I haven't written on this topic for a while. Then I got a comment on an oldish post. Rather than answer there, where it will languish in obscurity, I thought I would appeal to my readers for some more responses. From Alyssa:
Though the debt is daunting, as a senior in high school hoping to major in Anthro and Archaeo with an acceptance into Oxford (which will only give me a scholarship if I'm from a third world country) tucked under my belt, it seems worth it. However, struck by the thought of so much debt (with the current $ to pound exchange rate the tuition + room + board + extra expenses is about $43,000 (25000 pounds)) my parents forced me to apply to UIC. UIC does NOT have an archaeology program, only an anthropology one. Trying to explain to my parents (who did not go to college during the worst bubble for higher education in history) that debt may be my only viable option for succeeding in my major (compare UIC's lack of an Archaeo program to Oxford tons of onsite excavations and 6 world renowned museums) is near impossible.
For the average student, debt is horrendous. Humanities and Social Science majors on average do not make enough to cover for such costs, but ironically, theirs are the majors that are dependent on the school's resources the most. So when is it worth it? Pay the extra when you have a degree that pays off, but when you didn't really need to pay the extra? Working part time to pay off $130,000 (3 years at Oxford) doesn't frighten me as much as going to a school with a 54% graduation rate just to commit an act of "financial responsibility" does. Though the maxim "a good student does well anywhere" may be true, anyone who has seen a public high school juxtaposed against a magnet high school can attest that such "good students" are still limited by the opportunities within their environment, no matter how gifted they are.
Some of my thoughts.
--Many students don't end up doing anything directly related to their majors. Archeologists: jobs in academics, museums, what else? How do you KNOW this is what you want to do?
--Why UIC? Is that University of Illinois at Chicago? A while back, Stanley Fish was Dean there and did some pretty fancy hiring. In fact, I read that the quality of faculty far exceeded the quality of students! So it may not be such a bad option. I'm sure many students go to grad school in archeology with anthropology degrees.
--What about University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana? That's the flagship?
--Here is my favorite. As a frugal gal, I try to think of OTHER WAYS TO GET WHAT I WANT. So, why not go to a state school and DO AN EXCHANGE PROGRAM AT OXFORD or similar? It should be better known, but, in exchange programs, you often PAY THE FEES OF YOUR HOME INSTITUTION. My son spent a year in France. The Americans from private schools paid $30,000-$50,000; the Americans from state schools paid their in-state fees. FOR THE SAME PROGRAM. In fact, I would check on the exchanges available from state schools before making a decision.
--Summers. With the money you save by going to a state school, you can do summer archeology programs. My cousin leads such programs in Israel and Turkey from his state school in NJ. You could go to Greece too!
Any other thoughts, Dear Readers?