should we stay or should we go?
March 17, 2008 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Should we still move to chicago, even with the threat of recession?

My girlfriend and I will be moving to Chicagoland [Palatine area] to go to school. We'll be going to a community college and living together and cutting expenses as much as we can, but we're still worried about the financial risk. Neither of our parents can help much and if we don't have steady jobs we'll be screwed.
So the question is: with the looming recession and financial crisis of the country [and who knows how much worse it will get], would it be a rash decision to move to chicago? My thinking is that a bigger city means greater relief and better chance of getting jobs [we live in eastern VA].
Where can we find information [besides our college, which is obviously biased] on how to make this decision?
posted by shesaysgo to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to this map which replaces state names with countries based on GDP, it's similar to moving from Austria to Mexico.

But hey, it all depends on what kinds of skills you have- certain industries will do decently even in tougher economic times.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 4:39 PM on March 17, 2008

Palatine itself isn't really a bigger city -- it's definitely a haul into Chicago proper. Most of the jobs around there that you'll be eligible for are retail.
posted by sugarfish at 4:40 PM on March 17, 2008

Frankie, they say they are from Eastern VA, for which for me means either the Pennisula (no jobs) or Tidewater, which isn't too bad.

Obviously, northern virginia is probably the best job area in the country. Chicago isn't bad, and you're living in the burbs which will make your expenses lower.

What kind of jobs are you looking for?
posted by sandmanwv at 4:42 PM on March 17, 2008

Echoing statements above: you will not be in Chicago so the job base will be different unless you wish to commute to the city every day. Your every day costs in the suburbs will be lower but the salary ranges will be lower too.

Assuming that the community college is Harper, this map will show you (with traffic time included) that it takes about 50 minutes at 7:40 PM, CST to get from Harper to a random point near downtown Chicago. Imagine rush hour? Chicago has some notoriously long travel times during peak travel.

Any reason to not attend a CC in Chicago? You'd get to really live in and enjoy the city rather than being outside of it. The qualitative difference, IMO, is HUGE.
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2008

I lived in Chicago proper for 4 years. Palatine is not a great place for jobs. It may be bigger than the place you are in now, but it is like a strip mall. It really depends on the type of job, but call centers and retail are not especially profitable. You also have to take into account the cost of energy. I don't know how expensive heat is in VA, but in Chicagoland it is insane! There were a few months during winter in which a bill for our small apartment (where we didn't even have heat on during the day when we were out) was $400! I would rethink the Chicagoland idea, but maybe just because I hated Chicago and it's weather patterns, traffic, and lack of healthy food options.
posted by nikksioux at 5:45 PM on March 17, 2008

I lived in Chicago for 7 years (loved it in a lot of ways, but had to get out for various reasons). Palatine is indeed pretty isolated -- you'll be some serious distance from Chicago proper, and your job options right there will be limited and not very lucrative. Which isn't to say that you couldn't get jobs in Chicago itself, but you'd have to factor in the time and cost of commuting. (And also the time/cost of going into Chicago for entertainment or recreation on the evenings/weekends, if you expect to be doing that on any sort of regular basis.)

And yeah, factoring in the cost of energy as well is a good point -- Chicago is bitterly cold for a significant portion of the year, and then it's swelteringly hot for another significant portion. Many places, especially older buildings, come with free heat (i.e., steam radiators -- but they may or may not be sufficient, in which case you have to supplement with space heaters), so that might help in the winter, but pretty much no place comes with free a/c.

If you really like Chicagoland, I echo the suggestions to go to school somewhere in the city itself. Your options will be so much wider, even in a recession.
posted by scody at 6:02 PM on March 17, 2008

Also, I go to community college in Chicago proper, and you can find cheap 1 bedrooms to leave cheaply most places in the city. If you get a chicago driver's license, within 30 days you can pay city college prices (which is $72 a credit hour)

Let me know if you have any questions (mail)
posted by sandmanwv at 6:56 PM on March 17, 2008

Ok, I grew up in Schaumburg, which is almost next door to Palatine - lived there until I was 24. There are plenty of opportunities for temporary or office work, along with retail (especially at Woodfield). If you are looking for something else, I am not sure you will find it there.

There are many multinational companies with branches or headquarters in the Northwest Suburbs. If you are relatively qualified and responsible, you will not have a problem finding a job.

On the other hand, if you plan to work in downtown Chicago, you can easily take the train from Palatine to Ogilvie, which is a nice centrally located train station downtown. The train will be no more than an hour on the "milk run" and less than 45 minutes on the express. That gets you around traffic. Be aware though that the trains stop running around midnight each night so you'll have to keep track of time if you voyage downtown.

All that said, if you are moving to Palatine to attend Harper, you can do just as well (if not better) in the city. Unless there's a particular reason you're attending Harper, you might be better served, culturally and economically, by going to CC in the city.
posted by MeetMegan at 6:58 PM on March 17, 2008

So, to sum up my comment, which didn't really answer your question - you have options if you were to move to Chicago. I do not know the job market in Virginia, but I do know that if you are motivated and reliable you will not have a problem finding a job in Chicago or Palatine, whatever your preference is.

