whats a fair price for a m. arch degree


it seems that for 3 years at cca in san francisco i will be paying $135,000 for a m. arch degree is that a good price? 

Mar 19, 14 3:00 am

im currently completely free from the chains of financial slavery no credit cards no car payments nothing 

Mar 19, 14 3:03 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

Good question. without googling it I would think the following might make sense. USA prices. lets say the first 5 years out of school don't count towards repayment of school education. In those 5 years you pass your exams and you live in a metropolitan area and at years 6 earn $70k year. Assuming you went the architecture to make a living route and not the starchitect route - granted if you are very skilled or stay around long enough at a destiny firm you could earn same. They say 2/3 goes to living expenses and let's add a little spending money so 1/4 goes to education repayment. After tax 1/4 is about $14k. I am assuming if you are married and have kids your significant other makes nearly the same, otherwise increase requirements. Your Loans basically double in their 20 to 30 year span. So at 14k a year after 5 years on forbearance with 15 years at 14k a year equals 280k divided by 2 for actual loan amount - a $140k education seams Ok. This puts you at about 45 years old with no school loans with your kids most likely less than a decade away from going to school themselves. Hopefully after 15 more years your salary is about $100k to adjust for living expenses. Note this is a very lucrative profession when it comes to moonlighting so if you make less than $70k salary it only takes a few side jobs to make a few extra $10k on the side.

Mar 19, 14 7:38 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

Designy firm... Damn autocorrect

Mar 19, 14 7:39 am

^ ^ Are you for real?

Honestly, how the hell is this nonchalent attitude towards $140,000 in school debt even possible? And why the hell are Americans totally fine with paying back student loans for 20-30 years? Thats insane! No where else in the world will you find the same attitude! (Or prices for that matter).

Holy f***.

Mar 19, 14 9:29 am

No, a degree from CCA is not worth $135k.

Mar 19, 14 9:30 am
On the fence

Its a great price, IF you have $130,000

Its a good price If you have $100,000

Its a bad price if you have less than $50,000

Mar 19, 14 9:32 am
Non Sequitur

... and it's ridiculous if you have $0

Damn silly Americans and their degree costs. No education is worth paying a loan over 20+ years.

Mar 19, 14 9:54 am
I would not pay that much. I got out of my MArch w/ $20k in debt and it was a struggle to pay it back. $135k would have crippled me.
Mar 19, 14 9:56 am

Ben C is exactly right.  If you are currently free from the bonds of financial slavery, why would you even think of doing it?  Low pay, poor employment prospects, zero job security and continual professional frustration are available to any high school dropout.  You don't need higher education to achieve them.

Mar 19, 14 9:58 am

You will probably never pay it off either way. after 8-9 years, expect to be making 55k a year... in a big expensive city.

Mar 19, 14 10:07 am

Also, to moonlight you need to be licensed.  Your not going to get licensed for a loooong time.  Its nearly impossible to within a reasonable amount of time nowadays.

Mar 19, 14 10:12 am

Look at it this way, would you buy a $140,000 car at any point in your lifetime? How about $50,000 or $30,000?

It will be awesome for the first few years and then much like your education it will get out-of-date. But you sunk so much into that initial car(education) that you can't afford upkeep or maintenance. You know fancy cars(degrees) and basic cars(non-insanely expensive universities) both get you from point a(graduation) to point b(license) in about the same amount of time.

And those who didn't spend so much on their first car(degree) can do things like travel the world, go to conventions, go to seminars, build up a meaningful network not just relying on a piece paper to make friends. 

If you start out with a more reasonable car(degree), you can pay it off and move on to other things. And guess what, you can even afford to get a new car after a few years(another degree) because you're not still paying off the first one. 

Mar 19, 14 10:17 am

50,000 is tolerable--some will disagree but this is the maximum I would set for an education. About 600 a month on the ten-year plan, skimp and endure for the repayment decade. Average wage of say 40-50k puts you in a typical middle-class position. It's a financial risk you will have to figure out and decide by yourself. Downsized living but not the end of the world financially.

At 130,000 in loans you have to earn at least $100,000 to live decently (or to survive in expensive cities with inflated housing rates) and that's quite unlikely right out of school in this field or ever for most people. Forbearance is only around 12 months and grad school loans interest accrue from day one at 6.8%, higher than the typical mortgage. $1500 a month for ten years or approx. 900 for thirty. At the median salary, half or more of your income goes to loans and what little left goes to living expenses. No house, cheap apartment, pinched for money. An education and fulfilling-the-dream fantasies is one thing but the cost to get one is absurd and carries grim prospects.

