He Turned Down All 8 Ivy League Schools for Good Reason

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In an age of runaway student loan debt, one high school senior has made the decision to skip prestigious Ivy League schools in favor of a free ride from a public university.

A conscious decision to avoid student loan debt

Ronald Nelson got into all 8 Ivy League schools plus Stanford, Johns Hopkins, New York University, Vanderbilt, and Washington University in St. Louis. No surprise there considering that he has a 4.58 weighted GPA; has taken 15 AP courses; scored a 2260 out of 2400 on his SAT; and a 34 out of 36 on his ACT!

But what was surprising was his final choice of school: The University of Alabama.

UA offered him a full scholarship and admission into a selective honors program. The other schools offered what amounted to sweet first-year admission deals, but the price of tuition would have been much higher in subsequent years.

So the choice for Ronald was easy. ‘I’ve had a lot of people questioning me — ‘Why are you doing this?’ — but after I explain my circumstances, they definitely understand where I’m coming from,’ the student told Business Insider.

I love the choice that Ronald made for himself and for his future. If you want to take a cue from his life, here are some ways you can limit student loan debt too…

Look at employer reimbursement options

Years ago, I got a job with IBM as a bill collector after college because I knew they would pay for my master’s degree. I had to pay for my own books and I had to get a B or better in a course or I’d get no reimbursement. You better believe I got a 3.9 GPA in my first quarter in grad school. I never got less than a B during the rest of the time there because I wanted the tuition paid for my master’s in business management. Thanks, IBM!

Today, you’ll find different employers who offer the same thing. One of them is Starbucks — the maker of overpriced coffee drinks.  They’re now providing tuition reimbursement to employees to earn a bachelor’s degree. This carrot is being offered in partnership with Arizona State and their online curriculum. To qualify, Starbucks employees are only required to work a minimum of 20 hours a week; there is no minimum length of service time required to qualify.

Starbucks will pay half your tuition for the freshman and sophomore years. If you matriculate and make it to junior year, they then offer full tuition reimbursement for both junior and senior year. Perhaps best of all, there is no handcuff requiring you to stay with the corporation after graduation. I applaud Starbucks for stepping up to the plate with this great offer!

Qualify for in-state tuition at an out-of-state college

In years past, one common way to get in-state tuition in a state that wasn’t yours would be to move to that state after high school. Using the idea of the ‘gap year,’ young people would basically take a year off to work in a new state and establish residency. Following that year, they could then qualify for the in-state tuition rate at a state school. But many states are tightening the restrictions on this.


That’s led to a new business I read about in The New York Times. At least one entrepreneur has started a business that will shepherd you through the process of qualifying for in-state tuition when you’re an out-of-stater. But while it is totally legal, it is of questionable ethics.

Fortunately, there’s a different way to accomplish the same thing without the ethics concerns and it’s called the Academic Common Market.  It’s a consortium of 16 states that let you study in a specialized field at an out-of-state college while paying in-state tuition rates. Give it a look and see if it meets your needs.

Participating states include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.   

Do your first 2 years at a community college

I’ve long talked about cutting college costs by doing your first 2 years at a community and then transferring to 4-year school that you plan to graduate from.

Now a new program called AmericanHonors.org takes it a step further. They will guarantee your admission to big name schools if you do the required coursework and maintain your grade point average. Schools like Auburn, the University of Arizona, and George Mason have partnered with American Honors to extend this offer to students, according to The Kansas City Star.

Meanwhile, several other schools participate in the American Honors curriculum program, but don’t necessarily guarantee admission. Those schools include Amherst, DePauw University, George Washington University, Middlebury College, Occidental, Ohio State, and UCLA.

The cost to go the American Honors route is about $3,000 a semester in tuition and fees. While that is a bit more than community college, having that added layer of a big name school guaranteeing your admission down the road is nice.

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