Rising tuition fees, rising student loan interest rates, and the rising cost of living in the United States have caused prospective students to question the value of a college degree. Many students regret the amount of student debt they incurred for their studies. in a Bankrate survey of student loan debt, 69% of respondents said they would have done something different with their student loans. However, there are strategies to reduce the overall cost of attendance – and when carefully planned, the investment in a college education can be worth it.
Thirty-six percent of Americans surveyed have taken out student loans. Of these, 23% of Gen Z respondents and 22% of Millennials would have attended a less expensive school in hindsight.
Key Student Loan Statistics
■ As of the first quarter of 2022, Americans owed about $1.75 trillion in student loan debt.
■Bachelor’s graduates who borrowed for their education have an average of $28,400 in student debt.
■In 2019-2020, 55% of bachelor’s degree holders obtained a student loan.
■ The published average cost of attendance in 2021-22 was $27,330 for in-state undergraduates at public four-year universities and $55,800 for undergraduates at private universities in four years.
■ The projected average starting salary for a class of bachelor’s graduates in 2022 ranges from $50,681 for humanities majors to $75,900 for computer science majors.
Student Loan Debt vs. Income In 2010-11, for example, undergraduate students who took direct unsubsidized or subsidized loans borrowed an average of $7,500. In 2020-21, they borrowed an average of $6,470.
Student loans can be expensive, which is why it’s essential to find ways to reduce education costs before going into debt. Attending an in-state school versus an out-of-state school, for example, can save students an average of $16,820 per year, according to the College Board. In Bankrate’s Student Debt Survey, 17% of borrowers said that if they had had the opportunity to make different decisions in hindsight, they would have attended a less expensive school; 23% would have asked for more scholarships and 20% would have worked more during their studies. These percentages are much higher for Gen Z students.
Even with the rising costs of a college education, the returns could very well be worth it. In the same Bankrate survey, 59% of graduates who have or had student loan debt said their higher education unlocked a career and earning potential they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms this, with bachelor’s degree holders earning $525 more in median weekly income than workers with only a high school diploma.
Median weekly earnings for high school graduates: $809
Median weekly earnings for associate degree holders: $963
Median weekly earnings of bachelor’s degree holders: $1,334
Median weekly earnings of master’s degree graduates: $1,574
major college ROI
Each college major has a different lifetime value — also known as a return on investment (ROI) — based on the median salary graduates earn versus the cost of their program and the average amount of debt needed to get the degree. diploma.
While return on investment shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing a major, it should be considered when calculating the long-term value of an education. In the Bankrate survey, 19% of respondents said that in retrospect, they would have chosen another degree because of their student debt. That number jumps to 23% for Gen Z respondents.
Is college worth it?
Despite rising costs, there are multiple benefits to attending college, including potential increased earnings, broader career opportunities, and increased job security.
Some of the greatest benefits of a college education include:
—Best Earnings: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time employees with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $525 more per week than those with a high school diploma, or $27,300 per week. year.
—Career Opportunities: Attending college gives you the skills to succeed in a wide range of careers and fields of study. Employers also highly value a university degree; in fact, 87% of employers said in an Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) survey that earning a degree was definitely or probably worth it.
—Skills: Students attending college have a unique opportunity to learn skills unrelated to their major or field of study. Most schools offer clubs and organizations that focus on valuable career development skills. For example, students who want to develop public speaking skills can join an organization like Toastmasters. The college also equips students with soft skills such as time management and organization.
—Experience: Simply earning a degree can prepare students for what a professional career might look like. Additionally, many degree programs require students to complete a summer internship in their field of study in order to graduate. This not only provides invaluable work experience, but also opens the door to future employment opportunities.
Alternatives to college
A college education is not the right choice for everyone and is not necessary for all career fields. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives if a traditional degree isn’t in the cards.
Trade school, unlike traditional college education, focuses on training students in a specific skill. Commercial work covers a wide range of careers, including electrician work, plumbing work, nursing, and culinary arts.
On average, a trade school costs less than a traditional college degree and doesn’t last as long, so students don’t have to delay entering the workforce. For this reason, it could be a good choice for students who know exactly what field they want to enter and want to save time and money to get there.
An apprenticeship allows students to take on-the-job training while receiving classroom instruction. These programs typically last between one and six years. Apprenticeships are paid and must be registered with the US Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency.
There are thousands of careers that offer apprenticeship programs, and some programs even allow students to earn college credit if they later want to pursue a degree program. One of the main advantages is that apprenticeships are remunerated and often lead to full-time employment.
Coding boot camp
A coding boot camp is a short-term program that equips students with the skills needed to enter a career in IT. These programs usually last a few months and cost several thousand dollars, but they can often help with job placement. Plus, these programs are an easy way to network with other professionals and are much cheaper than a four-year or even two-year computer science degree.
The bottom line
College is worth it for many people, given the experience, job security, and salary potential that come with a degree. However, students should always be aware of their costs; With student loan debt that often lasts for a decade or more, it’s prudent to choose an affordable school and cut expenses as much as possible. Before you go into debt, run the numbers using a student loan calculator to get a better idea of what your repayment will look like after college and how that compares to your potential starting salary.
(Visit Bankrate online at bankrate.com.)
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