Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

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Carter1901

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Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby Carter1901 » Sun Apr 20, 2014 8:33 pm

Decision Time.
Full Disclosure: Columbia has been a goal of mine since I started thinking about law school – before I was fully cognizant of the financial realities of going there, I strongly considered EDing (fortunately I found TLS and decided against it). Now that I’ve been admitted, it’s very hard for me to walk away from that opportunity. My SO also just accepted a job offer in NYC – staying with her is very important to me, so Columbia is definitely the right move for me from a personal standpoint. That said, I’m looking for some tough love from TLS here. Objectively, is Columbia a defensible choice given the other options I’ve got on the table?

Here we go:

The schools you are considering:
Columbia (at sticker) - total debt at repayment: $263,097
Duke ($105k scholarship) - total debt at repayment: $157,725

I’m very fortunate to have 5 months of VA benefits remaining via the post-9/11 GI Bill (the rest was used to cover undergrad). This will knock about $50,000 off the sticker price at Columbia, and will cover about $23,000 at Duke (the big discrepancy here is due largely to the VA’s housing stipend – it’s substantially higher in Manhattan than in Durham. Columbia also has a more liberal policy with matching VA contributions via the Yellow Ribbon Scholarship). This is reflected in the total debt calculations above.

Other options on the table:

Penn - at sticker
UVA - $45,000 Scholarship
Michigan - $90,000 scholarship
Vanderbilt - $110,000 scholarship
USC - $120,000 scholarship
Cornell - still awaiting initial financial aid offer
Berkeley - awaiting decision on matching scholarship w/ Duke's offer

WL’d at Chicago, plan on withdrawing.
Dinged at Harvard
Still waiting on Stanford – probably a no-go at this point in the game.

How you will be financing your COA, i.e. loans, family, or savings

Mostly loans – family has offered to help pay some of the way if I choose to attend CLS. I feel very lucky to have this, but don’t want to rely on it or base my decision on it (family help is not reflected in Columbia’s total debt at repayment figure above).

Where you are from and where you want to work, and other places where you have significant ties (if any):

Family and substantial ties in Chicago. I’m willing to work anywhere. Chicago or DC would be great, but very open to NYC too.

Your general career goals:
Very interested in JAG, but probably not for life. Also interested in NYC transactional work. I recognize that these are two very different paths, so if anyone has insights on this with regards to picking a school, definitely fire away.

Your LSAT/GPA numbers: 170/3.7x

How many times you have taken the LSAT: twice.

Thanks in advance for the help, TLS - pretty pumped to finally be closing in on the finish.

BigZuck

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby BigZuck » Sun Apr 20, 2014 8:52 pm

I'm not going to touch the SO issue- that's for you to decide what's best there. I had a SO to factor in to my decision and honestly I didn't end up with the school I had my heart set on (so I guess it's not really all that analagous to your choice). Anyway, I'm really glad I thought with my head and I'm very happy with my choice. All of that is to say us randos on the Internet really can't help you on that one, it's way too personal.

Just looking at things in a total vacuum- I think you would be crazy to go to Columbia over Duke if the COA difference is 100K.

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rickgrimes69

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby rickgrimes69 » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:12 pm

Like BZ said, the SO isn't something we can give advice about. But objectively, CLS isn't worth $100k more than Duke.

I also suspect the price differential is even larger than your posted figures. Is the $105k at Duke including the $23k from the VA bill? If not, I'm not sure how your COA is exceeding six figures. Cost of living in Durham over three years shouldn't exceed ~$60k if you're frugal and tuition should only cost ~$40k. Where's the last $60k coming from?

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby jarofsoup » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:20 pm

If you really want to go to CLS go to CLS. I would pass on Vandy and go with one of the top 14s.

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Winston1984

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby Winston1984 » Sun Apr 20, 2014 10:11 pm

The SO factor is definitely extremely important here. If I was in your shoes and it was very serious, I'd take Columbia. $210,000 is a lot of money, but I think it's defensible for Columbia. Just out of curiosity, why didn't you apply to NYU? Could've been a good compromise here.

