New (risky) B.S. program at Ferris State vs. 5-year M.arch at Detroit Mercy or LTU


Hello everyone, hopefully you all can help me with my quandary.

For the last two years, I've been obsessively researching architecture schools, and have narrowed my options down to Detroit Mercy, Lawrence Tech (both in Detroit) and Ferris State (Big Rapids, MI). After scholarships, both Mercy and Lawrence and would be about $20k per year for a 5-year M.Arch. I really like both schools (leaning towards Mercy), but I'd have go into lots of debt...something I'd like to avoid.

I also have a full-tuition scholarship to Ferris. Thus, it'd only be $10k per year for a B.S. in Architecture and Sustainability. If I went that route, I would have to get my M.Arch elsewhere (such as Ball State). The program seems fine, but not as good as Mercy or Lawrence. However, Ferris' program is so new that they are just now graduating their first class. Therefore, I don't know if their grads can get into 2-year M.Arch programs or if they have take 3 years. I called a few nearby colleges with M.Arch programs and got varied answers. Ball State said maybe 2 1/2 years for Ferris grads, U of M and Lawrence said 3 1/2 years, while IIT and Miami of Ohio each said it really depends on the portfolio.

What do I do? I like Mercy the best, but $60k-$80k of debt scares the heck out me. Ferris would be nice (close to home, good food, cheap!), but I fear I may not be able to get into a 2-year M.Arch program, in which case I'd probably have to pay more anyways.

AND, the deadline is May 1st. Thoughts?

Apr 22, 13 7:10 pm

University of Detroit Mercy.  It's within a decent Catholic university, so teaching takes precedence over research and ancillary stuff.  I don't know about Ferris.  Within MI, nobody's particularly impressed by it, I don't think.  Also, from UD Mercy, you can take off after 4 years and try the +2 somewhere else.  I know good students who have come out of UD Mercy.  Pencil out what that loan looks like on a monthly basis before making any decisions.  My recommendation is based solely on the choice of THOSE 3 schools.  Don't know Detroit that well, but is UD Mercy in a decent enough neighborhood?  I think Lawrence is in Southfield or some such suburb.

Apr 22, 13 7:24 pm

Thank you for your perspective. UDM isn't in the best of neighborhoods, but I could live with it. Lawrence is indeed in Southfield, a nice business suburb. As far as monthly payments after UDM, according to, they would be around $600-$750 per month for ten years at 6.8% interest. Ugh. Is that do-able? I could go to Ferris and potentially get a TA position somewhere like Ball State, which would leave me with less debt, but that includes a lot of "what ifs."

Apr 22, 13 11:59 pm

At this point, you need to sit down with family and those close to you, assess what you might do and what you might bring in, figure out what family resources there are, and all of the other "what ifs."  I only opined on the schools.  What about trying a state school in an adjacent or nearby state?  Their tuition tabs vary - from reasonable to ridiculous.

As for resources, the only help I got from my parents was paid airfare to come home for the holidays and school breaks.  Paying down the loans in the early part of architecture is indeed rough.  It's not like one is a doctor or a lawyer.

Apr 23, 13 2:09 pm

At this point, I'm considering only these three schools because of their price. I couldn't find any other architecture schools (public or private) that offered enough scholarships in nearby states. If only U of M was cheaper...they flat out told me I couldn't get any aid because there wasn't really any to give. Oh well. My family should be able to help a little bit, but I think it will just come down to being very frugal.

Anyone else want to comment?

Apr 24, 13 9:22 am

Anyone ready to go $100k into debt for the education required for a career in a field with rampant unemployment is an optimist indeed.

Apr 24, 13 10:10 am

I went to LTU for my undergrad and M.Arch. It was an expensive school, but I have nothing but good things to say about the education. I don't know about other schools, but the studios are very small 12-15 students, so it provides a lot of face-time with the profs. LTU provides students with laptops as part of your tuition that come loaded with Revit, CAD, 3DS Max etc. This might be a factor in considering which school (If your laptop breaks down, you can get another one instead of dealing with the cost yourself.) I don't know much about the Ferris and UDM programs so I can't offer any insight.

I think your concerns with dept are well placed. My advice to you would be to make sure that you have done your research and you know that architecture is for you. I don't mean to discourage you, but I went to school with A LOT of students that dropped out halfway through when they couldn't hack it. I couldn't imagine taking on loans and not having at least a degree to show for it. Loans can be a huge burden to carry, but you can get through it if you want it bad enough. I got a job (luckily) right out of school and I have been repaying my loans and completing my IDP. Livin' the dream!

