We need to be smarter about how we think about, talk about, and portray higher education.
There is a looming reality facing many of the most educated Americans: the value of their college degree is not worth the price they paid for it. Getting a degree has many benefits — and increasingly comes with a large price tag. Most college degrees will cost at least $80,000 for tuition, housing, and books. That is more than 2 entire years of most people’s salaries.
Yes, a college degree can be an extremely valuable way to invest in your future. And while there are plenty of careers that require a bachelor’s degree or more, many incredible careers do not. There are many variables that must be considered before you sign yourself up for an expensive and lengthy program.
- What are the job prospects for your major at your prospective school?
- What are the estimated salaries for those jobs?
- What is the full cost* of your degree?
- What is the completion rate** for your degree?
- What resources does your college offer to give you tangible experience, connections in your industry, and the complete skill set expected by potential companies?
*The College Board reports a moderate yearly college budget for an in-state public college for the 2017–2018 academic year averaged $25,290. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $50,900. This estimate includes tuition, housing, fees, and books.
**Just under half (45%) of students obtain a degree or certificate at the first institution they attend within six years of starting college. National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).
College is certainly about more than enabling you to make money, but if you are about to put yourself in debt to go to college, finances need to be considered. Think of it as a simple equation: the cost of college needs to be less than the increase in salary you will receive by going to school. And remember if you are taking out loans, the interest on those loans will also add to the cost of college.
Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt in the US, with national student debt now totaling over $1.4 trillion. The average graduate has $17,126 in debt in student loans alone. Depending on interest rates and the rate you pay back your loans, this could raise the cost of your degree by $5,000-$10,000.
If the thought of taking on debt to pursue a degree gives you pause, there are plenty of other options to consider.
- You could choose to work and take classes part time to avoid taking on debt.
- You could choose a less expensive school.
- You could choose a less expensive form of education. There are actually a ton of incredible careers that do not require college degrees.
- You could choose to pursue learning in another environment entirely – by traveling to a new place, finding an apprentice program to learn a trade, or working in a way that helps you develop new skills.
- You could choose to study in another country.
Consider that the cost of tuition does not always translate to higher quality education. Community colleges offer some of the best professors, highest teacher to student ratios, and best advising services. The same can be true for plenty of lesser known schools.
How you approach your education after high school is an important decision with tons of variables, and it can be overwhelming. Make sure you keep the whole picture in mind before you commit to any college. College these days comes with a high price tag and it can also be exactly the education you need to succeed. Be smart about it.
More Good News:
- Putting in the effort now to find a good fit, will allow you to move through your higher education with confidence and clarity about what to focus on.
- College is often one of the most important and meaningful times for exploring life, self-development, making lifelong friends, growing and learning.
- There are so many options and so many resources to support you along this process. Advisors, mentors, bloggers, podcasts, articles, career exploration tools, etc.
- Having the right perspective can allow you to approach your education with enthusiasm not fear, dread, or indifference.
So make sure you are smart about how you approach higher education. And remember, if you need guidance we are happy to help.