university education cost

How Much Should You Spend for College Degree: $57,000 or $35,000. Take a Guess.

Raghuram Sukumar Admission 9 Comments

Do you want to know what’s going to happen if you study in the university that is way below your potential?

There are times when you have to settle down for less.

Let’s look at the impact of studying in low caliber university, you could have done better.

During application process, you should have categorized the universities as follows:

  • Target
  • Safe
  • Dream (or Out of Reach)

Your goal is to get admitted into your Target and Safe University.

If you get into Dream, you would be the happiest person anyone can imagine.

But,  what if you don’t get admitted from Dream or Target  list of universities. Be it Bachelor’s Degree or Graduate School.

Would you be happy studying in the Safe University?

My cousin sister applied for Bachelors Degree. Her target University was Brown University (an Ivy League School). She got admit from Brown University and few other good universities. But, Brown University gave her admission for next Fall semester. She had to wait for one more year.

She choose to wait for an extra year to study in Brown University.  But, you may argue that Brown University is in different league on its own. I understand. Here, we are talking about Universities in Tire 3, 4 and beyond.

Would you wait for a semester, reapply to get into a better university or would you go with your safe choice?

An an International student, I bet you are going to  select one university from the universities in Safe  list. Right?

We can have an argument about, how do you determine the “Best University” from the schools admitted you.  Let’s hold that for another day. But, let’s focus on the topic “What is the impact of  not studying in your Target or Dream University?

Here’s the thing:

You will still get the Degree. That degree could get you a job as well. Irrespective of  Safe, Target or Dream university. But, question remains : What’s the impact?

Awesomeness Test

Do you want to be just another average Joe kind of degree holder or an Awesome graduate?

Awesomeness =  Exposure + New Potential Gained + Network of Influential Friends + Quality of Education

Check this article to learn more about Awesomeness Test :  Here’s Why You Should Study in Top Universities

I have seen students decide to to select to attend an university just based on only on the cost factor. Let’s consider the following scenario:

  • Safe University : Admission with $3000 Scholarship. Total Fees per year is $30,000
  • Target University: Admission without scholarship.  Total Fees per year is $35,000

Difference in the Fees is $10,000 for 2 years. With Scholarship taken into account, you save $13,000 for a  two years Masters Degree.

For an Bachelor’s Degree, you save over $20,000 in four years.

So, where will you decide to study between above two options?

One of the biggest challenge is making up your mind to pick one university from multiple admits. I know it’s not an easy decision to make from half-way around the world. International students don’t have the luxury of campus visits like domestic students to get a feel for the university.

Safe vs Target University

I have seen far too many students opting for Safe University. But, here’s the good news.

You would still end up getting a Degree. But, what will be your Awesomeness Score?

It’s going to be less. If you decide to study in a university below your potential, you are going to less Awesome.

Your potential can be improved with practice, exposure and education. Provided you have a growth mindset (not fixed).

When you are restricting your learning opportunity by opting to study in less caliber school, how do you expect to get a better? I’m talking about really improving your potential. I’m already seeing a fixed mindset by choosing to limit yourself.

There’s a reason why you chose a specific university and categorized it as Target University. Maybe because admission requirements are high. Average Test Score requirements are high.

The expectation there is you are going to get a better quality of education.

Decision Making:

When you have a challenge, you got to face it, deal with it and learn from that.

That’s  one main reason why I don’t like student’s paying admission consultants do to all the work for them. You are running away from the challenge. This mindset will make you run away from future, bigger challenges.

Here’s my research based backing of above statement: Students using Admission agents are academically underprepared

If you are coming from countries like India and Asia. The main factor that drives the decision process about study abroad is Money (and cultural beliefs).

When you are presented with two choices – Safe vs Target University.

You are trying to find answers to following questions

  • Can I get a Job if I study in this university?
  • What will be the effective cost of living?
  • Do students get internships?
  • Are there scholarships available?
  • What is the Ranking?

Finding answers are tough. And answers to questions are not as clear as black and white.

  • Can I get a job – Depends
  • Internships – Some students get them
  • Scholarships – Qualified students get them.
  • Ranking – Do they even matter when comparing tier 4, 5 schools?

So, what will you do when questions important to you doesn’t have an clear cut answer?

Under such circumstances, you are going to decide based on definite answers you have in front of you. Which is tuition fees. $13,000 savings becomes amplified and end up becoming the only deciding factor.

I want you to stop right. Don’t do that.

Don’t try to save few thousand dollars and give up an opportunity that can make your life much better.  Tweet This.

Here’s how I look at this scenario.

You failed when you decided to study in low caliber school. You would still get that degree. You can call it a success when you graduate. But, I consider that as a failure.

