After the great thoughts I've gotten from the forum and my own research, I'm thinking of the above plan. I'll get my MURP, work for a few years to pay down any debt and get some real world experience, then get my Phd to with the eventual goal of doing think-tank/research/consulting.

My only question at this point is this: if i go to a practitioner focused program like Virginia Commonwealth to save some money, will it come back to bite me in the ass come Phd time? I'm on board with the "where you get your degree doesn't matter to employers" line, but what about when for Phd admissions? will phd programs look down on going to a non-ivy league, research oriented program?