PI: $120k at Mich vs. Harvard sticker (+ others)

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PI: $120k at Mich vs. Harvard sticker (+ others)

Postby halfopensky » Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:59 pm

Hi! First time posting but have lurked for a while. PM me for stats, if you want.

I've heard back from all of the schools I've applied to and am seriously considering five: Michigan, NYU, Columbia, Harvard, & Penn. Since I applied late in the cycle, I've only heard from Michigan as far as merit aid, which is freaking me out a little... And I'm particularly sensitive to the issue of financing my education because I'd like to do a joint Masters in Urban Planning, which basically adds an extra year of tuition (please note I am not asking for advice on whether to do the joint degree program, as I've already decided it's what I want and have been admitted to all corresponding programs at the previously listed schools). I'm expecting the MUP to be least expensive at Harvard, Michigan and Penn (between $23k-$28k/year after scholarships).

I'm from the Midwest and my slight preference is to be on the East Coast, as I've lived on the West Coast for a while but have always wanted to move East (have a few friends over there and like the cities there better). Ann Arbor sounds nice, but I'm ultimately more of a big city person. Then again, proximity to Detroit is a big plus from the city planning perspective. Will be paying all of these schools a visit in the next two weeks.

I've received an offer of $120k over three years from Michigan that I'm hoping to leverage at UPenn. Honestly I'm not sure what to expect from NYU, Columbia, or Harvard, but based on my stats and what I've read here I'm not too optimistic about significant aid and I'm not likely to receive need-based scholarships. Since I'm 90% certain I want to go into PI I'm definitely intrigued by LRAPs at various schools, but have only done real research on Harvard's LIPP, which seems great.

I guess what I'm wondering is if it's a no-brainer to take the money at Michigan or possibly Penn if they come through, or if Harvard's PI loan repayment program and employability gold standard is good enough to justify the debt. I'm also curious about the overall PI connections and government/nonprofit employability after graduation as compared between these five schools. Finally, when it comes to negotiating with Penn, is it worth mentioning admission to Harvard/Columbia/NYU even if I haven't received scholarship offers (yet)?

Any input would be much appreciated. I know that it's hard to give advice without hard number$ from most places, but maybe someone still has something to share. Thank you x a million!

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Re: PI: $120k at Mich vs. Harvard sticker (+ others)

Postby UVA2B » Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:15 pm

When you say you're interested in PI, are you looking for PI that is JD-required, or just PI generally? I only ask because the urban policy masters hints that non-legal careers may be pulling you, which would drastically affect whether you'll be able to rely on LRAP/LIPP (minus at Yale where you can essentially chase rainbows for $6/hour and they'll cover your loans).

I'm more debt averse personally, so I'd probably take the money at Michigan here, but if you're dead-set on JD-required PI, Harvard is definitely defensible if you can stomach that massive specter of debt constantly hanging over your head until it's ultimately forgiven.

Harvard's LIPP is definitely better than the other LRAPs here from my admittedly limited understanding, but when you're talking about relying on LRAPs, people tend to be much less focused on the actual debt number and more focused on how much income you can make before it starts going away. Have you looked into what kind of salaries you can expect in the PI field that interests you? That'll probably be more determinative on your decision (all of this assuming, as previously stated, that you're okay with a towering debt cloud looming over you).

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