Graduate School: Free Vs. Ivy


Hello Archinect,



This question has come up over and over but I was hoping I could get a updated answer for our current time. I will be starting my graduate studies in architecture this upcoming fall and the decision to where to attend needs to be made.
My schools range from state schools to an ivy.

UW-Milwaukee (Free-TA + Deans Fund)
UIUC (24 grand)
University of Oregon (50 grand)
University of Cincinnati (50 grand)
University of Washington Seattle (70 grand)
University of Pennsylvania (100+ grand to attend)


A little background, I am attending UW-Milwaukee for my undergrad and I do like it but I know better options are out there. I also do not wish to stay in the mid-west after I graduate. Those are major reasons why I want to leave, but free is so hard to pass up. What do you guys think? Why am I even thinking about taking out 100 grand in loans?

Mar 29, 13 9:00 am

You should move to Oregon, study green design and date a girl with sleeve tattoos. 

Mar 29, 13 9:25 am

If it was anything else, would you rather pay 100k or get it for free? Go for the free ride. Architecture school is stressful on its own, and adding the financial burden would be a whole lot more on your plate during and after school. 

If you work hard, you'll be a great architect with whichever school you end up choosing. There's a lot of really smart people working at all of these schools. Who knows, some may have even attended the Ivy's, and because of that they will bring that influence to their own work and teaching methods.... for a fraction of the cost!

Mar 29, 13 9:29 am
i r giv up

"If you work hard, you'll be a great architect with whichever school you end up choosing. "


school name recognition matters.

if you plan on being more than average, it will open up tons of opportunities.

i went to a near-ivy for undergrad. it was a huge factor in keeping me employed during the recession (or so most interviewers remarked).

Mar 29, 13 9:34 am


LOL I guess their standards weren't all that high.

school name recognition matters

To those who judge by the cover, yes. You still have to open book and read a few pages to find what's actually inside.

Mar 29, 13 10:17 am

There's no such thing as "near-Ivy". The Ivy League is an athletic conference consisting of eight specific schools, six of which happen to have architecture programs. Yes, they are generally regarded as good programs, but there are plenty of other architecture schools that  can easily hold their own among them. Do your research and pick the program that's best for you, and forget this notion that an "Ivy" label in and of itself is some sort of magic ticket to future success. Picking an architecture school simply because it's in the Ivy League is about as stupid as studying architecture at the University of Florida simply because it's part of the SEC.

Mar 29, 13 11:05 am

are you prepared to pay $600 a month for thr next 15 to 20 years to pay off your $100K+ education? typical starting salary is $35K - $45K a year for new graduates, depending on region. 


i say take the free education and never look back.

Mar 29, 13 11:51 am

Also, read through this thread regarding student loans and debt.,

Mar 29, 13 12:45 pm

I don't know much about the school's you listed, except UPENN. 

My opinion is that it is common to say go to the cheapest, but you must have a gut feeling of what school fits you, what school does the work you are interested in, has the connection and network you want to be a part of. If you want to be more then a shill, if you want to stand out, then the school you go to matters heavily, as you will have more doors opened up for you at well regarded schools then mediocre state schools. If you have no plans to standout, and fall inline with the average, then it will not matter too much what school is plastered on your degree.

Mar 29, 13 2:00 pm

The other comments aside, I would strongly discourage anyone getting a masters degree from the same place you get an undergraduate degree. I think thats one of the worst options for your future. Grad school is a great opportunity to try something else out and see if it fits you better. I'm not encouraging you to take on 100k of debt, but I would definitely look elsewhere than your own backyard. Good offices like diversity. 

Mar 29, 13 2:02 pm

It all depends on your lifestyle and your future plans.  If you anticipate having a family or having large expenditures (e.g. if you move to SF or NYC etc.), it might be better to avoid the loans.

That said, I am a debt-averse person and my primary interests lie with careers that are not highly remunerative.  Saddling myself with debt would probably prevent me from pursuing the career I truly want to pursue.  I turned down a great urban planning program because it would have left me with $80k+ in debt.  Thankfully, a similar program accepted me with great funding, but if that hadn't come through I would have pursued a less-than-ideal degree simply because it was free.

Maybe I'm too cautious.