Don't be stupid when it comes to loans. 

Mar 19, 14 10:58 am

The rule of thumb for student loans is to not borrow more than you can expect to make in your first year's salary. 

Mar 19, 14 11:05 am

If I had $140,000 I would use it to buy and flip property.  But, you don't need a degree to do this.

Mar 19, 14 11:10 am

For CCA, I wouldn't consider half that much to be a good price.

Mar 19, 14 11:47 am

pursuing architecture must not be for me then .. what program is worth 130k and why?

Mar 19, 14 12:28 pm

also what about sci arc, i understand from what you're all telling me that paying anything more than 50k for m. arch is not smart. but is a m. arch from sci arc worth more than a m. arch from cca? i havent been formally admitted to sci arc but i expect i might be in a a week or two 

Mar 19, 14 12:40 pm

No degree nowadays is worth that much, not even the absurd medicine or law degree which exists due to the States' crappy individualistic system and incredibly expensive healthcare costs. Even the good fields are seeing unemployed grads since everyone now is graduating and/or switching to the easy road. They too will feel the problems with oversupply and few jobs, or jobs that pay less yet they were fools to pay for the get-rich-quick degree racket.

Only you can decide on this. Everyone's always seeking answers but c'mon, you are legally able to sign and carry the loan until death yet can't decide on whether to assume or even acknowledge the risks? If you surely want to live with money concerns, take the big hundred thousand loan. Or consider a cheaper alternative and chalk up the costs as part of a lifelong investment. Spread around twenty five years (my mistake earlier), a 50k education is only about 350 a month with interest accrued. No cable or other random entertainment crap for the next thirty years sound like much of a problem assuming your job position carries a decent median salary? 

Look at where you want to be ten years from now. Then figure something out yourself. What bugs me about all these "help me choose" threads is the indecisiveness from legal adults defined by age only. 

Mar 19, 14 1:16 pm

I think that what everyone is getting at here is that your initial question has a flaw - the education system, especially in the USA, is largely unfair.

At the same time, that is not an issue that is going to be solved for entry this coming September.

@awesomekeith - You know your financial situation the best - what do you have in the bank? Depending on your age and family structure, do your parents or extended family have money that you might be able to borrow without the high repayment terms of loans? What sort of scholarships have you been offered? What sort of scholarships do students receive in years 2 and 3 at these schools?

You're the only one that can accurately calculate the true cost in the long run!

I'd recommend talking to students who have graduated about 5 years ago from your potential schools to talk scholarships, networks, and post-grad opportunities to help you make your decision.

Mar 19, 14 1:41 pm

It's all about the job opportunities afterwards. If you learn your a's and b's, debt isn't so bad. Especially if they are federally subsidized, income adjustable. Stay away from private loans!

Medical school is "worse" as far as loans nowadays: 300-400k is not out of the ballpark, but they can expect six figure salaries soon after. If the economy needs architects then great, if not, schools cannot morally be profiteers and not expect to be called educational institutions but instead classify themselves as for-profit businesses with big fat warning labels. 

Bottom line, more than 40k in arch school debt (after masters!) is too high.  

Mar 19, 14 1:48 pm

i have made the decision that i want to go, and I even have been giving advice to my peers from arch prep school to 'just go for it and the money will come' as they are also panicking about stupid fucking money. its when i look to those who have been there before me (you guys) that uncertainty arises. just because one is a legal adult does not mean they make the best decisions for themselves. I have made some pretty awful decisions since I have become a legal adult, so I am here trying to get a feel for what I am getting myself into. 

Its like the first response I get to my question is promising even including the fact that I will have loans to pay and then I get every response after telling me I am going to be fucked when I get out. 

ten years from now i would like to be designing and contributing to the built environment across the world. everybody on this website is so down on this profession it seems like that's not even possible if I take the right steps. I want to be an artist and a creator and a business person and I want to push the avant garde and help realize a future of harmony between man and the universe and I want to be involved in architecture in 10 years. I have a vision.

