Costly

I wanted to call this post something like “A Post on Cost”, which would only be awesome if “post” and “cost” rhymed… Looking at their spelling you’d think they do, but one of the mind-boggling properties of the English language is that spelling and pronunciation are like two second cousins twice removed: sort of related, but few people can actually explain how exactly.

* DH and I got our parking assignments. We will be paying nearly $2k pre-tax for parking for our two cars, nearly $500 over last year’s cost. Seeing the number made my heart sink, but we have tried carpooling and it’s too much hassle. We have multiple kids with various schedules, someone always has to leave early or late, and the parking garage is adjacent to a building where major events take place so it is often full and you can’t get in unless you are a permit-holder.

* In an attack of boredom mixed with anxiety over my kids’ future, more specifically DH’s and my financial preparation for the college aspect of said future, I went online and looked at college costs for about 3 min. My entirely unsystematic search revealed the following pattern:

Private schools (tuition plus cost of living) are $55-65k. Harvard and MIT, total cost  is circa $60k (they hilariously differ by about $30). There are places that cost slightly more than Harvard, like Vandebilt (!), by about $850, or Northwestern, by upward of  $3k. Swarthmore is Harvard+$1.6k, Dartmouth equals Harvard+$4k. I wonder what it is that you get for $65k.

Large public schools are about $20-35k, total cost, for residents. Then they diverge in terms of how much they cost for nonresidents. One the one hand, you have places like UC Berkeley and UCLA, where the cost for residents is $32k but for non-residents it’s additional $23k in tuition, so it ends up costing just like a private school. On the other hand, you have places where the in- v. out-of-state tuition differential is not that huge, like the University of Minnesota at $26k for residents, plus $6.5k for nonresidents. UIUC is in between, with $30k for residents, plus $15k for nonresidents. Florida State university is $21k for residents, additional $15k for out-of-staters.

I am sure I am surprising no one who’s been through the US college system or has had kids in it with the fact that these are all huge amounts of money. There is no way DH and I can pay for private school for our kids, that would be like paying off another house per kid. And that’s not even counting that by the time the third is out of daycare, we will have paid about $250-300k in total daycare costs (about $20k per kid per year) . Kids cost a lot of fuckin’ money. There is no way we can pay three more times that for them to go to a private or even many out-of-state public universities.

If we can help it, we don’t want our kids to be saddled with debt before they even start their life. The system where I went to school was such that college admission was extremely selective, but those who got to attend did so for free, and I am in hindsight very grateful for that, even though I took it for granted at the time. The prices people are supposed to pay here are just ridiculous. Even a good state university requires $100-120k for 4 years, which I am sure if well beyond many people’s abilities. DH and I are not poverty-stricken, but we are definitely not rich enough for Dartmouth. Or its apparently lesser cousin Harvard.

Sure, you pay for the name brand and connections, and you pay for shiny gyms and residence halls, but do the kids really get so much more in terms of education at a $60k/yr versus $25k/yr school? Is freakin’ Vanderbilt worth $61k per year; do these overpriced schools give one so much of a leg up in the world? These are huge sums of money we are talking about for anyone from the middle class.

What do or did you do to pay for college, or your kids’ college? Did you/do you pay for the kids, combine loans with parental funding, have kids work along with loans? Pros and cons?

 

35 comments

  1. In-state tuition for NDSU is something like $8k/yr. The older son is planning on going, has a scholarship, and will be living at home (at least for the first year). We’re splitting the remainder of the cost of tuition after scholarship with him. If I have a better job in a year or two, I would happily pay it all.

    He wanted to go to a private school in the Twin Cities area…at $40k/yr, we just couldn’t handle it. U of MN was also considered. He also thought about starting at NDSU and transferring, but he decided instead that he’ll do some study abroad as it’s insanely cheap through NDSU.

    I’m hugely relieved he decided to stay here as the idea of $160k of debt scared the crap out of me. Even a year at Caltech was less than $25k when I went there. (Admittedly, that was a few years ago…but geez.)

  2. My parents were always up front with us that they would be able to pay for no more than 20-30% of our college tuition, depending on the schools we chose. It was up to us to figure out the rest. So I got good grades, took a sport (fencing) and a music (chorale), volunteered and worked in a lab all throughout high school and won enough scholarship money to pay for 4 years of college tuition, room and board. There’s lots of free money to be had through private scholarships, but it pays to start planning ahead in 8th-9th grade.