Mar 29, 13 2:02 pm

im  gonna get a lot of shit for this post but this is what i think...

100k+ for UPENN really? i would understand wanting to take on loans to attend GSD/YSOA and to a certain extent Columbia... but UPENN's reputation is def not on par with the other ivys, if its the ivy tag that u r concerned with... so why bothered paying up that price?  If you want to work abroad, hardly anyone sees UPENN as an "ivy" anyway... most common ppl do not even know this affiliation unless they have the intent of looking it up the in internet.  

and if you still want to go to an "ivy" just for the name and worry about debt, then decline and try to get into GSD/YSOA/Princeton/MIT next yr because they are rich enough to give out generous funding.

it amazes me the amount of threads debating this "100k+ ivy vs free ride"... its almost as if no one actually considered the suitability of the program they applied to or what they want to do with that degree...and just did it becuz its an "ivy"... if your goal is just to become an architect and work in a firm there are tons of ways to achieving that.. maybe ull get some advantage when u are first hired but thats about it.. is it worth 100k+ for the next 20 years? that amount of debt is only worth it if you REALLY REALLY want to stand out doing something unorthodox/participate in the discourse to shape the course of architecture/doing research/teaching/ have a specific goal that only an ivy can help u achieve... but pleasssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeee ppl, dont incur in outrageous debt just to become a practicing architect, and def not just becuz its an "ivy"

It will set you back... I, for one, will never be able to "afford" working for starchitects like tons my friends do becuz the pay is close to 0.... my friend who goes to Columbia had to work for a lesser known firm becuz she cant afford to work for starchitects either... its not even a matter of ability or degree... not everyone can afford to be architects. Think about if you want to be restricted for the rest of your good years (no travel, working in europe, etc) and if its for a damn good reason...

Mar 29, 13 4:06 pm

Have you tried asking any of the other schools for more money? Since it sounds like you are not entirely happy with the free school, it never hurts to ask and it might help you make your decision.

Mar 29, 13 5:57 pm

Spend the damn money!!! You only get to do this once, why not go for the best!

Mar 29, 13 6:07 pm

Yea I was kinda thinking that about UPenn as well , I would probably say that 100 k and over would only worth it if you go to GSD maybe Princeton

Mar 29, 13 6:42 pm

I went to UW-Milwaukee for undergrad and I didn't even apply for grad school there. It has really fallen off the map in the past few years, the school recognition is pretty much non-existant outside the state, and what else do you think you can learn and accomplish with the same professors and design culture in a Masters that you didn't in undergrad? I really think it is important to switch it up, and if you don't want to end up in the midwest, I would get out and build professional connections while you're still in school. 

Mar 29, 13 7:12 pm

... hardly anyone sees UPENN as an "ivy" anyway...

In case my last post wasn't clear enough:

It seems the people who obsess the most about the Ivy League are the ones who have no idea what the Ivy League actually is. The Ivy League consists of Penn, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. No more, no less. Whether people "consider" them Ivy, or if they're "almost" Ivy, is irrelevant. They are what they are. And for a prospective architecture student, that all counts for a hill of beans.

Bottom line: If you're willing to spend $100k on your education, make sure you're doing so at an institution that's actually worth the $100k. Only you can decide that. As mentioned on other threads, there are ways to deal with the debt if you decide to go that route. Whether the school is Ivy, Big Ten, public, or private has jack-all to do with the quality of the program.

As for the schools listed in the OP:

UW-Milwaukee has a solid reputation in the Midwest. A free ride there is nothing to sneeze at.

Cincinnati allows you to apply for in-state tuition after your first year, and you can earn money during your co-op semesters, so factor that into the equation.

Oregon and Washington are well-regarded regionally. Oregon has a strong focus on sustainability.

Penn, from what I understand, is big on parametric design, scripting, etc., and is probably the most avant guarde program if you're into that sort of thing.

It all comes down to what's best for you.

