Solution to high college costs and writing advice to gifted 14 year old

A partial solution to the high cost of

Launching Writers Academy @ Pesta Penulis 2011
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college education

If you follow the news lately, higher education costs is in the spotlight. Young people are complaining about being thousands of dollars in debt.

Some schools I surveyed

Is this correct? Is higher education costly? To find out, I decided to call a few Illinois schools. I usually talked with someone in the admissions or register’s office:

  • University of Chicago – This is a top rated school. According to them, one undergraduate course costs $5883. Two courses cost $9908, while 3 or 4 courses cost $13951.
  • Northwestern University – This is another top rated school. The tuition is $4000 per course or $13280 per quarter.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago costs $7,482.00 per semester for 12 hours and up.
  • Northern Illinois University costs $525 per semester hour. The price per hour goes down the more courses you take.
  • Elmhurst College costs $854 per undergraduate course hour. Graduate costs are much less. As it example, it is $700 per semester hour for a business graduate degree. It costs about $15000 full-time for undergraduate semesters.
  •  Benedictine University costs $750 per semester hour.
  • Aurora University $570 per semester hour. Graduate degrees cost more. It’s $625 per MBA semester hour and $565 per semester hour for an MS or ED graduate degree.
  • Harper College (in-district) costs $102.50 per credit hour.
  • College of DuPage (in-district) costs $132 per credit hour.
  • Some colleges or universities seem to have a professional sales staff. As an example, I got screened by the University of Phoenix, which has an online program office in Naperville. I got some questions asked by the first receptionist. It’s one program I didn’t follow though for cost info.

Notice anything interesting about this list? One thing I notice is that Harper College and College of DuPage both have low tuition rates? Why? It’s because the tuition is for in-district students.

How is this useful?

I recently received some literature from the College of DuPage. It talked about students transferring to well rated schools like the University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago.

They showcased how someone from their integrated engineering program. He transferred to the electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois. He mentioned he was doing well academically there.

What is the takeaway? Save money by doing your first two years at the in-district junior college. But have a four-year school in mind to transfer to. See how I used this advice to a fourteen year old on Linkedin this week.

Linkedin question of the week

Writer Wordart
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Don’t let my age fool you, this 14-year-old can write! I do journalism, flash fiction and novels! The only problem is I need to find ways to get paying work. I want something for my time. What should I charge? Where can I find jobs? And what is the best way to get known? Thanks for all for your help!

My answer

I have been in creative writing classes at the College of DuPage over the years. I especially remember a high school youth taking a class with me. He was a gifted writer and science student.

One thing you can do is call the adult reference section of your local library. Go down to the library and ask to see the current edition of Writer’s Market. There is a good section called “What should I charge.” Photocopy it and keep it. There’s also markets for magazine editors, etc.,in this great reference resource.

The other thing is to ask them for your local in-district junior college and local writers groups. Talk to a counselor at the college about taking any creative writing classes they offer. Take the classes (i.e. if possible) and talk to the professors. Visit the local writers groups. Share work and talk with other writers. Local area book stores are also good sources for finding local area writers groups.

Sometimes libraries and book stores have professional writers speak – ask them about this. Go to their presentations. There’s usually a time to ask questions at the end.

long-term goals

But let’s look at your long-term goals. If I was 14 and a gifted writer, I would finish high school. At the same time, I would join a local area writers group (or groups) and share my work there. It’s a good way to get and give group feedback.

I would then attend my local in-district junior college after high school. The costs are very cheap. I would focus on taking any required courses to transfer to a 4 year writing program. While at the junior college, I would take as many English literature, journalism, philosophy and creative writing courses as I can. I would also try to become involved on their newspaper as a writer and/or editor.

Best creative writing programs

The Ghost Writers Logo
Image via Wikipedia

I would transfer to a top school for writing. A good list is found in the article at The 10 best American colleges for writers. But if you want my opinion, I would focus on attending the University of Iowa. I’m not sure why it wasn’t included in the list. You can find out more at Creative Writing Track.

Let me just add this Tidbit. I once attended a talk by a business professional, who was a graduate of that program. He was also a published author and I asked him how he got published. The answer was due to the extensive connections of his professors there.

I guess I’m not losing my mind, after all. The previous list of top schools was compiled by USA Today. But another list compiled by Education-Portal at Best Creative Writing Schools in the U.S. does rank the University of Iowa as number one. It does raise a question on list compilation. What statistical data do they use to publish their results?

Fiction writers must embrace content marketing

One last comment here. Justine Musk is a writer who has an interesting blog. Recently she wrote an interesting 2 part piece, where she argues that fiction writers need to be familiar with content marketing. The piece can be found at are fiction writers screwed? and are fiction writers screwed? part 2.

While the University of Iowa is the target of choice, any school on either the USA Today or Education-portal would be a great target. An in-district junior college gives you time to dabble at a cheap cost. It gives you a chance to dabble in journalism, English Literature and philosophy. In case anyone doubts the last discipline, just look at authors like Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, or Jean-Paul Sartre.

Best graduate schools in creative writing

Front view of the Alma Mater statue
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If you can afford to wait and money weren’t an object, you might want to target degrees through the MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in creative writing. The Atlantic recently came out with this online article entitled “The Best of the Best – A guide to graduate programs in creative writing” at The Best of the Best. What I like is that it gives the top five in various categories.

King and Rowling

One last take on King. He is a good horror fiction writer and his book On Writing is great. But I still prefer the classic horror writers like Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft.

Always try to see visiting writers at libraries, local book stores, etc. I personally know that Anderson’s in Naperville had J. K. Rowling visit, before she was even known. I end with a great article at Where Great Writers are Made. Perhaps you want to find a program that is well-funded, gives free tuition and pays the students to attend the MFA program (i.e. after the junior college prep and 4 year degree in creative writing – see article).


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