GSAPP ($170,000) vs CUNY ($67,000)


I recently got accepted to GSAPP and CUNY. 

aprox. ($170,000) vs ($37,000) for 3 years Tuition.

Considering the substantial cost difference, type of education and job prospects which would you chose? WHY?

Things i've heard:

"its more about the work you do than where you went to school"

"for employment name recognition doesn't matter"

"CUNY & GSAPP professors go between schools"

"You really must approach the situation as a long-term investment in your life"


I'm particularly interested in perspectives from current or former students.


​Thanks in advance!

Mar 15, 14 7:17 pm

Is that how much debt you would end up with?

Mar 15, 14 7:37 pm

Thats the total cost of tuition over three years for each school.

Mar 15, 14 9:45 pm

CUNY is about $37,000 for the three years for in state tuition. (not $67,000)

Mar 15, 14 9:48 pm

go to CUNY kick ass. Do that by choosing one of the older associate professors as a thesis advisor, keep them as a reference. Maybe they will even mentor you afterwards. Then if that degree still does not get you where you want you can always do a post-professional on a decent scholarship.

BTW I do not know much about either school. but 170k is outrageous.  

Mar 15, 14 9:59 pm
Enter both in a repayment calculator and then you'll have your answer.
Mar 15, 14 10:08 pm

I assumed that was the cost Pulpito, but that doesn't mean you will have that much debt when you graduate.

If that is how much you will have, I think the answer should be obvious.

Mar 15, 14 11:10 pm

Natematt, no thats just the cost. Post- graduation debt is difficult to calculate because there are second and third year scholarships and financial aid awards that are unknown.

Mar 16, 14 11:16 am

The professors are important, they can bring out the best in you. But, I doubt the professors at gsapp are $130 000 better. Given how shit pay is in this industry, and living with my own student debt right now.... Go to CUNY and like archinet said, you can always do a march II later on at gsapp for the name, plus it would only be 1 year of tuition. Seriously, don't get nearly 200 grand in debt for the name of a school. If you didn't get an entry scholarship don't count on getting on in 2nd or 3rd year. Maybe you will, but don't count on it.

Work hard and come out with a great portfolio. That will get you a job more than one line on your resume that says gsapp.

Mar 16, 14 5:44 pm

My comment was more in relation to your own financial situation, do you have money saved up, are you being supported by a wealthy family, do you have debt already, so on...  Basically, will you be paying for 170k in student loans on the arch job you get when you graduate.

I'm with Catlin about the scholarships. You kind of have to presume it will cost you the full price tag. Where I went to school they liked to frontload the scholarships in order to get people in the door. There were opportunities to work in student instructor positions to get free tuition, but only a few people got those and they were normally those who were close to faculty and would often maintain the positions for the duration of their education.

Mar 16, 14 6:57 pm

Are you accounting for living expenses when you're crunching these numbers?  At minimum, you'll need $25,000 per year to survive.  Are you also accounting for any interest that will accrue while you're in school?  Federal loans accrue interest while you're in school.

Mar 16, 14 10:49 pm

I am in a similar boat, go to UVa for 100K+ or UNCC for 30K+(in state tuition while living with a relative). At the end of the day I don't want to be a debt slave for the next 30 years. PULPITO I advise you think about any future plans you might have, raising a family etc. Those student loan payments will certainly hinder that. Also consider, most famous architects never went to college FLW, Mies, Ando, Le Corbusier etc. At the end of the day its not the school name that makes you successful. 170K for one line on your resume is rather extreme.

Mar 17, 14 8:12 am

Ah, UVa, close to where I live. The president of the University makes about $700,000. But wait, she is also paid an additional $100,000 as a tenured professor of Sociology. And there is more! The school hired her husband as a law professor, so figure in $200,000 more there. And finally the President's son scored a tenure-track professor wanna-be position. And you want to support all THAT with thirty years of grinding debt as an out-of-state student? I would go to UNCC or NC State in a heartbeat.

Mar 17, 14 11:06 am


I agree with you entirely. 

UVa has an amazing program don't get me wrong. I am going to their open house next week to check it out, But in reality I want to live somewhat comfortably, open my own office one day, and be able to support a family. UNCC might not be nationally known, but they gave me some financial assistance and are tailoring their program to my background to expedite my studies there.

I applied to NCSU and was accepted but no financial assistance which is why they are not really an option. 

Mar 17, 14 11:16 am

I think you are making a very wise choice.

Mar 17, 14 11:43 am

@ Volunteer

I feel the same way, I'll sleep better at night anyways. Its funny I have so many former professors telling me to go to UVa but I don't see the logic in it. Debt is crippling, and they won't be there to pay my loans once I'm out.

