Want to Go to College in New York City? Be Ready to Pay

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Save Money: Don't Go to College in New York City A lot of high school students dream of going to college in New York City, and who can blame them? I'm a college student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and whenever I'm in New York City, I wish I lived there.

The problem is that -- unless you're a New York resident and attend one of the City University (CUNY) schools or receive a large financial aid package from a school like Columbia that has a large endowment and doesn't lard its students with debt -- you'll pay dearly for the privilege. Here, based on data from U.S. News & World Report, is an idea of how much debt you can expect to accumulate pursuing higher education in the Big Apple:
  • 58% of New York University graduates leave with an average of $34,850 in student loans.
  • 69% of New School graduates leave with an average of $20,968 in student loans.
  • 56% of Wagner College graduates leave with an average of $34,326 in student loans.
  • 69% of Pace University graduates leave with an average of $29,622 in student loans.
One recent graduate of New York University told me that -- in addition to the six-figure debt load he and his parents accumulated for the degree itself -- just living in New York City cost him "another $3,000 per year" in miscellaneous expenses: Transportation, food and night life in New York all cost more than in most other cities, and far more than in your average rural college town, where public transportation is often free for students.

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Explain it to your kid this way: Living in New York City would be exciting, and you want him to be able to. But what you don't want him to do is go to New York City, have a wonderful four years, and borrow so much money that he has no choice but to move back home after he graduates. And with a stunning 80% of recent grads moving back in with their parents this summer, that's not a hypothetical fear: It's a lot easier to afford your own place when you don't have student loan payments to worry about.

If it helps, tell him that you will use some of the money you're saving by attending a more affordable local college to help him move to the City after he graduates, if that's what he wants to do. Need a more immediate incentive? "If you go to a cheaper college, I'll take you on a $1,000 shopping spree" might do the trick. This just doesn't apply exclusively to New York City: There are many, many colleges with locales that seem like they would provide the idea college experience, but just don't make sense financially.

This isn't fun and it certainly won't be an easy conversation to have. But as get-out-of-debt guru Dave Ramsey says, "Adults devise a plan and follow it. Children do what feels good."

If the college selection process is a rite of passage in the march toward adulthood, then there could be no more appropriate decision than "settling" for a second- or third-choice college experience in order to avoid digging yourself into a financial pit. That's the kind of thing that adults do. Don't let the bright lights of the big city blind you or your kid to the perils of debt.
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