It does help though to get a determination of what is a fair price to pay to get this extra schooling. Because if I do get into sci arc my total loans can be considerably less since I live more locally to there, and I am already working in the area. It is important to know that the cost is something to be highly considered, at least in my case. Had I not come here with my indecisiveness I might just jump head first into a $130k loan, so relax 24 arches were just looking up to those who have been there before. 

Mar 19, 14 1:54 pm


Just contributed to a similar issue on another thread and basically expressed the same thoughts you just posted and got yelled at for being naive :P I basically told everyone that I didn't care about the loans and was going to accept my Penn admission since it's my dream school. I feel that if you work hard and make some sacrifices you can pay off the loans. Also, bust your ass in school and apply to as many scholarships as you can.

Mar 19, 14 2:10 pm
On the fence

"'just go for it and the money will come' "

ok, you need to have a reality break.  This is not the motto you should have nor advice you should give out.

Mar 19, 14 2:13 pm
On the fence


the problem is that you see your future, ten years from now, from being the same age you are right now.  Well, life is going to keep moving you foreward while your student loans drag on for a long time.  Life at 18 or 20 is about you.  Life at 30 is wanting a spouse, home, children, car etc, while seeing everybody around you not in architecture already having those things, and when you get to 30 and you still cant see those things within your next 10 years, you will understand how aweful $135,000 in student debt really is.


My advice though is minimize the loans any way possible.  A degree in architecture can be a good thing but not at plus $100,000 in debt.

Mar 19, 14 2:19 pm

its a surfing mentality , sometimes you gotta drop in even if you think your not gonna make it. you just might slide into the tube of your life. sometimes you just gotta go for it man ! 

Mar 19, 14 2:22 pm
C. Watts

You have to remember that not everyone wants children.  Or a spouse either (actually a spouse and no kids would maybe help with those student debts).  

I'm just saying not everyone wants the same thing, just making observations. And there are a lot of architects out there with no kids and are not married (but have "design partners").

Mar 19, 14 2:23 pm

Exactly. I'm not planning on having kids anytime soon. I'll just be one of those 50 year old parents. Hopefully I'll just be healthy enough to take care of them for a little longer or just not have any period. And for a spouse, well, at least there's not a chance of your career waking up one day and telling you that it doesn't love you anymore. :D

Mar 19, 14 2:29 pm

You're delusional at best, probably just naive at how much of a burden loans can be. Sure, you're no slave to credit cards and car payments now but the loan will become one on top of all those. The adult thing to do is to dwell over the ramifications of signing your legally binding name to a contract. Not hope for the best because movies always end that way or be some sort of idiot martyr trying to justify costs for the greater good. No one cares out there--there are a bunch of people with your same exact goals yet they'll be debt-free one way or another. Free to roam and take on jobs and opportunities you can't; free to do things you won't be able to afford to do. What the hell do you think people are cautioning you for? Read the replies: if over a certain amount, avoid because it is a downer to live with and pay off. This has nothing to do with your architectural dreams or whatever rationale you still cling onto to make the cost seem fair and reasonable. 

I can feed you that happy carefree bullshit if you want. Plenty of that around to share because oh you're so dedicated to the world and oh so passionate and artistic, what can't you achieve? For one, you'll be shit broke and never resemble the class of people you aspire to be. Always dreaming of stuff that you might be able to afford to do just one day. One out of thousands with similar lofty ideals and eager to work for peanuts, thus never paying off their monthly obligation.

I would rather you not fuck yourself up in the long run and fall into a pit of despair doing whatever it is that you intend to accomplish in life. Doubt either you or the other person asking the same questions had dreams that include living like a low wage worker with a graduate degree assuming stable employment or sitting around with unpaid bills that accumulate on top of debt. But whatever, the hell should anyone care for another student way over their head in regards to their future financial outlook. Reach for the stars, right?

Mar 19, 14 2:35 pm

I've worked alongside plenty of MIT, Harvard, and Yale grads that are still making $52k a year 6-8 years out of school.  The school you go to might give you better changes to GET a job, but probably wont make you more money...

Mar 19, 14 2:36 pm
On the fence

Remember this thread and advice ten years from now.  People may sound rude and down about architecture but the advice you are getting is good.  Take it or leave it, it is your decision to make.  You do have a lifetime in front of you.  Just don't say you were not ever given the proper advice, advice that most here were unaware of.

