A little background. I am an active duty Marine and will be leaving service in April. My wife and children already moved back to our home town of Vero Beach to establish our homestead while I am going to school. She has a good job as a teacher there and has a support network of family and friends to help her while I spend my time studying. I plan to stay in Florida after graduation and practice in family or criminal law, maybe as a general practice attorney.
Now, I am trying to decide between University of Florida, Florida State, and Stetson based on three criteria: quality, location, and price.
Stetson – 3 hours from my house, in Tampa which is a major market
University of Florida – 4 hours from my house, close to Orlando and Jacksonville
Florida State – 6 hours from my house, in Tallahassee which is a major market
University of Florida – Ranked 48th overall, has a concentration available in family and criminal law, no area specific accolades in areas of my interest
Florida State – Ranked 50th overall, has no concentrations of interest, no area specific accolades in areas of my interest
Stetson – Ranked 103rd overall, BUT has a concentration in advocacy, also ranked 1st in advocacy and 3rd in legal writing
I have the Post 9-11 GI Bill which will pay for full tuition at any public school, $1,000 per year for books, and a monthly housing stipend based on location.
Florida State – All cost will be covered, and they are offering a $15,500 per year scholarship with no strings attached. The housing allowance in Tallahassee is $1,218 for 2017, which will total approximately $10,962 over a 9 month year.
Added together with the book stipend, I will make approximately $27,462 per year, and have to pay for housing, food, and other personal expenses.
Stetson – Most costs will be covered by the GI Bill, and they are offering a $38,000 per year scholarship to make up the difference. There is a rider that I must maintain a 2.25 GPA, but that seems easily achieved. Their scholarship is fenced to tuition, but they will use excess to pay for housing in university owned property meaning I should have little to no out of pocket cost for housing. The housing allowance in Gulfport is $1,791 for 2017, which will total approximately $16,119 over a nine month year.
Added together with the book stipend, I will make approximately $17,119 per year, but I will not have to pay for housing and the cost of transportation to see my kids will be significantly less.
University of Florida – All cost will be covered by the GI Bill, but they are not offering a scholarship of any kind. The housing allowance in Gainesville is $1,377 for 2017, which will total approximately $12,393 over a 9 month year.
Added together with the book stipend, I will make approximately $13,393 per year, I will have to pay for all housing, food, and other expenses, and the school rates those costs at $17,990 per year. I could make this work, but it would be hard. I might even be stuck pulling out a small loan.
In review –
Stetson – L = 1, Q = 2?, P = close 2
UF – L = 2, Q = 1, P = distant 3
FSU – L = distant 3, Q = 2?, P = 1
On balance, this all leaves me leaning pretty strongly toward Stetson, but that 103 number is really getting to me. Is UF that much better that I should give up $17,119 a year plus room? Is FSU good enough that I should ignore their lack of concentrations and the distance from my family?
Your reasoned thoughts are greatly appreciated.