero problems getting a job, no one I've ever worked with or for has cared, New York may be super different but so far in my career the place hasn't mattered one bit. Go wherever you can be done the fastest and start working. You'll end up learning most of your real life nursing skills on the job anyhow.
posted by yodelingisfun at 11:17 PM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I graduated from an accelerated nursing program in 2012. These programs are a grind - good programs are very intense and tend to weed out a good portion of the class before the first term is even over. My class started with about 100; around 60 graduated 12 months later.

You won't have internships or a senior practicum or a student nurse fellowship in an accel program - there simply isn't time. In 12 months you complete your didactic work, grind out your clinicals, and then graduate. Call the admissions office at Binghamton and find out where their clinicals are - are they all at one tiny community hospital, or is there some variety? If you have an interest in peds (or maternal/newborn, L&D, or some other specialty), where are those particular clinicals held? You want to experience a variety of environments and you want your clinicals to be challenging and interesting.

Generally, I would say do your clinicals in the city where you want to work. The thing is, NYC probably has as many hospitals as my entire state does. Even if you went to school in NYC there's no guarantee you'd do clinicals at a place you'd ever be interested in working for.

NYC is a tough place for new grads right now from what I hear at conferences and from friends who live in the city. You may be job hunting for 6 months or longer after graduation and have to live off savings. That reason alone would be enough for me to go the cheaper route, but YMMV.

Know that in a 12-month accel program your personal life and relationships will suffer, but it's only twelve months. It's only one set of holidays. One year of birthdays. It's still a lot, but it's doable if you keep reminding yourself of that - only one. There were literally days when I woke up and thought to myself, "This is the last January 15th I will spend in nursing school" just to motivate myself to get out of bed for the day. On the other hand, having only one year demands absolute dedication. There's no staying in bed with a cold (or a hangover - not that you have time for that since you're too busy studying). There's no running late or leaving early. Can you do that without the close support of your friends and boyfriend? That would've been hard for me personally, but I went to school with many people who moved to my state just for nursing school, knew absolutely no one within a 6-hour radius, and had a wonderful time. It's something only you can answer.

You mention the possibility of financial aid at Columbia, but then you also said you could afford to pay for any of these schools (even NYU at $90k?) out of pocket upfront. I'm not sure financial aid is a realistic possibility in that case but I am also no financial aid expert. If you won't find out about financial aid until after the Binghamton deadline passes I just wouldn't put my eggs in that basket.

Frankly, if I were in your position I would reconsider Hunter if I thought odds were very, very good that I'd get in. I would call Binghamton and ask if I could delay matriculation for 1 year, just to keep that in place as a safety net. If so, I would spend that year doing the pre-reqs for Hunter and applying to Hunter. Staying at a crappy job for another year would be a worthwhile trade off for me to go to a cheaper school and not have to move and leave behind my support network. (I realize you've posted no details about your job - if it's truly an unhealthy or toxic situation, of course this may not be worthwhile or even possible for you.)

Good luck to you, whatever you choose! I went to an accel program (and work in) Kentucky, but if you think I can help you in any way please send me a PM. Also, if the thread's still open after you choose, please pop back in and let us know how it all worked out.
posted by pecanpies at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

and apologies for my atrocious grammar - night shift brain. i hope i was mostly intelligible!
posted by pecanpies at 2:36 PM on February 10, 2014

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