Given the choice between a full ride to any of the UC schools (UCLA, UCI, UCR, etc) or a private engineering school (ranked in the top 3 in undergrad engineering every year for the past decade or so) at $37K/year, I took the private engineering school and haven't regretted it.
Yes, I'll be paying student loans for the next 17 years, but I think I'm better off in the long run. I've made more friends in higher places than I would have at a public school, and the quality of education is night and day (I used to go to (Multivariable Calculus) class with my friends at UC Riverside and correct the professor - as a freshman.
If the quality of education is MUCH better, take it. Otherwise, don't kill yourself for a marginally better education.