I know I might have more job prospects if I went to UVa and the degree is more prestigious, but I believe if I work my butt off I'll be fine. I have 2 years experience working for a structural engineer doing calcs and constructions docs, so I think that adds to my marketability. I know how a building goes together and most grads don't have a clue.

I would rather be excited at graduation, ready to get into the working world, tackling IDP and working towards getting licensed rather than being scared out of my mind because I've got to pay 1K or more a month in loans.

Mar 17, 14 12:54 pm

It's astounding how out-of-touch so many professors are with respect to these debt issues.

Mar 17, 14 1:34 pm

Its a no-brainer for those profs because when THEY attended these schools it was a completely reasonable pricetag. The prof I am currently a TA for graduated from the dream school I was accepted to but ultimately had to pass up because of the cost (full ride + TAship at the school I'm currently attending). I struck up a conversation with him about this and he was somewhat in disbelief that I didnt attend the other school - until I pointed out the tuition cost, which had skyrocketed since he had graduated (~10 years ago). He said he was able to pay off all his loans in a couple years because he landed a fantastic job out of school (but again, this was pre-recession and not a reasonable expectation in today's job market).

The point is that, times have changed in the professional world, but the academic world has largely been in its own bubble outside of this.

Mar 17, 14 2:13 pm

I'm going to take the risk with my dream school (Upenn) and won't let money get in the way of my dream. I worked my butt off to get to Upenn and I'm not going to pass it up. I'd rather do it and apply for all the scholarships possible and not get any than to not do it and wonder what if for the rest of my life. I am sure everything will work out in the end. No matter what, I will have to make sacrifices in my life, and I'm willing to start now to go to the school I worked hard to get into and receive the best education I can get. Take a risk! YOLO! Good luck!

Mar 17, 14 2:51 pm

HP -- I urge you to take a close look at how much Penn will actually cost you.  Not just tuition, but living expenses, and the interest that will rack up during your time there. 

After you've calculated that, research what percentage of recent Penn graduates have actually obtained jobs after graduation, and among those alumni who are employed, what their pay range is.  YOLO-ing does not mean living life with reckless abandon.  You have your whole life to YOLO after you're done with graduate school.  

I will just say that I know of quite a few alums who went to better-ranked architecture schools than Penn who are just scraping by with work.  Don't just take a blind leap of faith.  Leaps of faith are good, but they need to be calculated or you're going to be in a world of hurt when you're underemployed and buried in debt.

Mar 17, 14 2:59 pm

I agree with Hp87, live the dream , you only live once.  Columbia is one of the best schools and is known worldwide. Take advantage of the situation and find funding, start a kickstarter campaign.   Also if you really want to reduce debt, be proactive in finding GTF, GTR  positions early , make yourself known to professors even if you dont have that much architecture experience.  They are always seeking students with other skill sets. Good luck  

Mar 17, 14 3:06 pm

In this thread: naive twenty-somethings who refuse to accept that architecture schools are profit-making enterprises that cannot and will not provide them with a job that will service their six-figure debt loads.  

I am actually pleading with you people to take this seriously-- not to be contrarian, but out of genuine concern.  At the end of the day, you are the controllers of your own destiny.  If you choose to be willfully blind to the student debt crisis and the collapse of the architecture profession, then so be it.  Godspeed.  

Mar 17, 14 3:09 pm

@Hp87: In response to Serious Question's post! Penn is expensive but living in Philadelphia is not bad at all. You can easily find places to live from $400 to $600 depending how close you want to live to campus. Living in Philly is super cheap, I live here now. I do not have a car, I take the subway and bus every where. But do not get me wrong, I have roommates. I am not to sure how well it would go living on your own because rent is cheap but I swear utilities are the killer when it is not divided with other people. 

Mar 17, 14 3:11 pm

@cmvander: Oh definitely will be a frugal existence and I will most likely have to find roommates, etc. Regarding @SeriousQuestion's concern, I'm not sure what naive twenty-something he's referring to, hopefully not me. I am just determined, I paid for my entire undergrad on my own and it was hard but doable. Busted my ass, got scholarship, worked as an RA, and came out fine. All I'm trying to say is that if you are determined enough, work hard enough, sacrifice certain things, you can do it all and not have to give up your dreams. Where there is a will there is a way! People who give up make it easier for determined individuals to succeed in life, they remove themselves from our way and our opportunities. The thought of debt and loans is not fun but if you don't take a risk in life, if you don't go against the limits that others put on your or themselves, until you try it for yourself you will never know what the true outcome might've been. Believe, work hard, and everything will pay off in the end. Good luck and thanks for the advice!