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby arklaw13 » Sun Apr 20, 2014 10:20 pm

Columbia definitely isn't worth $105k more than Duke. I'd say Columbia is worth $50k more than Duke. The question is whether your SO is worth $55k. If you had to choose today between your SO and $55k in cash or maybe a brand-new Mercedes E-Class, which would you choose?

tho

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby tho » Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:21 pm

If it were me, I'd take the (hopefully) full-ride Cornell comes back with. Near your SO and no life crushing debt.

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby sprezz » Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:33 pm

the SO complication is one of very few where it's so idiosyncratic that it just doesn't lend itself well to this type of analysis. i have no pseudomath for you but would recommend posting up with a little bourbon and figuring out (1) what type of risk you can tolerate more easily and (2) what type of security is most conducive to your short and medium term success. good luck, OP.

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby NYSprague » Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:54 pm

Will your SO be able to cover COL at Columbia with her job if you live in student housing?

How does she feel about the risks of being deeply in debt for years?

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Johann

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby Johann » Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:58 pm

It is not only okay but the right move to pay 35k a year to have your SO by your side for 3 tough years (also, a slightly better school). Unless you're looking for a reason to break up, Columbia is the right call here.

arklaw13

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby arklaw13 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:16 am

Would agree that having SO with you can be a huge benefit. Helps pull your head out of your ass when you get too deep into law school. If you're living together, that is. No idea what the dynamic would be like if living separately.

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bowser

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby bowser » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:45 am

CLS vet 2L here: have you discussed the ins and outs of exhausting your GI Bill? I vaguely remember something at our vets orientation meeting about being able to finish out an academic year and still get the full benefit even if you run out of months; it's hazy, I could be wrong.

NY has a state grant (TAP for veterans) which is roughly 6k a year; NC may have something similar.

Columbia isn't very good for Chicago; very few people want to go there. Sidley and Kirkland, the two firms which comprise like 1/3 of all of the total SA spots in Chicago, don't recruit for their Chicago offices at our OCI.

If you wanna do Biglaw as a vet your chances of striking out at OCI are extremely low at any T-14, so the CLS advantage there might be mitigated a bit. But the big-name, big-class NYC firms all take gobs of CLS people, which will always be an advantage here regardless.

I would vote Duke. 200k+ is sooooo much money.

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby lecsa » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:02 am

How much is COA at Columbia if you live with your SO and family helps out? I'd figure that out and then decide. Normally I'd say take the money, but if you can split the bills with your SO and your family helps out it's not crazy to choose Columbia.

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby jbagelboy » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:00 am

lecsa wrote:How much is COA at Columbia if you live with your SO and family helps out? I'd figure that out and then decide. Normally I'd say take the money, but if you can split the bills with your SO and your family helps out it's not crazy to choose Columbia.


I agree with this, my SO and I moved to NY and it definitely helps each of us lighten the load.

More importantly, your Duke scholarship still leaves you with debt that requires big law.. just less of it. And we don't know how much your family contribution is, but if its substantive, CLS definitely comes into real play here.

What concerns me most here is your preference for chicago and DC. Columbia places better than or equal to any other school in NY, but definitely can't say the same about either of those markets (or really any other market although the degree carries in CA). So I'm a little worried there. (Then again, all T14s feed into NY, so without top 1/3 grades you'd be bidding there regardless).

If you decide you are 100% alright with new york firm work, then I think CLS can be justified here. Good luck and congrats!

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dwil770

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby dwil770 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:33 am

Describe your relationship in detail so we can give some real advice. Headed to marriage? Looking for an out?

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BanjoCalhoun

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby BanjoCalhoun » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:01 am

dwil770 wrote:Describe your relationship in detail so we can give some real advice. Headed to marriage? Looking for an out?


This is a bit aggressive, he doesn't need to be airing that stuff on message boards... this isn't The View.

If the family contribution would be substantial then I don't think CLS would be a crazy choice. Also, if you're living with the SO who can pay rent, that could make up a significant difference through lowered cost of living.

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TheSpanishMain

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby TheSpanishMain » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:15 am

BanjoCalhoun wrote:
dwil770 wrote:Describe your relationship in detail so we can give some real advice. Headed to marriage? Looking for an out?


This is a bit aggressive, he doesn't need to be airing that stuff on message boards...
I think it's a fair question. The calculus is obviously different when it's a potential future spouse versus a casual, pass the time thing. He did say staying near her is very important, though, so I assume it's more the former.

