As the cost of higher education continues to climb, is the cost for a degree worth it? Some of the most successful people in the world dropped out of college. The answer is tricky and it depends.
The cost of college has created 44 million people who had to use student loans to get their degree and 53 percent of those student loans would change their past borrowing decisions if they could, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s 2016 National Financial Capability Study
That statistic may not indicate regret over going to college, it does suggest regret on how they handled the cost of college. So the question is not so much, is a college degree worth it, but “Are student loans worth it?” Remember everyone’s situation is different. But the following four questions will help make that decision a “yes” for you.
- Do you have a clear plan for success as a college student? Schedule classes for times when you are alert and do not overload on challenging courses at once.
- Can you find affordable ways to attend college? Take Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school or community college courses. Also take courses during winter or summer breaks to accelerate when you can graduate.
- Can you calculate how you will handle student loans after college? Use a student loan payment calculator to see how much you will pay monthly on your debt. Can you actually afford that school that was top of your list? Check out reviews of lenders from ConsumersAdvocate.org
- What kind of work can you get with your degree? Take a look at the pay for your field of study in your desired location and understand what your actual take home pay will be. Glassdoor and Payscale are helpful.
Is a college degree worth it? The statistics say “yes.”
There is a large earning gap between people with a high school degree and those with a four year college degree. People with a high school degree earn 62% of what those with a four year college degree make. In 1979, they made 77%. In salary terms, on average high school graduates earn around $30,000 a year where college graduates with a bachelor degree earn just over $50,000. College graduates that pursue a masters or a doctorate degree average around $70,000. As Money magazine described, it’s not that college graduates are making more than they used to, it’s that the income and job opportunities for those without a college degree have drastically decreased. The income differences translate to a large earning gap over a lifetime.
The salary differences are largely due to job opportunities available to college graduates regardless of your major. The “process” of attending college teaches you to think analytically and gives you valuable skills that translate into the workplace. Colleges also invest in your future career and often expose you to opportunities and resources you wouldn’t have if you didn’t attend college. This can drastically impact your career choices after graduation.
A college degree also leads to higher job security. Not only are you more valuable to your employer, but your job may provide more benefits than the typical high school degree job. One example is access to a retirement plan, such as a 401(k). With help from your employer, you can start contributing to your retirement account early, providing greater financial security.
Going to college is an investment in your future. It helps build financial wealth and creates a more secure future. However, going into thousands of dollars of debt to achieve a college degree may not be wise. Substantial college debt can also set you back and delay launching and choices around marriage and home ownership. Determine if the college degree is worth the cost, by asking the above questions and weighing the pros and cons, or benefits and costs of attending different universities, including inflation, transportation costs, housing costs, food and run the numbers. A four year college degree from any institution already improves your financial future, it doesn’t have to be a four year degree from a very expensive university or an Ivy League School.
Student Loan Hero, Is College Worth It? Shannon Insler, September 12, 2017