Apr 24, 13 10:51 am

Anyone willing to go a hundred grand in debt for a degree from a relatively no-name school in order to go into a profession known for low job security and poor compensation even in the best of times-and these sure as hell aren't the best of times-is beyond optimistic.  It's borderline suicidal.  You better spend a LOT of time constructing a game plan for how you are going to survive financially and pay these loans off if you can't make any kind of a living as an architect.  Pleeeaaase do your homework first.

Apr 24, 13 11:04 am

Could you go to community college for the first 2 years? 

Apr 24, 13 11:06 am

Arri has a good point that might be worth looking into. I know that LTU has bridge program with St. Clair College in Ontario. You can do 2-3 years there and tranfer over to LTU.

Apr 24, 13 11:33 am

Thank you all for the input; it's a lot of food for thought. Borderline suicidal...darn. The thing is with CC is that transfer students don't get as much aid as do freshman students. Not counting money from jobs or parents, I'm looking at a total cost of around $100k for UDM and LTU. If I did CC then LTU, it'd come out to about $85k. Ferris then an M.Arch at Ball State would be anywhere from $70k to $110k depending on how many Ferris credits transferred, and if I got a TA position(s).

If I factor in income from jobs/internships and parents, then I could reduce each of those numbers by $30k to $45k. That's the tricky part, though, because there are so many variables. Would I be more likely to get a higher paying job in college if I go straight through UDM or LTU vs. going to Ferris or CC?

I'm driving myself crazy with all these numbers. I've done my homework, and I'm not sure I have any stellar options. However, it would seem as though I have to pick one to become an architect. That said, I'm leaning towards the 5-year direct-entry programs. Would $65k of debt be absurd for an architecture grad?

Apr 24, 13 4:23 pm

What about other publics that aren't that don't slap on a big out of state surcharge for non-residents?  Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, etc.  $65K is kind of high for architecture.  Less so for a business or undergrad engineering or science grad.  What's with Ball State, anyway?  Since it's out of state, why not other out of state options?

Apr 24, 13 4:48 pm

Debt is irrelevant. Don't trouble yourself about your ability to find a job or make a living after running up $100k plus interest in loans. Don't read the threads here about people who can't find work, or can't pay their loans, or licensed architects who are desperately trying to find an alternate career so that they can at least make a living. They are just a bunch of talentless nobodies with overpriced educations from unknown schools.

That won't be you. No way. Not a chance in hell. Especially after a fine education at a globally renowned school like the choices you mentioned. Starchitects the world over will be competing with each other to offer you partnerships.

I'll even offer you one myself. You'll make so much money so fast that you'll ask yourself why you ever doubted yourself.

Apr 24, 13 5:08 pm

Don't you think you're being a little rough on the Beaver, Ward?

Apr 24, 13 6:24 pm

I think he's deaf.

Apr 24, 13 7:01 pm

Beaver? Comment pouvez-vous dire en anglais - chatte?

Le mot Francais pour "beaver" est castor.  Il y a aussi le Lac des Castors dans le fameuse Parc Mont-Royal.  Surtout, le restaurant "Beaver Club" est un des restaurants mellieurs,  et plus cher, de la ville de Montreal, un espece de place que prende cinq etoiles.  N'oubliez pas que les castors grands sont dangereuses quelquefois.

Damn, I loved high school French.  Yeah, the kid is asking about schools and penciling out his options.  I want to find out why, of the out of the state schools, he's quite taken with Ball State.  There are even other schools to pick from in the heartland, some of which are very good and may be cheaper than either UDM or Lawrence.

Man, this thread is getting more mileage than most "should I go to this school or that school" threads?

Apr 24, 13 7:13 pm

I wish I was deaf...I'd get more scholarships. I've been researching tuition rates and scholarships in the Midwest. The only other colleges I could find which are potentially do-able are at least 11 hours away, and even they weren't significantly less: only about a couple grand. I'd much rather be less than a half a day's travel from Michigan. I applied for a lot of schools within that radius, but didn't get much aid. It's a little late in game now, anyways. Also, I'm not married to Ball State; I was just using it as an example of a 2-year M.Arch program.

Jean, since you seem to be down on Detroit, would you recommend Ferris (free tuition) then praying for a TA position somewhere?

Apr 24, 13 7:55 pm

Ok, so you're planning on going THIS fall.  You've already applied.  I thought you were just starting to research for next year.  The one thing that could happen is that, for Ferris, you may not get much advanced standing at an established +2 and almost find yourself with the 3 year crowd.  It's hard to tell.  Still, that option would be cheaper, though tuition increases seem to outpace the rate of inflation.

