High School Senior with a few questions

Pilot 2 B

New Member
I'll be graduating HS this July and trying to figure out the best, for me, path to become a commercial pilot. There's so much info out there, and so many groups with agendas, that its become difficult to determine my best path forward. I live in North NJ and have been accepted to several four year Universities with aviation/pilot programs - Utah State University, Eastern Kentucky, University of Nebraska Omaha, and University of Minnesota at Crookston.

I definitely want a four year degree, but not necessarily need it to be aviation based since I know I can be a commercial pilot other ways. I see my choices as:

  1. Attend a traditional, non aviation, four year university, get my private pilots license separately, and then train at some place like AA's Cadet Academy for my commercial license;
  2. Attend a local two year community school that has a pilots program (Mercer Community College) and then transfer to a four year University, either with an aviation program or not, continuing at a place like AA's Cadet Academy to get my commercial training. Problem with this is I don't get to truly start my "college experience" since I will continue to live with my parents and there is almost no social life at most 2 year schools;
  3. Attend a 4 year University that has specific aviation degrees (I’ve been accepted to several), get a bachelor’s degree from one of these and take their aviation courses and train directly through the university. I believe at graduation I will have my private license and my commercial license, although I may still need flight time depending on the specific training offered (I assume that's when I do the flight instructor route).
  4. Spend summers getting a private pilots license, maybe trying to work at a local airport in exchange for training, and then get training via one of the ways above.

I'd really appreciate some advice from you pros, focusing on advice that includes going the four year college route since I'm definitely do that before trying to fly commercial. Cost is always an issue, but the non aviation portion of the four year program should not be added to the decision since I am doing that no matter which way I go to get my certifications. Its really hard to break out all the pilot related costs in each program, but I assume college programs would be set up to make less of a markup than a for profit flight school.

Thanks everyone!
 

bimmerphile

SuperCritical™ Member
Several folks I know went to Mercer cough. Have you been down there to check it out yet? I'm not exactly sure what they're charging these days for the flying since it got farmed out to Infinity. They have one of those cadet program things worked out with Piedmont, too. Transfer your credits to Thomas Edison and finish it online while flying. Just try to finish it in 4 years.
If cost is an issue, Mercer will probably be the cheapest. You can save money living at home, as unpleasant as it sounds, but it'll pay dividends down the road if you can use the money you'd have otherwise spent on housing flying your butt off and knocking out your ratings as quickly as possible. The faster you get to ATP mins, the better.
If you don't want an aviation degree, figure out the cheapest way to get your ratings while in school Part 61, and try to get a CFI or some flying job as quickly as possible.
PM me if you have any questions, and welcome to JC!
 

Pilot 2 B

New Member
Mercer says I'd graduate the 2 yr program with a Private Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating and Commercial Single Engine Land Certificate (remember I want a 4 year degree so I need to transfer somewhere when I finish).

One problem with Mercer is you only get 58 AVI credits, so I'd get a restricted ATP of 1250 hours rather than 1000 hours at the 4 yr schools.

Mercer claims the 2 yr degree program costs $65,000, although the numbers are hard to follow. - flight fees are $23,000 for the year, so $46,000 for both years plus roughly $11,000 for the "regular" tuition, which leaves a hole of $8,200. My guess is the $8,200 is a slush fund for flight fees over the minimum, which I assume nobody ever can do.

They also say I'll get 250-300 flight hours in their program.

For the four year schools, on top of their "regular tuition" the cost of aviation runs roughly $58,000 at Utah State, $40,000 at both Nebraska State and Eastern Kentucky.

The real money savings is the Room and Board at Mercer and the reduced tuition.
 

Nihon_Ni

Well-Known Member
There's as many options as there are schools out there. I'd start with your budget and let that narrow down your choices. Stick with what you can pay for, not what you can borrow. Unless you have a way to bank roll a four year school out of the gate, I'd start your education at a community college for a lot less than a traditional university. I understand the desire for the "college experience" but it's honestly not worth the difference in price between the two. Remember, you're going to college to get a degree, not to get a college experience. Being goal oriented will serve you well in your journey as a pilot. Besides, you don't necessarily have to live at home to attend a community college, although a lot of students do because it's the cheapest route.

Another thing for you to consider -- whatever pilot job you take after college will be where you build most of your flight time -- CFI, banner tow, pipeline, whatever. Ask around to see how many hours per month you'd fly in that job, then consider that as you compare the 1000, 1250 or 1500 hour ATP requirements. If you work somewhere that you fly 100 hrs per month, there's only a few months difference between the restricted ATPs and the full ATP. If you can fly 40 hrs a month, it's an extra year working that job. My point is, be sure to consider all your options and do a risk reward analysis of them. If you could save yourself $40K of tuition by working for an extra year in an entry pilot job would it be worth it? Only you can decide.
 

