They say a college degree is one of the most important investments you could make in your life. According to howtoedu.org, The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the difference of annual salaries, on average, between high school and bachelor degree holders was $23,291. High school graduates averaged $27,915: bachelor degree holders, $51,206. The degree makes all the difference as it gets you into the higher paying jobs.
Do the Benefits Outweigh The Costs?
What is the cost-benefit ratio for student loans vs. salaries though? Is there a limit to how much a student should take out in student loans before the price becomes too much?
Much of the world today would say that there isn’t a limit. Either from a massive marketing push, or because many of the more recent graduates had to pay higher costs for the whole college experience, many stand firmly behind the idea that an education is worth every penny, even if those pennies add up to tens of thousands of dollars every year.
How Much Does College Really Cost?
For reference, Forbes reported on the 10 most expensive colleges in the U.S. last November. Number one was Sarah Lawrence College at just over $60,000 a year. After a 4 year education, that would equate to $240,000, just for a bachelor’s degree. Number ten on that list is Vanderbilt, costing the average student $58,000 a year. That’s not a huge difference in price.
Are those prices worth paying for when you leave the school to earn less than you spent every year? Not to mention that you’ll likely have family, car, and mortgage responsibilities to take care of soon. Just over $200,000 is not an easy loan to pay off. It’s almost a mortgage in fact.
Some push again that it’s worth every penny. The interesting thing to point out though is that it’s only the young who think along those lines. According to a moneytalksnews.com survey, adults aged 35 to 49 agree that $20,000 $50,000 in student loan debt is way too much. It’s only the 18 to 24 demographic that thinks the borrowing is worth it (and who’s to blame them when you haven’t had to start paying those loans off yet).
The disparity in opinions may come from having to push through years of student loan debt, or it could come from the drastic increase in the price of an education over the past twenty years.
There are quite a few schools that you can afford for under the $20,000 to $30,000 limit. State schools especially offer lower prices. In the state of Utah you can attend the Utah Valley University for about $2,500 in tuition every semester. After 4 years, you hit around $20,000 (not including the price of housing, food, etc.).
Is The Prestige Worth The Price Tag?
The question to ask yourself is if that particular education is worth the money. Prestige and national rankings purport that they are the best schools in the nation. As far as many professionals are concerned though, the degree only gets you your first job. After that, your professional career is determined based more on your work history than on the school you went to—with rare exceptions.
Those exceptions include getting post-graduate degrees from prestigious universities. For instance, a law degree from Harvard will always help you get a job. It doesn’t earn you a job, but it gets you a foot in the door. A degree can be tainted based on your work experience and references though. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that you automatically get all of the jobs you’re looking for.
Not only that, but there are plenty of excellent lawyers that come from less-known law schools. The point isn’t where you got your degree from, the point is what you got out of it. A graduate from BYU’s law school can perform just as well, if not better than a graduate from Harvard, if he or she puts in the work. They can qualify for the same jobs the Harvard graduates are applying for and beat them out, all after paying thousands of dollars less for their education.
The important thing to remember is that a degree from a specific school doesn’t always define the student. Great lawyers come out of every university, as do the lousy ones as well. The question doesn’t always have to come down to what’s the name over the door of the university you attend. It mostly comes down to what you’re willing to spend on your college education. Remember that as you pursue your educational interests. The price of your education doesn’t always guarantee a better education, because you can decide that.