Apr 24, 13 8:47 pm

All right, I looked at Ferris's website and the program curriculum.  It is in the college of engineering technology.  It's obvious that it stresses technical things, since the program is practical.  In fact, in years 3 and 4, some of the electives are downright vocational (estimating et. al.).  How long have they been at this?  Clearly, a BS Arch is never accredited, so you could go here and then for +2 somewhere else.  The thing is that the +2 had better be another practical school and not a highbrow one.  The practical school will like that kind of training, and the low demand school (which could still be a good school) will too.  The high design school will not.  Find out to which schools its bachelor degree grads have gained admission, if the program has been in existence long enough to have graduated its first class.

Apr 24, 13 9:20 pm

Yes, I am looking for this Fall. As you acertained, Ferris' program is rather technical and practical. They've had an associates degree in Arch. Tech. and a BS in Facility Management for a long time, but they just added the BS Arch degree a couple years ago. Thus, they are just now graduating their first class. From what I've seen, it's a good program, and all the profs are nice, but you hit the nail on the head: I'm not sure how their grads do, because they don't have any! As I said in my first post, I got varying answers from architecture schools as to what program (+2 vs. +3) Ferris grads were eligible for. Furthermore, I wonder if I would have more trouble getting a TA position or scholarship in an M.Arch program.

Apr 24, 13 10:02 pm

Technical and practical, why waste your time with that?

observant, je préfère un petit castor chauve.

Apr 24, 13 10:56 pm

J'ai eu besoin de verifier le mot "chauve."  Je crois que je comprend.  Ooh la la.

Apr 24, 13 11:13 pm

One reason I like UDM is that they seem to be a good mix of theory and practice.

I almost put that in French, but wondered at Google translator's accuracy.

Apr 25, 13 11:15 am


i went to a community college, did 4 years at UDM, worked for a couple years, and went to LTU for the M.Arch.  the CC route didn't really save much as I still had to take all the studios in sequence.  

I really had a great time at UDM, and if you are interested in the traditional college experience, UDM is the way to go.  Some really interesting and talented young professors with a strong interest in social justice and improving the surrounding area. The study abroad program is pretty great, travel to either Poland or Italy. The community design center offers a chance to do some really interesting work as well.   Alumni include current AIA pres. Mickey Jacobs.

LTU is more of a commuter school, didn't seem to have much of a community feel, no dorms, sports, etc.  Also no getting drunk every night of the week, at least for me.  They have much nicer facilities and equip. in general. Its also a much larger school w/ a decent alumni network.    Taubman has been giving them a lot of $ and funding their lecture series.  They've brought Morphosis in to design a new building and have had Thom Mayne in to speak a couple times.  Of course you can still attend the lectures as a UDM student.  I believe the AIAS groups for each school work together for social events. Since its a much larger school, LTU has grads in the leadership of virtually all the major metro Detroit area firms, Harley Ellis, Smith Group, Kahn, etc.

Can't help you with the debt questions, I have about $80k, and if not for my wife's income would have real trouble making the payments.

If I were you I'd look more at U of M, but would prob go to UDM, its a much more well rounded education, and you can always go somewhere else for the M. Arch.

My sister went to Ferris for optometry, so I know a bit about the school, for me an important factor would be the M/F ratio, its pretty terrible at Ferris.

Apr 25, 13 1:00 pm

shuellmi, Thank you so much for sharing your story. It seems you've already tried most of my options.

After reviewing the evidence, I have decided that UDM is the winner. I'm so happy I found this forum; you all have been such a help. I really appreciate it.

Apr 25, 13 1:38 pm

Remember, you made the decision on your own.  You solicited our input.

Personally, I said UDM because I went to parochial schools and that would feel comfortable for me.  I'm sure that there will be a feeling of camaraderie and an emphasis on teaching.  And, like someone said, you could probably go to U of M for lectures and exhibits.  In fact, you could probably go there for +2 if you maintain your Michigan residency and kick ass in school.  That should be your first priority - doing well in school.  UDM doesn't seem like a party school, anyway, so that will give you time to focus on your studies and your portfolio.

Bon chance!  I'm sure you know what that means.

Apr 25, 13 2:19 pm

Ok, dude, I just looked at the UDM curriculum.  In the first 4 years, they have: a design studio every semester, whereas others start full fledged studios in sophomore year,  graphics of both the manual and digital variety, 2 construction classes, 2 environ. tech. classes, 3 arch history classes, and 3 structures classes, so it's all there.  Intro to arch. courses probably imply the theoretical thinking base, and they are provided early on.  It looks better than what a lot of others cram into 4 years.  I noted the per semester credit load and it doesn't  look like you can slack much.  Builds character.