  3. It cost me less to go to a top SLAC than it would have for me to go to my state flagship. The sticker cost is not the actual cost by any means. Additionally the costs of living is not necessarily the actual cost of living– I got by a lot cheaper.

    Some of the schools you’ve named are very generous with financial aid and some of them not as generous. Vanderbilt is highly generous and was less expensive for two of my friends from high school than the state flagship would have been (which is why they went). They do get a lot of spoiled rich kids in Lexus SUVs paying full freight, but those kids are subsidizing first generation engineering and pre-med students. Northwestern tends to be expensive and ungenerous (they offered my someone I know less aid than an ivy she got into), but she thought it was worth it since their engineering department is female-friendly– she’s making a lot of money now and didn’t drop out of engineering and major in humanities like all of her friends who went to the state flagship did.

    The research and anecdotal experience says that fancy private schools (and a few elite state schools) do help less advantaged kids. They propel people into higher social classes. They don’t actually have much value added for the elite. Rich kids do just as well at state schools as they do at ivys, conditional on ability etc.

    To get your actual predicted costs for these schools, many of them have online financial aid calculators where you can put in your financial considerations and they’ll tell you how much aid you could expect to get if you went next year. If you don’t make a lot, then the actual price will be much lower than the sticker price. If you do make a lot, then now is a good time to start saving (or to up your saving) in a 529. We put money in every month– it’s a priority for us over most of our other saving and spending, right after being on track for retirement saving.

  4. The tricky thing about colleges in the US is that frequently the highly ranked ones have astronomically high sticker prices but also have very good financial aid. For example, check out the Harvard “net price calculator” https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/net-price-calculator. You could make $150,000/year and pay less than $20,000/year in tuition/room/board.

    In many cases it is actually cheaper to attend a private school with a high published cost but good financial aid than a cheaper school (either lower ranked or public) that does not have as good aid. My husband was a good example of this, he went to a top ranked private liberal arts college for the total cost of $8,000. He would have paid about that per year at our state public university.

  5. p.s. Last I checked Harvard was free for families making under 75K. I’m not sure if that’s still the number. Harvard definitely does not cost the sticker price for the middle class, only the upper class.

  6. Oh, also with those cost of living calculations, your kid is going to have to eat and have shelter whether or not ze goes to college, so it’s not clear that you should include them in the cost of college itself. It’s just that if ze is living at home you’ll be paying them directly and if ze is working presumably ze’ll be paying them hirself. My husband’s summer work generally paid for his living expenses during the school year (because he got paid $$$ to do REU at his fancy undergrad).

  7. Such awesome comments — thank you! My eldest is just starting high school, but since DH and I didn’t go to school here and have no first-hand experience with the system, I am taking this advance opportunity to freak out (and collect sage advice from bloggy folks!)

  8. You might want to read the “cost of college” blog http://costofcollege.wordpress.com, which talks about this stuff incessantly. The public schools generally cost close to their sticker price, but the private ones vary a lot. The average discount is now around 50% (which could be obtained by half the students paying nothing and half full-freight or, as it actually is, by a nearly random process that assigns “merit” and “need-based” aid to students uniformly distributed).

    My son is starting college next year (at UCSB as an in-state student). We started saving in a 529 plan when he was born, under the pessimistic assumption that we would need to pay full-freight at a private school, and have saved enough that we are now projecting that there will be money left in his 529 when he graduates. That most likely means that we’ll be providing him some support in grad school also. (The fields he is currently interested in pay grad students in PhD programs but extract money from MS students, so he may need the funding.)

  9. I went to a private school that out gave out need-based aid (didn’t give out merit-based scholarships). My parents were and are pretty rich by most treasonable standards, but also live in a high cost of living area, and were pretty pessimistic about the prospect of getting financial aid. I still got some financial aid all four years. One of my classmates was bitter that our school didn’t give him any financial aid but his sister went to Harvard for free a few years later.

    Was it worth it? Maybe. I have had a few jobs that came from connections I made whole working as an undergrad doing research. When I was looking for jobs out of grad school last year I had a few interviews based on connections from my undergrad. I think I got a pretty good education in physics, though it would have probably been quite good at a number of other places. My family immigrated to the US and my parents don’t know a ton of professionals outside of their immigrant community and immediate jobs, so I think the added value of making connections was greater for me than for some of my classmates who already had well-connected families.

