I recently chose a state university over an Ivy League school, though the decision was an incredibly difficult one to make. I spent months weighing the decision an changed my mind more than once. The Ivy League school had more departmental resources and equipment related to my field and brought in more well-known professionals as guest teacher and lecturers. However, it was also literally five times more expensive that the program in the state I am living in. Here are the things that factored into my decision:
1) THE DEGREE – yes, that is a factor. Your most recent degree is something that follows you for a long time. So, this is less of a factor if you’re planning to pursue a subsequent degree shortly after your first one. On the other hand, once you have a job and build a reputation in your field, this won’t matter as much.
2) THE RESOURCES – though you may have more resources provided for you at an Ivy League school, you have to literally ask yourself what these are worth. If they are worth less than the difference in tuition, then they aren’t worth the cost! For example, even if the department boasts better computers and a great library, you may be able to BUY a better computer and PURCHASE your own library for less.
3) THE ASSOCIATIONS – yes, when people find out what school you went to they will make assumptions about you based on that knowledge. However, this can work against either an Ivy or non-Ivy League school! Some people hear ‘Harvard’ or ‘Yale’ and think: spoiled and rich. So, while it might not be as impressive on your resume, a more neutral academic history can be of benefit as well. Besides, you can always talk up your own school even if it isn’t an Ivy League one! I went to the 4th ranked liberal arts school in the country – but most people haven’t heard of it.
3) THE DEBT – really, in the end, debt is the biggest question. In the end it played a large role for me. What I realized was that if I accrued a lot of debt I’d be forced to take the highest-paid job offered to me upon graduation, just to pay down the over $100,000 I would have owed the school. By going to a school with in-state tuition I will be much more free to choose a more interesting job, even if it doesn’t pay as well!