Apr 25, 13 3:18 pm

Yes, I did make the decision, and wouldn't hold any of you guilty for any ill results. As far as the course load, I see what you mean: lots of work. However, I'm not planning on slacking (though, who does) and more character building is welcome. School would definitely be my first priority...and second...and third, etc. The lectures at U of M sound fun; I'll have to look into them. Merci!

Apr 25, 13 9:39 pm

I am a graduate of the inaugural class at Ferris State. We had a class of 10. 4 of us applied to grad schools and we were told the same thing you were being told. However, it was different after we applied. All four of us were accepted at our schools of choice and only a few school made them take the longer MArch program. Those schools were Ball State and Clemson University.We were accepted to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Clemson University, Ball State, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Ferris State may seem a risk but recent graduates have had success getting in to good schools, and when you talk to employers they say that your work trumps what school you may have went to. I know this is posted way late but you should get the perspective of someone who actually experienced it. 

Sep 18, 13 10:16 am
UDM, LTU and Ferris are all regional schools. You should look at a more national program and also one that is more affordable. Unless you want to only work in the lousy Michigan economy?
Sep 18, 13 2:32 pm

Hi donbucholz, I'm so happy the Ferris program worked for you. I like all the profs there and hope it really takes off. That said, I'm happy I decided on UDM. I was able to get a little more financial aid, and the atmosphere here is great. I think it really comes down to personal preference in choosing schools, and it's hard to say with certainty "school A is better than school B."  As far as them both being regional schools, that's fine! It's the education you receive, not the school's reputation that matters.

Sep 19, 13 12:37 am

TheHousePlanMan, I'm glad you're at UDM, because it's a curriculum that looked comprehensive and it looks like there's a good sense of community which you appear to be enjoying.  Schools have personalities.  If you find a school whose personality matches yours, that's an important part of the equation.  It sounds like UDM turned out to be a good match.  Congratulations ... and good luck!

Sep 19, 13 1:02 am

U of D is a great school.

Sep 19, 13 1:56 am
Actually, the schools rep is very critical when you are looking for a job. When I was in Michigan I would have always chosen someone from the larger schools than LTU, UDM etc. Maybe that's not important to you.
Sep 19, 13 8:29 am
won and done williams

gruen, UDM and LTU have produced some very fine designers and professionals. I have worked with many. I'm not sure why you are making such a point to disparage both universities. (FYI I am a graduate of one of those "larger schools" and after many years in the profession see very little difference in professional quality between UDM/LTU graduates and graduates of the "larger schools.")

Sep 19, 13 9:07 am

Why not Michigan ? that a great program, might as well go to the best available. After Mich you go go to grad anyplace as long as you dont suck.

Sep 19, 13 9:18 am

He has already started.  It's Sept 19.  I don't know if it's a 4 year or 5 year commitment.  If it's 4 year, he can move over to U of M, if he wants to.  If not, that's cool, too.

This kid got way more than he bargained for by starting this thread.  That's funny.

Sep 19, 13 11:12 am

@beepbeep. I think he stated that U of M was too expensive.

I am really not a huge fan of UofM's undergrad, while it has a lot of good qualities it is not as pragmatic as LTU, which is where I did my Undergrad (I did my masters at UofM). Personally, I really liked the contrast. Also, untill this year UofM started you in a pre-arch program for two years and then only gave you two years of architecture school, as opposed to LTU which is four years in architecture with studios every semester 6 of which being architecture and 2 basic design. I know it was mentioned that UDM has a very comprehensive program but so does LTU.

Sep 19, 13 12:55 pm

I agree, natematt, on U of M for undergrad.  They're on a 2 + 2.  They've changed their u.g toward the negative, while their grad has changed toward the positive. You don't see much architecture until Year 3.  No, I'm not OCD, I don't think, but checked when people were asking and answering "where should I go" questions.  Students need to be in a studio sequence by Year 2, with graphics and overview / theory courses in Year 1.  However, if you want to do a minor in business, econ, art, or urban planning, the program at U of M would be more amenable to that ... and what a place for someone who wants a broad education from a great university.

I could see UDM as being more comfortable for some, though, if they are of that faith and/or went to parochial schools.  UDM is really small, with less than 4,000 u.g.s.  I didn't realize it was that small.

Sep 19, 13 1:37 pm

^I think the one advantage UofM has is that on average their students are of a little higher caliber. There are of course some great people coming out of all three schools, but you get pushed a lot more in a program with people who challenge you.

Sep 19, 13 2:23 pm
The reason I'm disparaging both schools is because they do not have much name recognition outside of Michigan. I do know they have some fine grads. If the OP plans on staying in the region they are probably fine.
Sep 20, 13 8:54 am

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