    Having said that, it was still expensive. I don’t think I would have gone to that school if my parents couldn’t have afforded to pay for most of it. When I was younger and my parents had less money I thought I would go to community college and transfer to a university after 2 years.

  10. As a professor, don’t you get free tuition for family members at your institution? I know many places have this kind of deal, it’s worth looking into if haven’t already.

  11. I am just going to echo the comments above about private schools and financial aid. My brother and I both went to very expensive SLACs which cost our families less than the public universities in our state would have. We were middle class and did emerge with loans but these were small and reasonable. My parents felt the loans were important in giving us a stake in our education (as well as making the cost more feasible). Unfortunately the costs of college are such that while I did do work-study during the year and worked in the summers, this only helped to cover some of my living expenses. It’s just hard with the gap between wages and college costs to earn enough at 19 or 20 to make a dent in those. The loans, however, reminded me that I wasn’t there just on my parents dime – I was spending some of my future money to be there and so I had to think about how I wanted to spend that. I think crippling loans are bad but am not so sure smaller ones that can be deferred for grad school etc aren’t actually useful when you’re young and thinking about what to do while you’re in college (this probably depends on the kid and how much they’re likely to think about this in the context of decision making).

    As to the value of the SLAC? This is hard for me to judge since it’s the primary experience I had. I did take some classes at our local big R1 school but wasn’t enrolled for a degree. I think there is a lot of diversity (intellectual as well as ethnic/racial) at the big universities that we didn’t have at my SLAC and the students I knew were bright, hard-working, and often a little more mature than my SLAC peers (this may reflect the classes I was taking math and chemistry in summer or at night) but I also had opportunities (in research, connections to faculty, feedback on work) from my SLAC which would have been harder to find at the R1 where I took classes.

    A last point is look at Canadian schools. Even for international students these can be less expensive than the U.S. state universities and schools like McGill, Toronto, Dalhousie, and UBC have a lot to offer.

  12. I went to a state school, not even the flagship, honors program w/full scholarship. I got into a top 15 ranked grad program. That is, no, I don’t think the name leads to a better education; a lot of that is up to the student. Grad school though is a whole different game…

  13. My parents were immigrants with two school-aged kids when they moved to the US, so they never had the chance to save up for our college education. I did very well at my large public high school, and also on standardized tests, so I got in to Harvard and was able to attend — thanks to a generous financial aid program — for minimal cost. (This was before the school was free for families making less than $65k/yr.) I had a manageable amount of student loan debt when I graduated, and I also worked part-time (10-12 hrs/wk) and full-time over the summers. I brought in several scholarships with me, but their total sum was small next to what Harvard gave me in grant money. Other elite schools have similar policies. So if your kids really apply themselves, there are always options, I think.

    FWIW, I am very happy with my undergraduate experience — my classmates were amazing, wonderful people who inspired me to work harder and achieve things I didn’t even realize that I was capable of. Most of my profs were equally great. I got to do research in a lab with an excellent mentor and published a paper based on my project. It seems to me that the people with the worst opinions of places like Harvard are the ones who were never fortunate enough to experience the environment for themselves. I can’t think of anyone I know who was actually a student at Harvard and wishes they had gone elsewhere.

  14. I’m late to this (still catching up after vacation), but I have a couple things to add to the other excellent comments. For context: I went to the University of Chicago on full scholarship. The award of the scholarship was merit based, but I think the decision to make it a full tuition scholarship was need-based, or at least need-influenced. I probably would have been able to go without the scholarship, because I would have qualified for a fair amount of financial aid, but the scholarship meant I came out with less than $2k in loans, and that made a big difference in how quickly I accumulated wealth post-PhD.

    Anyway, my opinion is that it would certainly have been possible to get an education on par with what I got at the U of C at my state school, but I would have had to seek it out. At the U of C it just sort of happened, which was lucky for me because I would not have had the knowledge or the self-confidence to seek it out. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that going to the U of C changed the course of my life. I think I could have had a similar experience elsewhere, but not everywhere.

