Saturday, August 15, 2015

The cost of higher education

  1. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. They also estimated that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2014–2015 academic year averaged $23,410. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $46,272. 
  2. Yes, you're reading this right. That means that right now a 4 year college degree at a private institution would set you back a staggering $184,000. Those with Bachelor's degrees can expect to get a starting salary between 33 and 40 thousand dollars a year. At that rate it would take 5 and a half years of repaying 100% of your salary to pay back that piece of paper. Of course, some jobs have hire starting salaries than others but typically so do their degrees: Students in the sciences, engineering, computing, premed programs, and the fine arts often pay more. For example, at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, students enrolled in the science and engineering programs paid $5,004 more in tuition for the 2014–2015 academic year. 
  3. Here's the thing: I'm not saying you should give up on college because of the sticker price. You can save a lot by going to an in-state public school and applying for scholarships or grants. However, what I definitely AM saying is that you need to weigh the cost of a degree with what you'll make once you have it. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • How much can you expect to make in your career field immediately after graduation?
  • 5 years after graduation?
  • How much will you need to take out in student loans? Factor in what your family can contribute, what you can afford, and scholarships you qualify for.
  • After college will you be able to pay back your student loans in a timely manner, while paying rent and utilities in your area? 
  • When, if ever, will you be able to retire based on your payment plan?
  • How passionate are you about the field you want to be in? Will you come home happy at the end of the day?
  • Do you actually need a degree to get into your career field? A lot of fields do NOT require a degree, and offer entry level positions without one. Some of these companies will allow you to climb the corporate ladder without getting a degree and in many cases you can be where you would be (if not higher) with a four degree in the time it would take you to get said degree.
  • Is it at all possible that you could get an entry level position at a company that reimburses for tuition? This is the sweetest deal available. These companies obviously value their employees and will HELP you make more money without putting yourself in massive debt.

In summation: don't go to college just because everyone is telling you you have to. 

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