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dwil770

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby dwil770 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:16 am

BanjoCalhoun wrote:
dwil770 wrote:Describe your relationship in detail so we can give some real advice. Headed to marriage? Looking for an out?


This is a bit aggressive, he doesn't need to be airing that stuff on message boards... this isn't The View.

If the family contribution would be substantial then I don't think CLS would be a crazy choice. Also, if you're living with the SO who can pay rent, that could make up a significant difference through lowered cost of living.


Yeah man no pressure to provide anything else, just optional if you want more personally tailored advice.

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twenty

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby twenty » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:00 pm

Yeah, Cornell's going to pony up big time. Deposit at your choice of Columbia or Duke, but realize that once you're accepted at Cornell, you can probably negotiate up to at least 105k.

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby PrideandGlory1776 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:14 pm

twenty wrote:Yeah, Cornell's going to pony up big time. Deposit at your choice of Columbia or Duke, but realize that once you're accepted at Cornell, you can probably negotiate up to at least 105k.
Full ride

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twenty

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby twenty » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:22 pm

Hence "up to at least"

bb85

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby bb85 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:23 pm

bowser wrote:CLS vet 2L here: have you discussed the ins and outs of exhausting your GI Bill? I vaguely remember something at our vets orientation meeting about being able to finish out an academic year and still get the full benefit even if you run out of months; it's hazy, I could be wrong.


If you have 5 months of eligibility remaining on the post 9/11, you might be able to stretch that out into two full semesters. If you have at least one day left of eligibility starting the Spring semester, your entire semester will be covered. This could potentially save you roughly $50k (tuition + YR + BAH). You would need to talk to the VA coordinator for the specifics, but if you have 5 months and some change you might get a whole school year covered, including the BAH.

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Carter1901

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby Carter1901 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:53 pm

dwil770 wrote:
BanjoCalhoun wrote:
dwil770 wrote:Describe your relationship in detail so we can give some real advice. Headed to marriage? Looking for an out?


This is a bit aggressive, he doesn't need to be airing that stuff on message boards... this isn't The View.

If the family contribution would be substantial then I don't think CLS would be a crazy choice. Also, if you're living with the SO who can pay rent, that could make up a significant difference through lowered cost of living.


Yeah man no pressure to provide anything else, just optional if you want more personally tailored advice.


No worries at all man, it's definitely a fair question. We'd be living together if I opt for CLS. Staying with her is important to me, though with regards to your initial question...I wish I had a better answer for you. We started dating in undergrad and we're both very happy together, but I'm a young guy and the idea of marriage still feels a long way off for me; definitely beyond anything I'll be ready to tackle anytime soon.
Last edited by Carter1901 on Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Carter1901

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby Carter1901 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:57 pm

bb85 wrote:
bowser wrote:CLS vet 2L here: have you discussed the ins and outs of exhausting your GI Bill? I vaguely remember something at our vets orientation meeting about being able to finish out an academic year and still get the full benefit even if you run out of months; it's hazy, I could be wrong.


If you have 5 months of eligibility remaining on the post 9/11, you might be able to stretch that out into two full semesters. If you have at least one day left of eligibility starting the Spring semester, your entire semester will be covered. This could potentially save you roughly $50k (tuition + YR + BAH). You would need to talk to the VA coordinator for the specifics, but if you have 5 months and some change you might get a whole school year covered, including the BAH.


Bowser and BB85 - this is huge. Enormous thanks for the heads up; I will look into it ASAP (believe I've got 5 months and 11 days - fingers crossed).

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SemperLegal

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Re: Talk me out of Columbia at near-sticker (Columbia v. Duke $)

Postby SemperLegal » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:03 pm

If SO was with you when you served, go to NY.

I didn't do that and despite having been in LTR for about 6 years now, it get harder everyday (even if you can make it, which IMHO is much harder than in-service because there is a lot more distractions and opportunities).

VA should get you a year for free (but only 5 months of BAH). However, if you are willing to do it, I would be shocked if you couldn't get a 1L SA (or a same pay job at GS/BoA) as a Columbia Vet. Your debt load will likely be the same for a better school, a chance to have a lot more sex, and the ability (if you want) to share 1 bedroom and mooch of the old lady.



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