Financial Advice for DPT School? (Long Post)

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Feb 19, 2017
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Hello all!

I am going to apologize in advance for this as it may be a little long, but I am needing a good bit of advice so bear with me.

I am currently a Senior athletic training student at Emory & Henry College (Virginia resident). I will hopefully be taking my BOC in February/March to obtain my ATC credential and I plan to obtain my CSCS as well. I have applied to four DPT programs- Emory & Henry, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and VCU. As of now I have interviewed at and been accepted to Emory & Henry (E&H) and I have another interview at UNC on January 13th.

I have paid my down payment to secure my spot at E&H, but am keeping my options open. If I attend E&H, I can live at home and will only have to worry about tuition (~$35,000/year) as opposed to tuition and cost of living. It is also private so there is little to no scholarship offered besides what they offer us in undergrad. I realize this may be the smart choice and may ultimately be what I decide to follow through with. E&H's program is in its third year with its first class about to graduate. They should be receiving accreditation in May (I have no doubts about them receiving it). They also have a faculty of nationally awarded physical therapy educators, so I know that there is no wrong in choosing to attend. It also happens to be 20 minutes from my house.

On the other hand, UNC is my dream school and has always been. I have also interned at Duke and it is amazing as well. Anyway, I know that UNC's tuition is a little over $17,000 per semester out of state. I cannot find much info on the cost of living in Chapel Hill, but I know that Duke's DPT website puts the cost of living in Durham at ~$27,000 per year (which is minutes from Chapel Hill). Here are my questions...

1)Does anyone know much about the cost of living in the area?
2)What are the best routes for paying for graduate school? (I know loans are inevitable, but I don't want to be in debt forever)
3)Does anyone know how much money I could possibly get in scholarship? (They have quite a few listed on their website, but no prices to go along with them)
4)Can I claim residency after my first year? (Tuition would then drop to around $8,000/semester)
5)Is it silly to even be questioning all of this when I have a DPT program so close?
6) ANY advice about anything at all? I appreciate anything I can learn or find out!

I love my school (E&H) and we have a fantastic DPT program that it would be an honor to attend, but at the same time, I am interested in some new opportunities since I have spent my whole life here. I also know it is not reasonable to go into debt up to my eyeballs when I have a perfectly good opportunity here at home, but I am curious about my options.

Again, sorry for the long post, but I am kind of lost. I appreciate any and all responses!


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Oct 28, 2017
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I'm sort of in a similar situation to you, where I have the smartest financial option available to me, but will also have the option to live in a different area and have some new experiences. Although a lot of people, probably including a lot of PTs, will tell you to go with the cheapest option (balancing tuition and cost of living), I think it's important to note that there are a LOT of factors in picking a school. Even the financial aspect isn't as clear-cut when you start factoring in whether programs do research assistantships or GAs. (My friend is a GA while in PT school and that gig covers half her tuition a year, which made her private school tuition a lot more affordable.) I would get a better sense of the financial situation for all your options and weigh that along with other factors: will you be happy living at home? Would you regret not going to UNC or experiencing life in a different area? And what programs best line up with your interests? What are the faculty like at each?

As to your specific questions...
1. Chapel Hill can vary a lot. If you want to be close in to town and the school, you'll definitely pay for it. But if you don't mind being a few miles out and commuting in, you can save a lot. Check craigslist and zillow listings for rentals in the areas you're looking at.
2. Loans definitely. Some programs offer graduate assistantships at 7-20 hours a week or research assistantships that will cover some of your tuition.
Not sure about 3.
4. Yes! My friend goes to grad school at UNC and was able to get in-state tuition after her first year. I think this depends on the state but it is possible in NC.
5. Not at all. Picking a school is about a lot more than convenience. It can be an opportunity to be somewhere new that you really want to be.
6. I would rank the things that are most important to you about a PT program and figure out which programs match up, then balance that along with finances and overall "feel" of the program (example: I interviewed 2 places recently and one of them definitely felt more like "my kind of place" than the other.) It's hard to put that into words but I think it speaks worlds about where you'll feel comfortable.


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Aug 1, 2017
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I know UNC is your dream school but there isn't any way I could justify the OOS tuition there vs in state or even a private school. Acquiring in state in the 2nd year would offset that quite a bit but I'd make sure that is a certainty before trying. Paying 50% more for UNC than Duke is significant.

The Southpoint mall area seems to have a lot of apartments midway between UNC and Duke. Prices seem to be between 1200 - 1500 for 2-3 BDRM apartments. So you can probably figure about 750 a month for rent and utilities. Other than that, all other expenses would occur whether you live at home or in NC. Duke lists the costs at just under 25,000, with 11,600 being for rent and utilities. So, about 13,000 is for food, expenses, and transportation. Other than rent and utilities, the other expenses occur in both places (home and NC).

I think scholarships are unlikely, but are worth pursuing. You just never know. Did you consider in state schools like VCU and ODU? It seems like you're only saving 10,000 a year in housing while paying 15,000 more in tuition (at E&H - even more at UNC).

In the end, it's where ever you are comfortable. The +/- 30,000 isn't going to matter much over the course of your lifetime.