Columbia verses UCLA $$$

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Where should I go for legal academia?

Columbia at sticker
UCLA with $$$
Total votes: 25

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Columbia verses UCLA $$$

Post by writingbuff » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:28 pm

I have been wrestling with this decision on my own and would appreciate some informed advice. Let me share a little more about my situation:

I want to enter academia and ideally become a law professor. This has been my goal since 2007. I love research, presenting research, helping others with their research, and really enjoy teaching. I would value the chance to teach students in a subject they will be able to leverage into a good career. Obviously this last point is less true ITE, but everything is cyclical and law students and lawyers are a smart bunch. I have confidence the legal profession will find ways to weather the recession and emerge on the other side.

On to the choice between Columbia and UCLA with $$$. Clearly, Columbia wins in name and prestige, important factors in the academy. Columbia also has a much promoted careers in law teaching program, of which I could take full advantage. Honestly, if money was not an issue, I would choose Columbia.

My concern with choosing Columbia is the debt burden. I have not gotten any funding from Columbia, and nor do I anticipate such funding will be forthcoming. We all know debt limits choice. With my debt likely to be high, will my academic goals become unpractical? I have savings that would cover the equivalent my first year at Columbia, but will still need to take out significant loans. In the end I would be looking at $100K - $150K in debt.

Various members of the older legal set have pointed out I could work at a firm, live like a student, and use the money to pay down my debt in 1-2 years. But I am concerned they may be living in an older paradigm. I certainly do not want to count on a firm job ITE. And $150K is a lot to gamble.

While UCLA does not have the name of Columbia, it is a well regarded school and does offer opportunities in academia, especially in California.

I have been offered a generous scholarship from UCLA, so the UCLA route poses less financial risk. I would be able to focus on academic research and publishing and not need to be concerned about my financial situation. I would not have the options I could get with a degree from Columbia, but with no debt, I could consider augmenting my degree with an LLM (like Harvard if I could get it), or a PhD. 5-6 more years of school? I can hear the gasps now, but it is an option.

In summary, I am comfortable taking on some debt as an investment in my future, but taking on debt to the tune of $150K seems to border on indentured servitude. Furthermore, I am concerned such a debt burden will decrease my options. So. What do folks TLS think? Do the increased opportunities conferred by a degree from Columbia balance out the decreased opportunities resulting from massive debt?

I have been thinking about this decision a lot and will really appreciate any input. I am even looking forward to the potentially snarky comments that seem to pop up with regularity in these forums 8) .
Last edited by writingbuff on Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Columbia verses UCLA $$$

Post by lakerfanimal » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:34 pm

Great decision you got there, jealous of the UCLA scholarship :P

If I were you, I'd try to contact Columbia and ask them for more info on their professorship track and the program you mentioned. Also ask them if it would potentially qualify for any loan forgiveness. At UCLA, ask them how they help their students obtain professorships and I guess compare the two programs. Good luck!


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Re: Columbia verses UCLA $$$

Post by eaa1537 » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:55 pm

For you interests in academia I'd go with Columbia. I too have a similar choice between UCLA $$$ vs. Columbia and even though I'm not interested in the same things I'm still 100% confident in my decision to go with Columbia over UCLA. But maybe I'm less debt averse than you? Either way I would try to contact Columbia about financial aid, you won't know whether you can get anything until you try! I'm definitely going to start negotiating as soon as I have a few more offers. Good Luck!!!!


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Re: Columbia verses UCLA $$$

Post by bhan87 » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:05 pm

I'm in the same situation as you are and I'm leaning Columbia at the moment, but you could consider me a prestige whore :wink:

Either choice for me will incur debt, but I just would feel more secure about finding a job going to Columbia. There are a lot fewer biglaw jobs in LA.

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Re: Columbia verses UCLA $$$

Post by writingbuff » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:42 pm

Thank you for the replies. I can't tell you how great it is to get input from those facing similar decisions!

@lakerfanimal: Thank you for the feedback it is great advice to contact both schools. I am just fine-tuning what I am going to ask (writing this post was great practice for me). I am heading to UCLA this weekend (flying out in a couple hours, need to pack!!) I have heard UCLA has been pushing "promising students" towards academia and I was planning on asking about what exactly this "push" entails.

@eaa1537: Thank you! I will contact the Columbia aid office. I have been nervous to call Columbia about financial aid, at first I was just so shocked/honored to get in it did not feel right asking about aid. But I'm ready to ask the aid question now haha. And yes I am super debt adverse, it runs in my family :wink:.

PS with your numbers I think Columbia may be more likely to extend the aid to you than little old moi :lol:.

@bhan87: Thank you for your feedback, it's true even ITE Columbia will give a good shot at biglaw (better than UCLA) and if that was my goal (as it sounds like it is for you), I would choose Columbia! With a biglaw job even at these crazy tuition's the debt will still be manageable (I say as I contemplate going to Columbia and trying for biglaw for 1-2 years to pay off debt before entering the academy...)

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