$99,000 to Get a $30,000 a Year Job?

Anatomy of a Horrible Financial Decision

You know, technically the only difference between $30 and $30,000 is 3 zeroes. But in reality it’s a hell of a lot more. And it has a lot of film school graduates crushed under the weight of unimaginable debt for the dumbest reasons you can fathom.

The Art Institutes is the poster child for this madness. The school provides actual job placement figures on their Film & Television Program that prove people just don’t understand numbers. Which is kind of crazy when you think about taking out a $100,000 student loan. Seriously. It’s a little more of a commitment than buying a sandwich at Subway. It’s only slightly better than borrowing money from a loan shark.

But here’s the deal.

Students gladly put themselves $100,000 in debt to use video cameras and editing facilities they could buy outright for less than a fraction of that. In fact since The Art Institutes and other film schools are buying HD video cameras and Final Cut Editing studios, you could buy yourself your own complete professional video production studio for less than $10,000… a tenth of the cost of school.

But the real proof of this insanity comes from the school itself. You’ve heard me say that a film school degree is a joke, but here it is in black and write, directly from the schools marketing material. It says that the average job placement percentage for grads is only $67 percent (2 out of every 3) and the average salary is $31,000.

Let me illustrate to you a little more in depth what $31,000 a year means.

For a normal 40 hour work week that’s about a $15 an hour job. On paper that is $600 a week, but with taxes it’s more like $460 to $480 a week.

Now in the film business, you are NEVER going to be working 40 hours. You can count on 45 to 60 to 80 hours of work regardless of salary for most positions. It is mad competitive. But okay, let’s just look at the money you are taking home. $460 a week times 4 is about $1840 a month.


But what about those student loans. If you borrowed the $99,000 for your Arts Institute degree, like many people I know have, this is what it will take to pay off that loan in 10 years:

Only $1,139 a month. What!? That is more money than most people’s mortgage payment and more than half of your entire income. That would leave you with only about $600 left for everything else in your life… including rent, your car… and um… oh yeah, food. That thing your parents used to pay for. 

This is partially where the term “starving artist” comes from.

But okay, let’s say you cant’ swing a G each month. If you stretch out your repayment over another 10 years your monthly payments go down… a little.

Thank God! Now you only owe $753 a month… or more than one week of your salary. This leaves you with a whopping $1087 a month to pay for rent, car, clothes, and food. And to re-invest in any film equipment you want to buy.. right?

This loan will take twenty years to pay off and is a huge financial burden. This is why families are going under left and right not because of credit cards but because of school loans. And if you are 20 when you take out this loan, guess what? If you can manage to make monthly payments, you will have finally paid it off when you are twice your current age.

But for those of you who can’t swing $753 a month extra, extend your loan a little longer. Don’t worry, the student loan companies will work with you on this.

Okay, now your monthly payments are only $645 a month. Few! And it’s estimated you will only need to be making $77,449 a year (or more than twice what you are currently making at your $31,000 a year entry level job you could’ve gotten without school) to pay it off comfortably (meaning you won’t need to stop buying clothes, food, etc.)

This loan will take you 30 years to pay off. You are going to be 50 years old once you’ve made good and paid $133,000 in INTEREST. Congratulations. Your film degree has now cost you a total of $232,000… and you got to play around with some digital cameras and make short films. Good work!

If you have any respect for yourself and your future at all, skip film school. Join Film School Secrets to learn what to do instead!


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