Dexter

Hop off there, Blonde Ambition Tour
I'd say pick a university you want to go to that has an ATP flight school at the local airport. Go have fun in college and get your 4 year degree in something useful. Figure out a timeline to knock out your ratings with ATP (Working on private and instrument your first two semesters, knock out commercial and CFI over the first summer) and instruct there during your sophomore-senior years of college.
 

Jordan93

Well-Known Member
I got my Bachelors in economics and flew on the side and got my ratings throughout college. I made it to the regionals only a few months after my friends that went to Aviation schools like Riddle, WMU, UND, etc except I wasn’t $100K in debt.
 

bimmerphile

SuperCritical™ Member
Mercer says I'd graduate the 2 yr program with a Private Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating and Commercial Single Engine Land Certificate (remember I want a 4 year degree so I need to transfer somewhere when I finish).

One problem with Mercer is you only get 58 AVI credits, so I'd get a restricted ATP of 1250 hours rather than 1000 hours at the 4 yr schools.

Mercer claims the 2 yr degree program costs $65,000, although the numbers are hard to follow. - flight fees are $23,000 for the year, so $46,000 for both years plus roughly $11,000 for the "regular" tuition, which leaves a hole of $8,200. My guess is the $8,200 is a slush fund for flight fees over the minimum, which I assume nobody ever can do.

They also say I'll get 250-300 flight hours in their program.

For the four year schools, on top of their "regular tuition" the cost of aviation runs roughly $58,000 at Utah State, $40,000 at both Nebraska State and Eastern Kentucky.

The real money savings is the Room and Board at Mercer and the reduced tuition.
There are a lot of scholarships available at mercer too. I got a few when I was there, (granted the aviation program was much smaller back then) but it paid for my tuition and probably my instrument ticket.
It's probably the cheapest still. The opportunity cost of being able to build time while you're in school is where it's at. I'm guessing you can probably CFI at those big name schools by Junior year and attempt to recover/offset some of those expenses. The 250hr difference is negligible, maybe 3 months of flying if you're busy. Not worth the extra tuition costs imo.
 

Pilot 2 B

New Member
There are a lot of scholarships available at mercer too. I got a few when I was there, (granted the aviation program was much smaller back then) but it paid for my tuition and probably my instrument ticket.
It's probably the cheapest still. The opportunity cost of being able to build time while you're in school is where it's at. I'm guessing you can probably CFI at those big name schools by Junior year and attempt to recover/offset some of those expenses. The 250hr difference is negligible, maybe 3 months of flying if you're busy. Not worth the extra tuition costs imo.
Thanks I appreciate the response, I never truly thought about how much more sense it makes to go to a 2 year flight school like Mercer than it is to go to a 4 year school and be in a massive amount of debt.
 

bimmerphile

SuperCritical™ Member
Thanks I appreciate the response, I never truly thought about how much more sense it makes to go to a 2 year flight school like Mercer than it is to go to a 4 year school and be in a massive amount of debt.
No problem. Let us know what you end up doing and please feel free to PM if you need any help or have questions.
 

Pilot 2 B

New Member
I got my Bachelors in economics and flew on the side and got my ratings throughout college. I made it to the regionals only a few months after my friends that went to Aviation schools like Riddle, WMU, UND, etc except I wasn’t $100K in debt.
You must have gone to a 4 year state school then if there was $100K spread since you still had to pay for the lessons. For me, I can attend Eastern Kentucky for roughly 10K a year plus flight fees (my dad has residency in an adjoining state which gives me tuition at $1000 over instate. At Utah State University the first year is $20,000 plus flight fees and the remaining three years are roughly $10,000 plus flight fees since you become an instate resident in Utah year 2 (laws are liberal regarding this matter in Utah).

Truthfully, the only way I see a 100K difference is if your friends went to a place like Riddle, which clearly is the costliest way to go or they just went to a $50,000/yr for profit school and paid extra for flight fees outside the school. I imagine the spread between 2 yr community (Mercer) and 4 yr state (Eastern Kentucky) is really only about $10,000 since I'd still need to transfer to a state for years 3 & 4.

Kind of makes Mercer an OK choice, but not as much of a slam dunk as it appears at first blush.
 
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bimmerphile

SuperCritical™ Member
You must have gone to a 4 year state school then if there was $100K spread since you still had to pay for the lessons. For me, I can attend Eastern Kentucky for roughly 10K a year plus flight fees (my dad has residency in an adjoining state which gives me tuition at $1000 over instate. At Utah State University the first year is $20,000 plus flight fees and the remaining three years are roughly $10,000 plus flight fees since you become an instate resident in Utah year 2 (laws are liberal regarding this matter in Utah).

