What if we add a further factor to the question (which is relevant to most applicants worried about COA): Assume there is substantial UG debt (say, $70k).
1. Going to even CCN at sticker plus interest rates on UG and sticker loans will result in at least $300k+ in loans by the time one graduates. Even if you land a prestigious biglaw gig in NYC, you will HAVE to work biglaw for about 7 years JUST to pay it off!
2. Going to Illinois on full-tuition (since I don't think anyone goes for "free" - i.e. including room and board, fees, etc.) will result in about $145k+ in loans (60k+ for everything but tuition when in law school, + $70k for UG debt, plus interest on both when in school).
Paying off number two is not just 155k easier. it's probably more accurately a 250k difference since the interest will be THAT much more when you have so much debt (i.e. it exponentially increases). IF you land biglaw from illinois (which most in this thread correctly point out is VERY difficult to do given the state of the economy presently and in the expected future), you can pay this off in about 3-4 years.
If you go to CCN and land biglaw (which is definitely not a lock), then you HAVE to work 7ish years in biglaw to simply become broke. That, no matter how good you are, is very difficult to do unless you are Partner -- which is a VERY bad bet. More likely, if you work big law, you will do so for only 3-4 years and you will still owe $150k+!!!!!! It will take you at least
Go to Illinois: (a) if really, really lucky, debt free in 4 years. (b) if average, won't be crippled by debt but will have the 10-15 year plan. (c) if you are really unlucky or at the bottom of your class, find a new career and you will be in debt for probably 10-15 years as well.
Go to CCN: (a) if lucky, debt free in 10 years (large biglaw salary and nice salary afterwards). (b) if average, MAYBE scenario a. plays out or maybe not (i.e. you don't land big law), then you are stuck with 10-15 years of debt. (c)if unlucky, you are in debt 20-25+ years because you will barely be able to pay off the interest on your 300k+ of debt. (d) take advantage of LRAP- get rid of LS debt after 10 years and contributing a substantial portion of it and then still you have to pay off your UG debt (which will take a while...)
Which do you think is a better option now? (I'm still unsure, but CCN at sticker seems way riskier and are the rewards really worth these risks? --- And for those of you thinking about sticker at MVPBDN, your odds are probably worse than CCN...)