    However, I also do not assume the education I got is better than anyone else’s- I know a lot of people who DID have the knowledge and self-confidence to seek out a great education at their state school, or who went to a state school honors program that created a “you can’t avoid the education” environment I had, etc., etc. Several of my friends from high school went to our state school, and some have done very well. Some have not, for a variety of reasons. All of my friends from college are doing really well. It is hard to say how much the choice of college influenced that, though.

    My kids are far from college age (they are 7 and 4). Unless something catastrophic happens to our family income, they won’t qualify for financial aid- and that is as it should be. So we’re saving in 529 accounts for both of them. We started when they were born, but increase the amount significantly as their child care costs decrease. I want them to be able to find whatever they need in college, just like I did, and I’d like to give them the gift of starting out without large loans, if we can. If our savings fall short for some reason, I’ll probably steer them towards one of our excellent state schools, and advise them to get into the honors program if they can.

  15. I also went to an expensive SLAC for way less than my state flagship. I got tons of financial aid, and the aid increased every year to cover the tuition increases. My state flagship didn’t offer any financial aid.

  16. I used to teach at Florida State and it is one of the cheapest state schools in the country, so I was surprised at you listing it at 21K. That’s the out-of-state tuition – according the the website you used, in-state is only $6,506.50. (That sounds more like what I remember.) Most of the students don’t even pay that – the state legislature set up a program called “Bright Futures” so if you were in the top x percent of your class you could go to a FL university for free, and if you did well enough in high school the tuition would be reduced. The idea was to keep the best high schoolers in the state; they patterned it after a program in Georgia. It’s pretty easy to qualify for the scholarships, and there is very,very little a student needs to do once at university in order to keep them. Of course, the legislature did this before the financial crisis hit. Now money for education is especially tight (with the housing market problems in FL and no state income tax) but there is no way to take that bit of welfare subsidy away from the middle class and rich voters now that it’s in place. I assume you don’t live in FL so none of this is relevant for your kids – you’d still need to pay 21K for out-ot-state tuition.

  17. Sorry, I see what you mean now about the costs – I was looking only at tuition rather than the estimate of tuition + room + board etc.. I guess the number we always talked about was tuition, which is easier to calculate!

  18. I don’t diss Harvard–I’m sure it would be a wonderful place to go to college. I do, however, have a slight chip on my shoulder as the result of being in academia for the past two decades. It’s amazing how many people in academia automatically assume someone who went to Harvard, Princeton, or Caltech must de facto be a better scientist than someone who went to a state school. It’s annoying as hell, and as available faculty positions decline and become more competitive, is becoming positively punitive.

    I went to a flagship state school (UT Austin) and got a bang-up education in electrical engineering (undergrad) and astronomy (Ph.D). The main thing I noticed about a state school vs. a private one is that there is a huge diversity of opportunity but much less active mentoring. If you are prepared to seek out opportunities, everything is there, but I have also seen people get lost in the system. On the flip side, those who thrive in public school settings develop assertiveness and a self-starter attitude that is also a strength.

  19. I went to undergrad at another country and came to US for PhD program in a large urban state school. My tuition and stipends were covered using RA/TA positions. My parents however paid for the first semester which was around 12k.

    You should have some kind of financial subsidy at your current institution for your kids?They gave me 75% off for my kids at my current institution.

  20. I am a recent college graduate. I did my undergrad at a big state school in order to save money. My folks are academics in a similar field as yours, and were in a position where they made enough money to be ineligible for financial aid at the private places, but also unable to actually afford the private places. So I did the undergrad at a big state school and am now doing a PhD at a fancy private school, and thus am graduating with no debt.

  21. I went to Vanderbilt for undergrad, and they have a policy of “Need Blind Acceptance”, meaning they accept or decline you without looking at your finances, and, more importantly, if they accept you, they promise they will make it financially possible for you to attend. My initial financial aid package did not reflect what my family could pay, so we called and they increased it. When my sister went to college 2 years later, we called again and Vanderbilt ponied up the entire cost of my last two years, including tuition, housing, food, etc. If you want to attend a private institution, I would look for a school with that kind of policy. Good luck!

  22. @Astra: I agree that people who graduated from places like Caltech, Harvard, etc., are not automatically better scientists — one would hope that colleagues would take the time to know one another and each other’s work before jumping to conclusions. I think it’s precisely because I went to Harvard, and know that my peers — even the brilliant ones — put their pants on one leg at a time, so to speak (not mention me!), that I am not star-struck by people with fancy pedigrees. I have worked with very talented colleagues from schools I’ve never heard of to fall into that trap. But yes … the name recognition factor comes in handy — especially for people looking for work straight out of undergrad.

