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The Perks Of A Private College (Hint: It's Not The Cost)
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The Perks Of A Private College (Hint: It's Not The Cost)

The Value Of A College Education

The Perks Of A Private College (Hint: It's Not The Cost)

The Perks Of A Private College (Hint: It's Not The Cost)
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Evan Bonham is a senior majoring in recorded music at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. i

Evan Bonham is a senior majoring in recorded music at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Alex Welsh for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Alex Welsh for NPR
Evan Bonham is a senior majoring in recorded music at New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Evan Bonham is a senior majoring in recorded music at New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Alex Welsh for NPR

Imagine you had the option of going to a top state university on a full ride or a prestigious Ivy League for about $20,000 a year. Would it be a hard decision? What would you choose?

Four years ago, Becca Arbacher had to make that decision. She chose Columbia in New York City over the University of Michigan.

And she's glad she did.

"Being at Columbia has offered me some really incredible opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise," says Arbacher. "It's kind of impossible for me to guess what my experience would have been like at Michigan."

This week, we're meeting students and families that made different decisions about college. Some chose the big state school while others went with the most popular option: community college.

Arbacher is among the minority: Around 20 percent chose a private, and more expensive, college education.

In her case, the financial burden fell to her widowed mother, Judith. But in other families, loans make an expensive school possible.

Evan Bonham selected NYU's Tisch School of the Arts to study music production. He has about $75,000 in loans, and looking back, he wishes he had talked more about the cost of college.

"Now that I'm getting ready to graduate, the debt is really starting to creep up on me," he says.

But Bonham's mother, Angela, reminded us that it's not just about value for money, but about values. The value of providing your child the best educational experience she or he can attain, even if the cost hurts.

"If you've told your children early on ... that if they do well they can go to the college that they'd like to go to," she says, "then you hold to that promise."

Meet Three Students Who Picked A Private College

  • Becca Arbacher

    Rebecca Arbacher
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    High School: Montgomery Blair High School Magnet Program, Silver Spring, Md.

    Debt: None

    Choices: Columbia; University of Michigan; University of Maryland, College Park

    Major: Physics and political science

    Career Goal: A job at the "intersection of science and policy."

    "I've been very lucky to grow up in a family that treated my undergraduate education as a time for exploration and really figuring out what I wanted to do."

    Becca Arbacher On Columbia
    • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/437262597/439240137" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Evan Bonham

    Evan Bonham, a senior majoring in recorded music at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, poses for a portrait at Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side on Sunday.
    Alex Welsh for NPR

    High School: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda, Md.

    Debt: $75,000

    Choices: NYU Tisch School of the Arts; Morehouse College

    Major: Recorded music

    Career Goal: Music producer

    "For me, it was about how I wanted my life to end up and I thought NYU would be the best place, being in New York City. It sort of had the best opportunities for me."

    Evan Bonham On NYU
    • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/437262597/439240206" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Margie Fuchs

    Margie Fuchs
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    High School: Montgomery Blair High School, Communication Arts Program, Silver Spring, Md.

    Debt: $18,000

    Choices: Georgetown University; University of Maryland, College Park; Boston University

    Major: English

    Career Goals: Journalist or English literature professor

    "At Georgetown, most of the classes, for me at least, are smaller, which means thats it's a more intimate setting where you really get to interact with material and other students and professors, in ways that challenge how you're thinking. You see new points of view and I think that is fantastic."

    Margie Fuchs On Georgetown
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  • How We Did This

    This week, we're talking to students who went to high school in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. It's considerably more diverse than the rest of the nation: Nearly one-third of its residents are foreign-born. It's also more highly educated, with more than double the national average for bachelor's degrees.

    Jessica Cheung contributed reporting for this series.

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