So even if you’re not sure what your academic goals are or what your next steps might be, I encourage you to fill out an application, find out how much financial aid you qualify for, and talk with an Admissions Advisor about your concerns, fears, and dreams. (from an advertisement sent out by a non-traditional ‘affordable’ college, bold-face added by me).
Colleges are encouraging students to get into debt for their education, and this has serious consequences.
In the United States, most students have significant debts upon graduation. Many cannot afford to get married, have children, have a stay-at-home parent, or buy a house, for years and years. Some young people’s situations are even worse, because some degrees lead to such poor jobs that repaying the loans is almost hopeless.
Is a college degree worth all this? Former US Secretary of Education William Bennett and David Wilezol address this question, and after reading pages of discussion of student loans, tuition hikes, cost effective majors, the purpose of education, and more, I ended up with conclusions like these:
- Only those who can get into the top institutions on scholarships should go to the expensive colleges, unless they are wealthy enough to do so with little debt.
- Everyone else should question whether the education they plan to pay for will provide a good return on the investment. They should choose their college and major thoughtfully, studying resources like PayScale.com for information about return on investment for various colleges and majors. Is College Worth It? has tables, questions to ask, and points to ponder as you decide whether or not it will be a good idea to spend over $100,000 for the education you desire.
- And if you don’t desire the education, why spend that kind of money? Don’t just go because you ‘should,’ risking life-sapping debt for no reason.
- In fact, if you don’t really want to study at a college but love other kinds of work, you’d be miles ahead, financially, pursuing your interests in trades, apprenticeships, or working with mentors. This applies both to those who find studying difficult, and to those who think and learn so quickly that university would not offer them much, like the winners of the Thiel don’t-go-to-college fellowships.
- Certain majors are much more likely to lead to poorly-paying jobs than others. Low cost, non-credentialed ways of getting top-notch learning in these poorly paying fields include options such as online courses or the amazing deals offered by The Great Courses. Why go into debt for what a lot of colleges don’t even teach well if you face a future without a high-paying job?
- If you’re planning to study beyond your bachelor’s degree, it does not matter much where you go for your BA, as long as you learn a lot, get good marks, and do well on standardized tests.
In conclusion the authors present a series of 12 typical student scenarios and give their advice to each of the students. This short chapter could be worth many thousands of dollars in debt avoidance or increased salary; it’s a must-read.
Any student or parent thinking about college in the US should read this book. It could have a huge impact on your future, your happiness, and your bank account.
You may also want to consider the thoughts and resources I discussed earlier.
Please note: Canadian students are in a somewhat different situation than US students. I wrote “Is Post-Secondary Education Worth It in Canada?” to address that issue.
This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and is also linked to Saturday Reviews and Trivium Tuesdays as well as Encourage One Another Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday , Raising Homemakers, Growing Home, Above Rubies, Wisdom Wednesday, and Frugal Friday.