The following is a a guest post from Yakezie Writing Contest runner-up Katharine Rudzitis.  Katharine is faced with an incredibly difficult decision: attend a prestigious university and go tens of thousands of dollars into debt, or attend a lesser known university, but get a full-ride.  There is a raging debate going on about a bubble in higher education costs.  Please have a read and help provide some insights to one of our very own!  Sam


Whenever an adult walks over to me with that tell-tale gleam in his or her eye, I know what’s coming.  I’m an eighteen-year-old girl attempting to major in math and theoretical physics, and that fact, combined with my avid interest in writing, is prime material for the College Talk.  I firmly believe that graduation from college brings with it a diploma and the unshakable conviction that one must share opinions about college with every single high school senior in the world—academic evangelism, so to speak, and this belief confirms itself with each, “Oh, I heard you started your college visits,” and every die-hard Ivy League alum.


My visits have drawn to a close, and the two paths before me are Amherst College in Amherst, MA, one of the top liberal arts schools in the United States, packaged nicely with a total price tag of $60,000 for my entire four year experience, and Macaulay Honors College, a special division of the CUNY colleges in New York, bringing with it four completely free years of education, a stipend to study abroad, and the opportunities New York has to offer.  A school that consistently appears on those Top Ten Colleges lists, and a school that, unfortunately, few people are aware of, and fewer people respect.

Here lies the dilemma that will hang over me until May: what is worth more?  Do I hold out hope for the connections I’ll make rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and the prestige that a name can give me?  That instant recognition when I fill out the “College” section of my resume? Or will the quality of my education at one of these elite schools manifest itself in a beautiful campus and the condition of the alumni club, instead of the environment in the classroom, and cause me to regret my thousands in tuition gone to waste?


I can choose my Alma Mater to be a school with a recognizable name and then see my own name on endless bank loans, or I can spend four years in New York City for free, without that name and its intangible wealth, but with $40,000 in my pocket, which would otherwise have gone to my tuition for those four years.  I can easily compare the advantages of New York City with those of other locations, and I can spell out the details of the school environment I crave, but I have not yet found a way of putting prestige and free education into like terms.

What will I miss out on if I do go to Macaulay, a rather unusual school without a main campus in the heart of New York City and have to explain its qualities to employers and acquaintances?  On the other hand, my supposed betterment will come to nothing if I spend the next thirty years in an unfortunate job, struggling to pay off the loans for the school that I thought would effortlessly set my life on a certain path.  Every adult I speak with loves his or her former college, regardless of its status of an elite school or not, and presses me to consider that particular college for myself.  This gives me hope that prestige should not win out over price in my mind, but the nagging doubt that I need a fancy name to succeed in life will not leave my restless mind.

I know that every college will involve some amount of work on my part—my struggle to fill myself with every opportunity my school has to offer—and I want my passion for learning to be shared by the students around me.  Would a prestigious school such as Amherst come with its own crowd of the privileged elite, taking some of the value of their education for granted?  On the other hand, would Macaulay, a college designed to pair acceptance letters with full tuition scholarships draw a similar group of students, also taking their education for granted, but for a different reason?  These are questions that I will ask myself until the start of the next school year, and probably for the next few years of my life.


I don’t know whether the price I pay for my education at an elite school will necessarily guarantee me a well-paying, rewarding job after I graduate—and with those college loans, I’d need it—but I do know that I’m quite nervous about not being seriously considered for careers post-college if my school does not have a recognizable name that brings with it good reputations for alumni.  With these concerns on my mind, I will spend the summer weighing the idea of loans to repay against a free college education, an instantly recognizable school versus a slightly more obscure college, and a central campus against a rather scattered group of buildings in Manhattan.  But most of all, I will have to decide if I believe that any school, even Amherst, is worth spending thousands of dollars on tuition when I have a respectable second option, McCaulay, for free.

Readers, please share what advice you would give to Katharine?  Please that everybody’s financial situation is different.

As a reminder, the Yakezie Writing Contest is open for submissions starting April 18th until April 22nd midnight.  Please highlight to anybody interested and start working on those essays!