Mar 29, 13 7:14 pm
i r giv up

@jaffe-tard, please don't tell you're going to be as naive as to really think "To those who judge by the cover, yes. You still have to open book and read a few pages to find what's actually inside.".

people are superficial.

architects even more so.

as to close-to-ivy: ever heard of places like stanford and MIT? do you have downs syndrome or are you just really dumb?




let's think of it this way: i rode the last recession tightly in my employed seat. i know a few people who lost their houses. guess how many went to ivy league schools? none. maybe there's no causation, maybe going to an ivy isn't going to keep you from losing your job in the next downturn, but in all reality, it seems like it did over here (nyc).

it matters.

especially if you're assertive enough to make good connections while you're in school. the penn network is extremely strong in urban areas of the northeast. same with a lot of other ivy's and close-to-ivy-status schools.

Mar 30, 13 10:29 am

@jaffe-tard, please don't tell you're going to be as naive as to really think "To those who judge by the cover, yes. You still have to open book and read a few pages to find what's actually inside.".

people are superficial.

architects even more so.

I stand corrected. One look at the transparent cover of your book is all I need.

Mar 30, 13 11:42 am

If you want to be the next big starchitect and dedicate your life to your profession, go with Ivy League. If you want to have a family, don't take on the debt.

Mar 30, 13 12:10 pm
It would be stupid to pay any money to go to school to be an architect.

Name recognition matters, but only to the point that the school you go to needs to be one that the interviewer has heard of. I think that the Cornell grads that I work with make the same money that I do, I went to Rice. If you go to Podunk School of Drafting you might have some trouble getting a job.
Mar 30, 13 12:45 pm

James Petty is correct, if you want to be taken seriously, and by that I mean; teach. Don't get a masters from the school you've attained a bachelors.

Mar 30, 13 1:41 pm

I went to Podunk School of Drafting.

Mar 30, 13 2:07 pm

^ Trying to get a visual on that. Looks like a pretty well-rounded education.

Mar 30, 13 3:27 pm

hopping on the bandwagon to agree with James. The 100k price tag of your ivy may not be worth it, but Oregon or Cincy are solid schools.

Mar 30, 13 5:24 pm

I guess that I will be the first to bring this up. It seems most Americans are not yet aware of the implications of 2010's student loan reform. Student loan payments are now maxed out at 10% of your salary. All balances left over after 20 years are now forgiven. This reform applies to NEW loans. There are restrictions based on the type of loan but it is pretty broad and inclusive.

Now all programs that will require you to take out loans are on a level playing field, since your maximum payment will be linked to income as opposed to total debt. Now cost doesn't have to be as much of a determining factor when making these type of decisions.

I'm new to this forum, so I hope that this won't turn ugly...

Apr 18, 14 3:09 am
Apr 18, 14 3:32 am

Oregon is awfully nice. That would be my choice, even with the debt.

an aside-  i r giv up is a horrible person. (downs syndrome insults, really? fuck you.)

Apr 18, 14 8:09 am

 i r give up.. b.s  going to an Ivy league ain't going to get you connections for projects if you suck.  This ain't business or law where you can fake your way to the top. ;)

Be like Ando - no college education, self-taught, pritzker winner, starchitect.

Apr 18, 14 9:34 am
On the fence

You either are connected right now, because your family is, or you most likely will not be if you go to one of the Ivy8 schools.  That is a simple matter of fact.  Its a club mentality and few outsiders are admitted in just because you go to the same school.  Plus a lot of those types don't behave well meaning that they feel more entitled then the majority of young people do these days.  The attitude gets them places and their connections open doors.

The answer to this question is really very simple.  UW or UIUC

Apr 18, 14 4:02 pm

" it was a huge factor in keeping me employed during the recession (or so most interviewers remarked)."


How would [job] interviewers know what kept you employed? If you were so Ivy-League wonderful where you were why were you talking to the interviewers anyway? 

Apr 18, 14 6:43 pm

In just looking at the rankings of top civil engineering schools in USNWR there is only one Ivy League school and that is Cornell ranked at #9. Lots of state schools, though, like Texas and Georgia Tech are on the list. Since they are ranked WELL ABOVE the Ivy League schools do they refer to themselves as "near Ivy League"? Somehow I don't think so.

Apr 18, 14 7:00 pm

"i went to a near-ivy"


What the fuck does that even mean?  This statement should be proof enough for no one take any of your horse shit seriously.

Apr 21, 14 4:49 pm

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