  23. “If you are prepared to seek out opportunities, everything is there….”

    Actually, I would say exactly this about Harvard and other schools like it. And I would add that if your child is not a “go-getter” with a bit (just a bit!) of Type-A in him/her, they might feel (socially) out of place at very competitive schools like this. Harvard was great for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for everyone.

  24. I also went to SLAC for undergrad and did a year stint at a SLAC before coming to my current R1. SLACs are really amazing at handing out opportunities to anyone with even a tiny bit of motivation. At my current U, only the super motivated students end up in research labs or doing internships. When I was in college, it would have been weird if you didn’t spend some time in a lab.
    If I were encouraging a kid to look at college options, I would definitely put SLACs on the list next to state schools. The Ivys would probably be at the bottom actually because the students generally are so entitled (but that’s based on my perspective being in grad school at an Ivy!), and the profs aren’t actually interested in undergrads (at least, not the way they are at SLACs) since they’re R1.

  25. As a professor at a highly-ranked SLAC, I cannot emphasize enough: that “the sticker cost is not the actual cost by any means.” The threshold income/asset-load for full pay at a high-endowment institution is surprisingly high. Doesn’t mean they won’t want the kid to accrue a little debt (< $25k total) but that's manageable. Worst mistake some people I know have made over the years is not applying because they think they can't afford it, so freaking naive. Not to mention the crushing fear of any debt at all, also foolish…

  26. I am not sure why wanting to avoid debt is foolish. And $25k is hardly a trivial amount to pay off, especially for someone with a bachelor’s degree in an entry-level job, or someone making $20k per year in grad school.

  27. Sports for undergrad (and a weekend job) and fellowships in grad school paid for my education. My spouse was riddled with debt ($50k) from a top-tier until we recently paid it off. And it didn’t pay off given spouse’s lower salary than mine. In a lot of instances the extra cost isn’t worth it, though I have to wonder if it would’ve been easier to get into work with a better pedigree (especially if you want an academic position and given the Ivory Tower’s obsessions with pedigree). My spouse regularly tells me, “I wish I would have gone to State School instead of Snobby School, and when I go back for my PhD, I’m definitely going to State School. It wasn’t worth it”. Though I think I was told this mainly because of the debt.

  28. @xyk Some debt is fine and manageable– generally they say to limit debt to the expected one year salary coming out of the program. And to limit to subsidized loans only, which are deferred without having to pay interest while you’re in graduate school if you go into graduate school. They don’t have to pay the 25K the first year they’re out!

    The reason it’s foolish to be completely debt-averse is because the lengths people go to to avoid debt often hurt them– failing classes because they’re working full-time jobs etc. If you don’t teach the entry-level courses in your major, you may not see those kids because they’ve already dropped out. They could get out of school and into the work-force much faster or major in something more difficult or etc. to get a higher earnings potential in exchange for a little debt. We have a post on this somewhere in our archives.

    It’s foolish because the return on a bachelors degree is much much higher than 25K (plus interest).

    And 25K is “reasonable” debt for a private school because that’s also a pretty common debt-load for a public school. (And it’s less than many people spend on their first car…)

    Yes, it would be fantastic if the US invested more in higher education, but even given that it doesn’t, the return on education is still over 25K for most people for whom college is a good match.

  29. But we are not talking about the loans being the only way to go to college. We are taking about a difference between us paying the whole way at a state school or taking loans (us or the kids) for private schools. I cannot for the life of me see that the difference in education quality at the undergrad level justifies the drastic additional cost (I did the Harvard calc, we get minimal relief).

    As for acceptable debt, this is under the assumption life unfolds according to plan, which it may not. I got to the US with $800 and a suitcase; a year later I had a kid, which was not part of the plan. Getting credit card debt (since as foreigners we couldn’t get any decent loans) was the only way to cover the difference between the pittance we made and the cost of life and childcare; the plan was to graduate fast and get a real job, which I did. But paying off the debt has been a significant drain and has been in the way of saving for house and everything else. We have been paying it off slowly because our kids are only kids once and I don’t want to deprive them unnecessarily while living super frugally to get rid of debt. But debt is debt and while it sometimes may be necessary, it still sucks to pay off. And in the case of our kids, we are saving and can pay for state school for them, and I don’t clearly see that us getting a second mortgage or them starting as adults with tens of thousands of debt is really worth it just to go to a private school. It’s not the issue if college vs no college; it’s the issue of debt-free college versus debt to go to a private school as undergrads.