Mar 17, 14 3:23 pm

YOLO! Student loans don't go away after you die! True swag is being debt free and saving at least 15% for retirement YOLO!

Mar 17, 14 3:29 pm

Have you ever considered that another type of "risk" would entail going to a lower-ranked but more affordable school, kicking ass, and doing just as well as any Ivy graduate without being beholden to debt?  


There was an Archinect blogger from Cincinnati who worked at Herzog & de Meuron and Fuksas-- those are gigs that alumni from higher-ranked schools would kill to land.   

Mar 17, 14 3:32 pm

"Fail, fail again. Fail better" Samuel Beckett

"The person who doesn't make mistakes is less likely to make anything" - Paul Arden

"YOU CAN ACHIEVE THE UNACHIEVABLE. Firstly you need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You must develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. Try to do the things that you're incapable of. Make your vision where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible" - Paul Arden

"There is nothing that is more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different." - Einstein

Mar 17, 14 3:32 pm

Hp-- these quotes are inspirational but are inapposite to the point I'm trying to make.  You won't have the FREEDOM to make mistakes if you're constantly worrying about how you're going to repay your debt.

Mar 17, 14 3:34 pm

the blogger went to ohio state.  not cincinnati.

Mar 17, 14 3:47 pm


I have considered all of my options, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to argue here. I'm just providing a different point of view. I am aware of the risks in the decision I am taking; however, I am not diving in blindly. I've done my research and I'm exhausting all my resources before I dive in. I am not going to Upenn for it's name, although it would be nice to have, but it's more a personal goal, something I've worked for and has motivated until this point. It's personal really. I know that I will find a way, find the scholarships necessary to leave Upenn without a full three years of debt. 

I went to a public schools and I got a really good job after graduating so I know that it can be done and I'm sure there are students at public schools that are better than those that attend an ivy league. For example, UIC, one of the schools I was accepted to, has a lot of graduates that work for Bjarke Ingels (BIG).  Again, that's not why I'm going to Upenn. With that said, I do believe that everyone should take on the challenges they're comfortable assuming.

Good luck!

P.S. I'm at work so I probably should get off archinect :P

Mar 17, 14 3:49 pm

HP87 and Bwatson, you are setting yourself up for a personal financial train wreck. The air is going out of the educational bubble in general. It has already popped in the law school sector where Ivy League graduates cannot get a job. And what on God's earth is so wonderful about the University of Pennsylvania to warrant an insane level of tuition that directly transforms into a life of financial slavery?

Mar 17, 14 3:52 pm

I realize now that writing YOLO pissed a lot of people lol Sorry you guys, don't take it so seriously :)

Mar 17, 14 3:54 pm

The cost for tuition and general fee for full-time masters degree students in the School of Design for the academic year 2013–2014 (Fall and Spring semesters) is $44,984: of this, $2,492 is a general fee.  

The cost for ONE year of attendance (of THREE years total)-- not including this so-called "general fee," NOT including living expenses-- is about what most employed graduates will make coming out of school.  

Don't just assume that you'll find scholarships out of thin air.

Mar 17, 14 3:59 pm

@Serious Question

I am aware of that, trust me I've done my research. I never said it would be easy :)

Mar 17, 14 4:00 pm

I have no idea what YOLO means. I would guess it means you only live once? As in the guy who is going to UNCC will be able to graduate, get a good job and travel to all the architectural wonders of the world while you be repaying your UPenn loan? Forever.

Mar 17, 14 4:02 pm

Thanks for the concern you guys. Don't worry, I'll figure it out. I'll keep you guys updated :)

Mar 17, 14 4:07 pm
Micah Macaulay

I'm curious to hear what those on this forum that are pushing the "you'll be crushed by debt forever" agenda think a 3-year degree costs at non-ivy institutions. Without scholarships, TAships, etc, it's almost impossible to go through an Architecture education without being extremely close to a six figure debt if not over.

Cost of school is only rising, and that goes for everyone.

Mar 17, 14 4:32 pm

From the Ohio State website (obviously the University of California is much more expensive but the system is in flames).  

Estimated Costs for U.S. Students 2012-2013

All costs are subject to change without notice. A complete list of quarterly tuition charges by program may be found at the Office of the Registrar's website.

