Friday, December 14, 2012

Paying Our Dues, While Cutting College Costs

By Stephen Ritter

The only thing better than an education is a cheap education. Now I know what you’re thinking, “how good could a cheap education be?” When I say cheap, I’m not talking about the institutional values or curriculum, I’m talking about the price. There are a few ways to go about this, you can earn a scholarship through athletics, you can apply for grants, or you can get an academic scholarship. In Brennan Pendergast’s case, an academic scholarship is allowing him to go to law school for less than half the original price.

“It was a no brainer, I had to take the offer to come here,” said Brennan about choosing Charlotte Law School in North Carolina. He had several schools he could have attended; however, when it came to comparing costs, the numbers didn’t add up.

“I got accepted to several law schools, but when I looked at how much it was going to cost me by the end of the process, I didn’t know if I wanted to be walking around with that much debt over my head. It made me think about the profession all together,” he said. It wasn’t till late in the process when Charlotte came through with a kicker, the Presidential Honors Program—that offered him special benefits within the school as well scholarship money to study there.

“With the other schools I got accepted to I was essentially buying a house,” said Brennan. “With Charlotte I’m buying a ‘pretty nice’ car. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up; its allowing me to go to school and learn my craft without the feeling of having a piano hanging over my head once I did finish the schooling and get a job, which I think has made my experience great so far.”

It took four years of college work for Brennan get to where he is today. After spending his freshman year at Pepperdine in Malibu, California, he transferred to Villanova in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to finish his degree in communications. “I always took pride in my school work; I just didn’t realize that it would pay off so much when it came to law school," he said. "Looking back on my academic career I am extremely thankful that I put so much time and effort into it, otherwise I might not be talking to you today as a current law student.”

In today’s economy jobs are at a premium. For students who have to pay their own way it’s even more difficult because they don’t have the luxury to wait for that “perfect” job opportunity; they need a job as soon as possible to start paying off the loans they used to get that special piece of paper to put over their desk.

So is graduate school or law school the right answer? And if so, is it worth the wait and money? Brennan believes it is. “Absolutely, I think that in today’s current job market the more academic accolades you have the better," he said. "I am in a situation where I need to go to this school in order to prepare myself for another test; there aren’t even guarantees with my situation. But I think it could only help someone to have a masters in their specific field of work; it makes you more desirable to an employer and separates you from the rest of the field.”

Will it be worth it to spend sixty grand on another two years of school that could ultimately earn you more than double that over your lifetime? Could a scholarship sway your reasoning? The bottom line never fails to put things in perspective--how much is my education worth to me? Many fear the late 20’s panic button where they are in a dead end job and have no options, except to go back to school. It’s a cruel reality of the economic situation that we are living in.

Stephen Ritter is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

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