Whether you are just beginning your college journey or continuing the trudge through semesters, we are all unified by the fact that our venture for higher education has a price tag — and a rather hefty one to boot.
CaliforniaColleges.edu estimates that a yearly sum of full-time education at a California State University will run $23,444 and $24,299 for on-campus and off-campus students respectively. Multiply that by the years you spend at the university — loans or no loans — a sprint for a professional degree is going to equate that of a down payment on a mortgage.
It would be naive to simply assert that a college education does not benefit the person who earns one. The act of earning the liberal education that humans throughout history have dreamt of and being able to show an employer that you are capable of completing some-120 units, is not to be underestimated.
But one cannot critically examine the benefits of a college education without questioning its cost — especially with the current and future shape of the U.S. job market.
A New York Times article analyzed a study, showing that while the U.S. economy was in recession — though jobs were lost no matter how much education a person had — bearers of bachelor’s degrees as a group lost fewer jobs compared to their high school diploma and associate’s degree counterparts.
“People with four-year college degrees saw a 5 percent drop in wages, compared with a 12 percent decrease for their peers with associate’s degrees, and a 10 percent decline for high school graduates,” the article said.
CollegeBoard analyzed the economic benefits to a college education. “Adults with college degrees are more likely than others to receive health and pension benefits with their jobs. They are less likely to be unemployed or to rely on public income support payments.” Being that health care costs are skyrocketing, the prospect of being able to secure a job that ensures proper health coverage is more prudent than ever.
Solid health care coverage, and higher shots of securing a job are noble reasons to desire a college degree. But what kind of burden will that hefty education bill place on the student that dare go for such a path?
The Federal Student Aid office recommends loan borrowers keep in mind their monthly payments against what they expect to earn out of college. “Your student loan payments should be only a small percentage of your salary after you graduate, so it’s important not to borrow more than you need for your school-related expenses.”
The Financial Aid office at Columbia University echoed the sentiment. “If you’re a student, your payments shouldn’t exceed 8% to 10% of your expected monthly gross income once you graduate.”
For some, minimizing the cost of borrowing for school is not just isolated to tuition or books. The cost of living, transportation and everything scholastically non-related need to be taken into account. This can make the true cost of a college education exponentially greater than estimated.
No doubt, the networking, growth and learning opportunities that one gains in college will shape that person into one more capable of supporting themselves and a family than if they had not gone.
But school officials, professors, parents and students themselves should continue, or at least start, having that regular, healthy conversation about how much their pursuits cost. Giving that real situation a routine check and possible balance can only help ensure that decision to pursue college will not be a regretted one, but the smartest one.