  • $12,424 - tuition cost for a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, aslyee, or refugee and a legal resident of the State of Ohio;

  • $30,088 - tuition cost for a US citizen, permanent resident, aslyee, or refugee whose residence is outside of Ohio;

  • $15,166 - estimated annual expenses for room, board, insurance, books and supplies

Mar 17, 14 4:40 pm

^For an out of state student that is about 135,000k which amounts to about the same as an ivy league degree. 

Mar 17, 14 4:44 pm

SeriousQuestion - I'm curious. What is your background and where did you go to school?

I'm also interested in discussion about how the " air is going out of the educational bubble in general. "

Mar 17, 14 4:46 pm
Micah Macaulay

So even for Ohio St. (which seems really low, is that in-state tuition or their flat fee?), 3 years of tuition and estimated expenses compounded comes out to $82,770. That's no small chunk of change either. Add that to any leftover debt from undergrad and you're probably pushing 6 figures.

I'm not trying to be contrarian, just pointing out that education is going to be unbelievable expensive wherever you go.

EDIT: I should learn to read. In-state is around $82k, out of state is closer to $135k

Mar 17, 14 4:48 pm

I went to a top US architecture school-- if you have more questions, you can message me privately.  

Mar 17, 14 4:48 pm
C. Watts

HP -

You should attend the UIC open house just to see how you like it (you never know, you may love it!).  I will be going to the UPenn open house as well, but right now I am leaning towards UIC because of the cheaper cost (I got more scholarship there than UPenn) and the connections to local firms in Chicago (I would pee my pants if I somehow managed to get an internship with Gang).  

However, I know how you feel about making it into your top and wanting to go. If UCLA miraculously emailed me with an acceptance (and little to no scholarship), it would be VERY hard for me to turn it down.  But I believe you should visit more than just your top pick before making your final decision, I have a friend who is attending UPenn right now (same scholarship as you-10%) and while she likes it, there are certainly some negative aspects to the program.  And you can only do so much research for a school online.  Didn't you get accepted to USC with a hefty scholarship? Can't beat dat weather! 

Mar 17, 14 4:59 pm

I'm just gonna put this out there too: part of studying architecture is really just going and seeing things. Experiencing the architecture you aspire to, in real life. It's all part of the education. If you go to the cheaper school, you have THAT much more money to spend on traveling to see places!

Mar 17, 14 8:14 pm

Take a look at this guy. he is rockin it with a degree from Carnagie Mellon

just sayin

Mar 17, 14 8:24 pm

I think everyone is confused. Nobody is arguing that only Ivy's produce good students and that public/state schools don't. We all know that it is not about the school but how the student decides to seize his education. At the end of the day, architecture school is expensive period, so it's up to the individual what he'd like to do. Save a couple grand and go to a state school or go their top one choice. It's all relative to the desire and goals of the individual. 

Mar 17, 14 8:28 pm

You have not been paying attention; it is not a "couple of thousand more". It might be $150,000 difference or more. For what? For effing what? And it is like a house mortgage, buy the time you have paid it back it will be twice that. Do you really think you will be a better architect than the student headed to UNCC who is already working with a structural engineer on projects and knows his way round a construction site? Just WTF is wonderful UPenn going to do for you? The absolute worst supervisor I ever worked under had a MBA from Wharton. He lasted less than a year because he was essentially useless in every aspect of management. Wake TF up.

Mar 17, 14 9:00 pm

umm Hp87 nobody is confused. Its clear that it is up to the student. I was just pointing out a real life example of such a situation that perhaps PULPITO is unaware of. At the end of the day part of the profession is the reality of the pay as an architect and the reality of the cost when studying in the states. One must make the best decisions to get to where they want and if that means going to a state school in order to have more professional flexibility when they are older then perhaps that is the best choice. You can always go back at do a post professional at an ivy if need be on a decent scholarship. 

Mar 17, 14 9:06 pm

lol I love how you guys are so angry that I want to go to Upenn. Never said it was better than any state school. It's just where I want to go. Calm down. 

Mar 17, 14 9:49 pm

Laugh out loud? We are trying to prevent you from getting in a financial position where you can't support a wife and children. But I give up. You are exactly the kind of person the government-backed educational loan system feeds on. Enjoy.

Mar 17, 14 10:18 pm

Umm Hp87 nobody is getting angry- from what I can tell. If anything the joke is on the poor GSAPP students getting schooled by a successful Carnagie Mellon alumni- and that is something I want to make Pulpito aware of to help his decision. 

As for UPenn- never heard of it. I am a Canadian practising in Europe. Sure if you want to burn your money at that school go ahead. Oh btw I know of a few University of Toronto alumni teaching at the GSD...never mind the long list of European faculty also teaching there. 

Mar 17, 14 11:04 pm

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