  30. Well, for poor kids, it is actually worth the additional cost over a state school, BUT they don’t have to pay that additional cost at most fancy private schools because they’re poor and get financial aid. State schools are underfunded and will be more expensive for many of them, conditional on getting into the prestigious school. (Yes, they may end up with 25K in loans, but it is likely they would get that or more at a state school TOO.) For rich kids, 25K is worth nothing to their parents. So even though the degree is only worth bragging rights over a state school in terms of later outcomes, they might as well subsidize their kids to go.

    Let your kids apply where they want and see what kind of offers you get. You may be surprised. Or you may force them to go to the school where you work. If you don’t want to do that and you don’t want to save if you make a lot of money, then a good way of gaming the system would be to accept a tenured offer at Duke or some other private school with a really generous tuition benefits package for kids of faculty.

  31. Case study 1: I wasn’t sure what I and my parents would be able to afford when I was applying for college a decade ago (I was also from a decent but middling public high school, so even though I had good SATs I wasn’t certain how that would translate to prestigious schools), so I applied to a range of schools that were interesting to me: big fancy ivies, fancy SLACs, *ITs, and state schools of both the safety and flagship variety… I figured why waste mental energy on the pros and cons of each until I knew where I was accepted and what sort of financial aid they’d give? It ended up that I was accepted to one of my stretch/dream schools which also gave me a kick-ass financial aid package. Decision made.

    Case study 2: My friend didn’t get into the fancy ivies but did get into the fancy SLACs and middling state schools. She got bad financial aid packages everywhere so she went with a fancy SLAC because she liked it and if she was going to blow a ton of money it might as well be at the place she knew she could get what she wanted (women’s college, excellent teaching, designed her own major, etc.). She has buckets of debt now from undergrad and subsequent professional schools, but she’s going the public service route which means her loans will be forgiven after a decade of (relatively) poor pay and minimal repayment of loans. Then she’ll go into the private sector and role in piles of cash.

  32. A fear of debt drove me to study at univeristy which did not have tuition fees. (EU) I could choose between prestigous univeristy (with pretty high fees, still nothing comparable to US) or one which is pretty good, and a bit less prestigous, but does not have fees at all. I chose the latter one. The reason being, that undergrad degree is only the first step (at least in my case), and generally all over the world it is similar. Of course, some places are better, but the prospect of being 21 with a huge debt is not funny at all. Some people say, that if everyone has it, than it doesn’t really matter, because then it becomes a norm. But I really don’t like the idea. And I am really happy about my decision. My program is really demanding, and rewarding, lecturers are great, and I’m loving it. And after my undergraduate, I won’t have to worry what to do next. 🙂

  33. Princeton was cheaper for me than my state school, and I almost certainly got better research opportunities at Princeton. As others have written, the sticker price means very little. Princeton, Harvard, and many other schools now give need-based grants, not loans, so graduates don’t become saddled with debt.

  34. “Dartmouth equals Harvard+$4k. I wonder what it is that you get for $65k.” Sexual harassment of the undergraduate females by most of the guys. Wolf whistles while walking across the commons. IMO and observation. Saw a whole lot less of that at Harvard.

    Personally, I went to engineering (undergraduate) at CCNY and paid $1,632 a semester for a full credit load. Books were usually around another $500 to 650. Plus, I had to keep a roof over my head in NYC.

    I got lots of sneering from various people of a certain cast, especially as that was during the age of Open Enrollment. But, as I responded to one especially obnoxious person who shall remain nameless from Cornell: “We may have Open Enrollment, but you have Open Graduation…if you get in, you are nearly guaranteed to graduate. No one will let you drop out, the student services are full of feather pillows and sympathy. Us? We get culled and discarded in my engineering program. Only the strong survive.”

    I had no debt. And I had an interesting job before graduating. If I had wanted to do a graduate program, I had met lots of interesting people doing fascinating work and I could have headed that way.

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