So I made a thread a while back about my current school situation. Long story short I didn't get my admissions revoked and I'm still onboard and admitted to UCLA.
However, a few days ago they finally released their financial aid decisions, and the sum is pathetic. About $500 in grants each quarter (about $2000 each quarter in federally subsidized loans offered, and about $5000 a quarter in some 'Federal Parent Loan' that I have yet to look into more) - no Cal Grant and no Pell Grant in sight. I was accepted into Irvine for the Fall 2008 as well, but did not register because at the time I was not aware of how royally UCLA is going to screw me financially. LA has a much better philosophy department, and in class selection alone in my major (Philosophy) it beats the crap out of what Irvine has to offer. Seeing as I plan to go to school beyond my philosophy BA (I'm looking towards law right now, and if that doesn't pan out I would enjoy teaching Philosophy, as it is very enjoyable to me and a change in majors is not really something I would consider), I'm wondering if the school I go to is really going to matter that much. On a more important note, UCI financial aid is a hell of a lot more enticing. Because of my decision not to register there, I can not currently view what my offer was, but it was to the tune of $18k in grants in a single year, with a considerable amount of subsidized loans offered, as well as un-subsidized. From what I gathered from a few sources, this offer will be there even if I go in the winter quarter, I just won't receive the fall quarter sum. So re-application and re-admittance should open it back up for me.
This is a big intimidating block of text, so I'll break it down into the currently considered pro's and cons for each school. What I'm asking for here is advice, prior experience, or just about anything that can help me decide what's the reasonable course of action.
-Superior philosophy department. Tons of interesting courses offered that UCI does not, especially courses in political philosophy and the philosophy of law.
-Would probably look better on my record, though I'm unsure how much this actually matters.
-Probably easier to find a place and a roommate, as one of my best friends is looking to relocate from Hollywood to elsewhere, and his current lease situation would allow him to move whenever, if I were to decide to room up with him
-I would be starting in the Fall. This is probably a benefit as starting at an odd quarter may interfere with some multiple quarter classes I would want to take.
-Much much cheaper. This is assuming I wasn't mislead about the financial aid that will be available to me. If both schools cost the same there would be no consideration, I would pick LA. But if I can avoid a $20-40k price tag and get an education that is good enough, I'd rather do that.
-Westwood is nice, but I'm not a huge fan of LA in general. I think I'd dig Irvine more. With the extra money from the superior financial aid I could probably get a small 1 bedroom or studio to myself, which would be much preferred over a roommate situation, even if it were a good friend.
-Would be starting in the Winter quarter, as I already chose not to register for the Fall under the impression that my admissions would be revoked anyway (They were simply re-written for LA when I broke my transfer admissions contract. Twice.). Due to some sort of program they have going right now though, I am apparently guaranteed admission if I meet a certain criteria that from what I can tell, I certainly do meet.
I suppose that's about it. Any insight on the value of what is probably a (perhaps marginally) superior quality of education versus cold financial burden - considering my future plans at the moment, would be appreciated.