The Costs and Benefits of College

Back in 2014, a study by PayScale indicated that certain degrees, such a engineering, pretty much insure that the graduate will earn at least 500K more over a 20 year period than someone who did not attend college.  At the same time, an arts or humanities degree from a lower tiered college may translate into a six figure deficit vis-a-vis high school graduates.

Moreover, a study by McKinsey, highlighted in The Economist, pointed out that in this less
than stellar pre 2016 job market, 42% of then recent graduates were in jobs that did not require a 4 year degree.
When I attended a liberal arts college, tuition, room and board amounted to less than $3500 per year.  My father’s union paid for half.  My goal was to be a well rounded student who could think and communicate.  After college, I would figure out what I wanted to do.
I had that luxury not because my parents were wealthy but because college and grad school were relatively cheap.  Students today do not have that luxury.  The College Board published data that indicates for 2016-17, the average tuition, room and board at a private college was in excess of $45,000 per year.  For in-state at public colleges, $21,000.
So, if you follow the advice of PayScale, you become an engineer or perhaps a computer major.  But not everyone has the aptitude or inclination to be an engineer or IT wiz.
What to do?  Be smart and realistic.   If you are able to get into an Ivy League school, or another top tier school like Stanford or MIT, it may be wise to go “all in”.  But not to be a Latin major.    If you are a B student with median SAT’s, you have to ask,  is it worth spending 50K per year to go to a second tier private college?  Think about it.  Maybe a state university as an “in state” student is money better spent.
Or, look into a community college for the first two years.  You can test your abilities and see what you like at a very reasonable price.  If you do well, you can transfer into a 4 year college.  By going this route, you still get your degree but you may wind up saving 40% of the expense.
In addition, go beyond applying for financial aid from your school.  There are many  financial aid opportunities through local clubs or civic organizations.  You can find them if you are willing to do your homework.   For example, our local Rotary awards scholarships to about 12 students per year.
Finally, you have to be on top of your student loans once you graduate.  The last thing you want to do is fall into default.  More than that, you would want to be pro-active in finding the right repayment plan which will allow you to pay your student loans and not live in poverty.  Do not shy away from seeking expert help in this area.  It may be money well spent.

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