I’m defining Failure as follows

define failure

You are not going to see the impact of that now as a student. But, there’s going to be a point in your life when you will realize, that value of degree from a better university.

By choosing to study in a low quality school, you are choosing not to reaching your potential. Tweet This.

You could save $3,500 in next two years, but are missing out like $20,000 in extra salary per year for the same position.

Or, you may miss an opportunity to be startup co-founder, just because students  attending target school  just more awesome.

  • More Awesome = Better Opportunity.

You may not have that edge that your coworker would have, when he or she gets promoted with hefty raise in the salary.

So, when it comes to university selection, try not to solve your problem by looking only at the tuition fees.

If you can afford $30,000 today, you should find a way to afford $40,000 to get better education. That extra $10,000 could pay you several thousands in dividends for  years to come. Provided you make the right decision to attend a better university.

By the way, it maybe possible that Safe university might have the course that “Best Fits” your need and career goal. Then it’s a whole new ball game.

Should I Invest $57,000 for Masters Degree?

When I was just finishing up this article, here’s a comment that came from a reader.

auburn university tuition fees

Auburn University Fees is $57,000

Agneeshwar’s question highlights what I stated few paragraphs before.

Here’s three words that stand out, which confirms your ( typical students) line of thinking: “Worth and Fees“.

university degree worth

What would you do if you face similar situation like this.

  • Target University 1: $57,000 in Tuition Fees
  • Target University 2: $35,000 in Tuition Fees

Based on my argument, you would have to go with $57,000. But, can you afford additional $22,000 in College Tuition Fees?

As an International Student, I know it’s pretty tough to afford tuition fee difference of $22,000. But, what do I suggest you do?

Share Your Admission Results

I will talk about that in next blog post. But, in mean time, I want you guys to do the following

  1. Name of Universities you applied  and admission decision (Target, Safe, Dream)
  2. Total fees (per I-20) including living expense in the comments section
  3. Where are you planning to study?



  • University of North Carolina – Admitted – $40,000
  • Virginia Tech – Admitted – $45,000


  • Georgia Tech – Rejected


  • USC – $50,000
  • University of Texas at Dallas – $30,000

Fees listed above are random number.

Time to Write this blog post: 3 Hours and 3 Minutes


  1. hello, raghuram,

    well this is my first comment after making a successful sign up into your website.

    i am following your posts and videos from almost one year in-fact your work online ignited my ambitions of moving to USA .

    I am not “Rude” at you in this context neither i am an expert nor i have an eligibility( i am just an USA F-1 Visa aspirant )to be Rude/critic.

    but i would like to get a clarification from you .

    In some previous videos you said that ” Getting a job in USA has nothing to do with University rank or its heritage or its past glory” but now this post is conveying that a student will get as much as benefit from an university depending upon how much he spends/invests on his university fees .

    now what people like me have to understand finally .
    correct me if i am wrong.

    Thank you for your time ,
    with regards ,


  2. I also feel that Rajeev is absolutely correct. Because money always matters.

  3. I also feel same as Rajeev, money always play a key factor in our lives than the glory and past history.

  4. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog. I came to know about this site a week ago and since then i am reading some articles of my interest.. as i will get my i20 from southern state university, san diego after few days i want to know does it worth and safe going there for MBA..???

    1. No. Studying in the Southern States University in San Diego is not at all worth. Pursuing a degree is a big headache. The faculty in this university is not effective in teaching subjects and don’t possess teaching skills. Quality of education is not too good and don’t have any technological advancements. Front office staff lacks in customer service skills. You will not find correct answers. Instead of spending money and studying in Southern State University, it’s better to study in some other best universities which possess the best teaching faculty and quality of education system.

  5. Hi , I have seen ur videos and I want to know about the universities where the population for Indian is high ..

    1. Here is a list of U.K. universities where Indian population is high:

      University of Bedfordshire
      University of Greenwich
      Middlesex University
      Cardiff University
      University of East London
      University of Salford
      Northumbria University
      Liverpool John Moores University

      1. Here is a list of U.K. universities where Indian population is high:

        University of Bedfordshire
        University of Greenwich
        Middlesex University
        Cardiff University
        University of East London
        University of Salford
        Northumbria University
        Liverpool John Moores University

  6. What a wonderful post! Kudos! Thumbsup! The blog post on target vs safe vs dream universities is awesome. This article clearly explains to a blog owner about the importance of obtaining a degree from target universities vs safe universities. Obtaining a degree from target or dream universities will be having more advantageous when compared to low level universities. Quotes written about studying in the potential universities and asked to tweet us was really fantastic, mind-blowing and inspiring and the quotes are really well-written.

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