Ask Stacy — Should I Borrow $80,000 or Forget Art School?

Photo (cc) by *SARCASTICALIOUS*

Here’s a question from a young reader …

I am a 17-year-old senior in high school and will hopefully be attending my school of choice this fall. I have a dilemma that does burden many families: Do I really want to take out an $80,000 loan for a very reputable art school? Or should I skip it all and go to community college for 2 years (which is seven blocks from my high school) and really forget about getting into one of the most selective art programs in the country? Is the loan worth it?
– Seema

Excellent question, Seema: This cost/benefit dilemma is one many students and their families are facing these days.

While I can tell you really want to go to that art school immediately, I think waiting could be in your best interests as well as save you a lot of loan interest. You lose nothing and save a lot by spending two years at a local community college.

As I wrote last summer in “6 Tips to Pay Less for a College Degree”

Consider a community college or other less expensive option for the first two years, then transfer to the university whose name you’d like to see on your degree. This is probably the single biggest way to save on a college education. Not only do you save on tuition costs, attending a community college might also allow you to stay under your parents’ roof and save housing expenses as well.

If you go that route, however, make sure the courses you’re taking at your less expensive school will transfer. Look for an articulation agreement from the school where you intend to graduate to see which schools they accept credits from, as well as the grades they expect you to maintain in order to transfer.

That being said, I’m a little concerned about this statement: “Or should I skip it all and go to community college for 2 years (which is seven blocks from my high school) and really forget about getting into one of the most selective art programs in the country?”

Are these things mutually exclusive? If you don’t borrow $80,000 right now, you’ll never go to that art school? I hope that’s not what you’re implying. If you’ve been accepted at this school now, there’s no reason they won’t accept you two years from now. Perhaps by that time, you will have established yourself as both an artist and student to the extent that you’ll qualify for a scholarship or other financial assistance.

So if you’re asking me whether you should either borrow $80,000 or go to a community college seven blocks from your high school and never attend the college of your dreams, I’d say you’re an artist who’s not seeing the whole picture. There are myriad options between these two extremes. As I mentioned above, you could go to a community college for two years, then transfer. (And, by the way, there’s no law that says you have to go to a community college seven blocks from your high school — they’re all over the country.) You could work part-time and take some classes at the art school. You could work full-time for a year, then go to school. You could apply for any number of scholarships or otherwise beat the bushes for financial aid.

This is an opportunity to learn a lesson that will serve you well in life: When the going gets tough, the tough use imagination in place of money. I want you to have the best possible education so you can follow your dreams. But if possible, I want you to figure out a way to do that without starting life $80,000 in debt. Make sense?

Check out some of these stories – they might help.

Good luck, Seema!

What tricks and tips do you have to offer young people heading off to a college degree that could come with substantial debt? Share in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
2-Minute Money Strategy: How Should I Invest My Retirement Savings?
2-Minute Money Strategy: How Should I Invest My Retirement Savings?

If retirement is on the horizon, you can’t afford to take too much risk, but you also need to make as much as possible. Here are your options.

Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off
Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off

A common behavior becomes increasingly dangerous for those who are 50 or older.

9 Ways to Get Affordable Vet Care
9 Ways to Get Affordable Vet Care

Medical care for your furry friends can be expensive. Here are some tips to get affordable vet care.

8 Products to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
8 Products to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Current events have you feeling anxious? These Amazon products can take the edge off.

The 5 Most Expensive U.S. States for Retirees
The 5 Most Expensive U.S. States for Retirees

If you have or expect to have a modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.