Also, your username says it all.
posted by MeetMegan at 7:00 PM on March 17, 2008

That map is pretty deceptive as it's describing GDP not GDP per Capita (Chinas GDP is bigger than Switzerlands - who do you think is richer ?). It's a shame as it's quite an interesting idea.
posted by southof40 at 7:02 PM on March 17, 2008

Well, Palatine is easily within short driving distance of the corporate headquarters of Hewitt, Discover Financial Services, Caremark, Baxter Healthcare, Walgreens, Crate and Barrel and many others. If you are looking for a part-time or full-time corporate job, you should be fine. These large companies, especially those related to health care, will most likely weather an economic storm (as they have for decades). There are also many smaller companies close by which serve these larger ones and which offer employment. Check out employment opportunities in Lincolnshire, Riverwoods, and Northbrook (the corporate corridor).
posted by jeanmari at 9:33 PM on March 17, 2008

Well, it depends on what you want to do. Why are you so interested in attending Harper College? It's one of the better Chicago-area community colleges (I understand it's been thinking of becoming a four year school). Still, I'd suppose that you could find a school at least as good in your area.

I take it you've examined housing costs in the area. Palatine is a bit of a mix, with pricer options, as well as cheaper condos etc. in the 100,000 range and some rentals.

There should be jobs to be found in the area (here's a .pdf of unemployment rates in Illinois). I mean, with the recession, who knows; but I was always able to find summer work with temp firms in the Palatine/Schaumburg area. I assume you have reliable transportation, because you'll need it living in that area. The suburban mass transit (buses) are infrequent and generally to be avoided (sometimes they're actually school buses), though the Metra commuter trains into the city are efficient and fairly inexpensive (note that Harper is pretty far from the Metra train station, however).

As others have said, Chicago is a much richer cultural mix. But maybe a suburban lifestyle is something you're interested in. Keep in mind however that Palatine is far enough away from the city that trips into town are a bit of a pain, and you probably will end up hanging out outside the city unless you really make an effort to make a special trip on occasion. Also, Harper is a communter campus, and not surrounded by little campustown businesses as you might find at a Big Ten school, for example.

Anyway, assuming you're going to Harper, here's my advice:

1) Call them; see if they will promise you financial aid, or some sort of work study, in the library or bookstore or whatever. They probably like the idea of somebody coming from VA to attend their college; see if you can get them to help you out with a job or two.

2) Call other area employers (look up temp agencies, or whatever sort of places you'd like to work at). Granted, these businesses will neither promise you a job over the phone, nor explain that they're not hiring because of failing business. But depending on who you speak to, you may be able to get an idea of whether they've been hiring lately, or perhaps some tips on when or how to apply.

Best of luck, whatever you choose to do. Feel free to send me a private message, if you have additional questions. I grew up in Palatine, where my folks still live, and have taken a few classes at Harper College.
posted by washburn at 1:21 AM on March 18, 2008

I remember your question from several months ago. Have you talked with anyone from the college itself yet? People in the college community can definitely give you a better idea of what their students are currently facing in terms of job prospects, salaries and housing costs. I would poke around their web site, looking for a "Dean of Student Life" or somesuch. Get the official statistics from them, and then ask for the contact info for a current student who would be willing to give you a clearer picture.

Good luck!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:54 AM on March 18, 2008

Any reason why your SO isn't considering one of the city colleges? They probably aren't any more expensive and they have very lax residency requirements which means you can pay in-state tuition right away usually. That alone would save you thousands of dollars.

Palatine is the boonies. If you care anything about the big city experience you will not want to move there and if you do you'll be so miserable after six months that you'll drop a lot of additional cash moving to the city. Don't move there unless you like living a life of regrets and cultural destitution.

Another thing to consider is car ownership. If you live out in BFE you'll need a car. If you come to the city you can ditch you car and never pay for gas, insurance, parking meters, tickets, towing, and city stickers again. Buy bicycles. You can do it! If you absolutely need a car occasionally there are ride share services here like Zipcar which are dirt cheap.

Chicago is like a lot of places - moving toward a service economy. Temp agencies doubled in the 1980s and then doubled again in the first few years of the 90s. So plan on temping for a while, waiting tables, or working at a retail store until you find something you like.

The recession is the least of your worries. Chicago isn't super expensive. Boston, NYC, San Fransisco, LA... a lot of other places are much more costly while paradoxically being less livable at the same time. There is tons of housing available in a lot of different price ranges. It's a renter's market. Two people holding down jobs making $10 or $15 an hour can find a reasonably ok apartment in a reasonably ok neighborhood here.

If you have more specific questions feel free to MeFi mail me.
posted by wfrgms at 5:21 PM on March 18, 2008

I thought of this thread this morning when I heard a story on Chicago Public Radio about the rising tuition at community colleges, with Harper as one of the prime examples. I was shocked to find out the tuition there was almost $3000 a year. That's as much as I paid to go to my state university! Granted, that was ten years ago, but still.

So, yeah, another vote for looking at the City Colleges of Chicago.
posted by sugarfish at 6:07 AM on March 19, 2008

$3,000 a year (assuming two semesters) isn't bad. Undergrad at UIC is $4,142 to $6,149 per semester in-state and $9,765 to $12,344 out-of-state per semester. So figure $8,284 a year at least. If you do your first two years at Harper (four semesters, $6,000) that saves you nearly $10,000 compared to UIC (which is about the cheapest I've seen in Illinois.)

Then again the city colleges are $72.00 a credit hour. Figure 12 credits a semester, times four (for two years, spring and fall) and that comes out to $3,456 - or about half that of Harper. Wow, for real? That's cheap.

According to the CCC website, "To qualify as in-district, students must reside within the City of Chicago for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date established by the District for classes to begin for the semester." So basically, you show up, live in the city for 30 days, enroll and you're on your way to saving $3,000 a year over Harper.

That combined with the savings of not having to own and operate a car make living and going to school in the city pretty viable.
posted by wfrgms at 9:30 PM on March 20, 2008

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