After Calculating the Costs, This High School Senior Turned Down All 8 Ivy League Schools

College costs
Heather van der Hoop

Today’s smart students know that they can’t ignore the rising cost of a college education — and that every dollar they save now will benefit them in the future.

So when Houston High School senior Ronald Nelson found out that he had been accepted to all eight Ivy League schools — as well as other big-name schools like Stanford and Johns Hopkins — he started doing the math.

“After some thought and consideration of all the schools’ offers, Nelson decided it wouldn’t be worth the financial strain to use this money on his undergraduate education,” reports Business Insider. Instead, Nelson chose a school that offered him a full-ride scholarship: the University of Alabama.

The High Cost of Student Loans

Although going to Harvard or Yale sounds like a dream come true, paying off student loans can become a financial nightmare. The recent graduating class of 2014 had the most student debt of any graduating class in history, according to The Wall Street Journal, with the average student responsible for paying back $33,000.

For Nelson, a full ride at a great state school is a smart alternative to an expensive Ivy League degree. Business Insider notes that Nelson also received additional financial incentives: “Due to his high standardized-test scores on the SAT and ACT, UA waived Nelson’s out-of-state fees and covered his tuition costs. Through the fellows program and his National Merit scholarship, Nelson will also have stipends for extra campus costs and potentially studying abroad.”

Planning for Graduate School

Student loans weren’t Nelson’s only consideration when he selected his alma mater. Nelson plans to go to medical school after he graduates, which means he’ll be in school for a long time. By saving money on his undergraduate degree, Nelson and his family have more financial freedom to make smart choices about graduate school.

So who knows — Nelson may end up with an Ivy League degree on his resume after all! It just won’t be a pricey undergraduate degree that he’ll be paying off for years to come. Instead, he’ll be enjoying a free ride, getting to know his University of Alabama classmates and shouting “Roll tide!”

Want to learn more? Read the full story at Business Insider.

Your Turn: Would you turn down an Ivy League school if it meant getting a debt-free college education? Do you think Ronald Nelson made the right choice?

Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office and Boing Boing.