Mar 19, 14 2:44 pm

Well for instate at UIC it's about 31,000 for the whole three years plus living expenses. That adds up to about 50,000. So is my instate out of the question too?

Mar 19, 14 2:47 pm
On the fence


I would not be thrilled with it, but I think it is an acceptable amount to take on for an M.Arch. as long as you don't have another $50-$75K in student debt for your undergrad.

Hopefully during summers you also work and get some grants as well to bring it down further.

I don't think people are trying to get others here to not have an architecture degree.  The idea here is to help you not get fleeced by a school and then hold a degree that will never pay for itself all while providing you a less than ideal lifestyle.

Mar 19, 14 2:55 pm

Well then I'm basically screwed because I have 29,000 in federal loans from undergrad and 5,000 in private, right?

Mar 19, 14 2:57 pm


You're a fucking idiot. 

Mar 19, 14 3:02 pm
C. Watts

That is still significantly cheaper than adding those loans on top of 120-170 K from attending Penn.  Plus, UIC gives more scholarships to their continuing students than to their newly admitted students.

Mar 19, 14 3:04 pm


Hey! Be nice. We are all just having a discussion here. 

Mar 19, 14 3:04 pm
Non Sequitur

The OP doesn't appear to be particularly bright so best to let reality teach him the folly of 100K+ student loans. He might on the other hand prove us all wrong with his vision curing cancer and all of that with his mystical architect'ing and wizardry skills.

Mar 19, 14 3:05 pm

@C. Watts

Hmm I wonder how much aid they give to continuing students. This is actually a really hard decision to make. Upenn is my dream school and I worked so hard to get in and the thought of not being able to go now because I didn't get enough in scholarships is upsetting. That's all. I'm sure that's what awesomekeith is going through right now. 

Mar 19, 14 3:09 pm

Hey non sequitur, fuck you ! Asshole get fucked ! 

Mar 19, 14 3:11 pm

Awesomekieth, You also should consider the amount of 401k and/or IRA money you will not be setting aside for the next eight or ten years and the compounding effect of that money over your lifetime until you reach retirement age. It could easily be another $100,000 or more. Not only that, if you start to repay student loans, there will likely be no spare money to set aside for an IRA or 401k when you do start to make a middle class salary.

Mar 19, 14 3:11 pm

UGH well the thread is over. 

Mar 19, 14 3:12 pm

I can't believe what a fuck you are what did I ever do to you 

Mar 19, 14 3:13 pm


Don't let him get to you. He's just trolling. 

Mar 19, 14 3:14 pm

I have feeling awesomekeith has no idea what he is up against. I will concur that architecture is not a place you want to be. The slave mentality and Stockholm syndrome runs deep in architecture. Everyone finds it noble to work like a slave for next to nothing in the industry. There are many other opportunities "to be designing and contributing to the built environment across the world. everybody on this website is so down on this profession it seems like that's not even possible if I take the right steps. I want to be an artist and a creator and a business person and I want to push the avant garde and help realize a future of harmony between man and the universe".

You could start making something and list it on Etsy without having to pay tons of money for a bullshit education.

I would really refrain from doing what you think is right based on passion and lust. The comments above are no joke.

Mar 19, 14 3:17 pm
Non Sequitur

Funny how reality can appear to be trolling by those who can't think rationally.

@awesomekeith, that's unnecessary, we're just pointing out how ridiculously improbable your expectations are. You're like those fresh undergrads who can't put together a basic wall assembly yet ask for $90K/year salaries.

Mar 19, 14 3:20 pm

@Non Sequitur

Things can be explained politely and in a nice way. No need to be rude. 

Mar 19, 14 3:22 pm

I think he might have a behavioral issue too. Just a guess... both non sequitur and awesomekeith, and perhaps me as well... oh shit, I think you might do just fine in this pond Mr. Awesome!

Mar 19, 14 3:25 pm

Non sequitur , no way your am asshole you came out of your way to slander my name. Haven't you ever heard if you dot have something nice to say to not say it? I wish all bad things to happen you .. I came here with an honest question and got helpful advice until your grumpy shit attitude came along .. I'm not gonna let that slide you need to learn how to respect people 

Mar 19, 14 3:29 pm
Non Sequitur

@awesomekeith, spelling: it's your friend.

It's not our fault you're blind to reasonable advice.

Mar 19, 14 3:34 pm

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