I get a tuition waiver at the University of Texas School of Law due to special circumstances. I grew up in Texas, but I am ambivalent about living there. I really want to live on the east coast. Assuming they don't apply my scholarship to living expenses, I'd finish with a debt of $40,000 after dipping into savings. If they do apply my scholarship to living expenses, my debt would be more like $12,000.
On the other hand, I have the option to attend the University of Pennsylvania for $140,000 in debt.
I know taking the money in this economy seems like a no-brainer, but I think I would be more comfortable in the east coast environment and, thus, do better academically (I'm gay and always take a lot of bunnies in redneck circles even when I don't say anything). I also would like to have the option of working outside of Texas. Also, I'm living overseas, so I can't visit either school.
Is $100,000 in debt worth the prospect of a happier environment and better job prospects on the east coast? The deposit deadline at UT is tomorrow.
I think I swim against the flow on some of these discussions. Personally, if you want to go to Penn, for god's sake, go to Penn.
I understand the perspective of people who say not to sink too deep into student loan debt. However, going into debt for a law degree from penn is a totally different thing than, say, going six-figures deep for a social work degree.
I literally knew a girl who went 120K in debt to get her social work degree. (This was 20 years ago). I wanted to slap her for being so stupid. Then, I wanted to slap the school for being so careless. Then, I wanted to slap her parents for being so clueless. So much slappin'. So little time. There is just NO WAY this person is going to be able to service that sort of debt with a $32,000 a year social work job if she wants to eat anything other than ramen and live in something that isn't made of cardboard over a city sewer grate.
With a law degree from Penn, you can service that debt. I'm going to presume you're young or at least younger. Over the course of 25 years, yeah, it'll sting. It'll be like a very expensive car payment. However, you may end up making boatloads of money. Honestly, if you end up making $160,000 a year, do you really want to look back and say, "Wow, I'm so glad I'm not paying $500 for student loans. It was SOOOO worth not-going to the school I really wanted to go to."
Throw in the fact that Penn is in the middle of the nation's largest population centers and there are going to be a lot more firms interviewing and hiring at Penn versus Texas.
Not bagging on Texas. It's a great school. Penn is better, though.
One other thing: if you have never been to Austin, it's got about as much in common with the rest of Texas as San Fransisco has in common with Orange County. Texas has a certain character and flavor and in Austin, you get a little bit of that, but it's far more liberal, far more cosmopolitan.
Best of luck, but I say go for the debt and the school you really want. Inflation will nibble away at the debt over time. The last 10 or 15 years, it'll feel like about half as much as it feels like in today's dollars. By then, you'll be in your prime earnings years and it will be something that causes you about as many problems as your electric bill.