Truthfully, the only way I see a 100K difference is if your friends went to a place like Riddle, which clearly is the costliest way to go or they just went to a $50,000/yr for profit school and paid extra for flight fees outside the school. I imagine the spread between 2 yr community (Mercer) and 4 yr state (Eastern Kentucky) is really only about $10,000 since I'd still need to transfer to a state for years 3 & 4.

Kind of makes Mercer an OK choice, but not as much of a slam dunk as it appears at first blush.
Eh perhaps. If you're OK with staying in Eastern Kentucky or whatever to finish a bachelors and teach at that school, then it may be cheaper. NJ resident rates are 6k per year at TESU if I remember correctly. You could move to any flight school in the country and make more money while finishing a degree online.
 

Pilot 2 B

New Member
Eh perhaps. If you're OK with staying in Eastern Kentucky or whatever to finish a bachelors and teach at that school, then it may be cheaper. NJ resident rates are 6k per year at TESU if I remember correctly. You could move to any flight school in the country and make more money while finishing a degree online.
In state in NJ got really expensive. I know Rutgers runs about 22K a year plus room and board, not including any flight time, so I assume all the NJ states are similar
 

bimmerphile

SuperCritical™ Member
In state in NJ got really expensive. I know Rutgers runs about 22K a year plus room and board, not including any flight time, so I assume all the NJ states are similar
Yeah, that's a brick and mortar school. tesu.edu is the online NJ state school and it's $7500 (just looked it up) for as many credits as you can take in a year.
 

Pilot 2 B

New Member
That's 100% the wat to do it if the decision was 100% about money. Unfortunately, saving that money takes away the "college experience" for all 4 years. Agreed that years 3 & 4 I would be out flying and earning air miles, but still, I think for me the decision needs to balance getting it done fast with not wanting to lose out on my college years.

A personal decision no doubt.

I think I need to figure out the total costs down to the penny for the 4 year schools, Eastern Kentucky, Utah State, and Nebraska so I can weigh the cost with the benefit of attending a 4 year school, wither from the beginning or from my junior year.
 

bimmerphile

SuperCritical™ Member
That's 100% the wat to do it if the decision was 100% about money. Unfortunately, saving that money takes away the "college experience" for all 4 years. Agreed that years 3 & 4 I would be out flying and earning air miles, but still, I think for me the decision needs to balance getting it done fast with not wanting to lose out on my college years.

A personal decision no doubt.

I think I need to figure out the total costs down to the penny for the 4 year schools, Eastern Kentucky, Utah State, and Nebraska so I can weigh the cost with the benefit of attending a 4 year school, wither from the beginning or from my junior year.
Yep, lots of calculations required. Just remember that timing is everything and your peers not in aviation don't have the same time constraints as you might in your career path, so if they're out partying and you have a lesson in the morning it'll take some self discipline to stay focused.
 

Jordan93

Well-Known Member
You must have gone to a 4 year state school then if there was $100K spread since you still had to pay for the lessons. For me, I can attend Eastern Kentucky for roughly 10K a year plus flight fees (my dad has residency in an adjoining state which gives me tuition at $1000 over instate. At Utah State University the first year is $20,000 plus flight fees and the remaining three years are roughly $10,000 plus flight fees since you become an instate resident in Utah year 2 (laws are liberal regarding this matter in Utah).

Truthfully, the only way I see a 100K difference is if your friends went to a place like Riddle, which clearly is the costliest way to go or they just went to a $50,000/yr for profit school and paid extra for flight fees outside the school. I imagine the spread between 2 yr community (Mercer) and 4 yr state (Eastern Kentucky) is really only about $10,000 since I'd still need to transfer to a state for years 3 & 4.

Kind of makes Mercer an OK choice, but not as much of a slam dunk as it appears at first blush.
Yes I went to a state school that was around 4K a year. I drove to school, lived at home, and tried to live as cheaply as possible to pay for flight training.
 

Screaming_Emu

Great and Unmatched Wisdom
I did my first semester in Crookston. I knew my first day there that it would be my one and only semester there. The school was fine, but there is absolutely nothing to do in that town.
 

Pilot 2 B

New Member
I did my first semester in Crookston. I knew my first day there that it would be my one and only semester there. The school was fine, but there is absolutely nothing to do in that town.
I got accepted at Crookston also, and just couldn't go to such a small school with nothing there. Completely understand. One thought was go to Crookston 2 years and transfer to North Dakota (they have some sort of arrangement). As time went on, I realized even that didn't sound great and I have pushed Crookston to the side at this point.
 

Cory Trevor

Well-Known Member
I was like you and wanted a 4 year degree and didn't want it to be an aviation degree. When I first started the restricted ATP wasn't a thing but by the time I graduated it was. However, because my degree was in economics and not aviation human factors (the only aviation degree we had at Illinois) I wasn't eligible for the restricted ATP. Not sure if that' show it is at all schools but definitely worth asking if getting another degree disqualifies you.

I'm still glad I have the degree over the restricted ATP, btw.
 
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