10.21.2009

Is College Really Worth It These Days?

I just read an article on MSN money about how the average cost of a 4 year private University education has climbed to $35,636 per year. I am so glad that I am not a young high school graduate today who has to make the decision as to whether going to College is worth the money or not. When I graduated from high school it wasn't a question. You might have to go the 2 year Community College route first but bottom line, going to College was always seen as the way to go no matter what. These days, I am just not so sure.

The economy is basically in the toilet right now, but even if it weren't it is beginning to seem that the sheer cost of a College degree has outstripped and over shadowed the very purpose for which it was intended. Yeah, you may go to College for personal growth and enrichment purposes but ultimately your intention is usually to gain a return on that investment in income once you enter the job market. Trina Thompson may have been the only one ridiculous enough to sue over it but she is definitely not the only one who feels short changed.

Are 4 year Universities only for the wealthy and those who are smart enough or poor enough to earn full scholarships and grants? It seems the Community College route 1st is the only way to go if you are willing and/or able to because to spend $140,000 on a degree, especially to work in a field that is not a typically high earning one is plain stupid. State school prices are out of control too. Gone are the days where you could just go and major in general studies or whatever else just to get the degree and the satisfaction of a goal accomplished and worry about the field you will enter later. You could always wait until you get your Master's for a more focused approach once you figure out what you really want to do. I really don't think that's such a good idea these days. I didn't really have a plan but I knew I wanted a degree so I went and majored in a Sociology but if I were in the situation that these new high school graduates are facing and I didn't have a solid career path and plan in mind I might not have gone at all. And, if that had been the case I wonder where I would be now?

I worry about my little sis who is going to an extremely expensive school in an expensive city too far away to cut costs by staying at home with such stiff requirements that hardly anyone can even finish in 4 years. She has taken out a lot of student loans while she works part time. I want nothing more then for her to hit it big and be so successful that the student loans won't hurt her. I believe that if anyone can do it she can and I really hope that she does.

I am very glad I got my degree. I went to a 4 year publicly funded University. I graduated with 16k in loans and felt that wasn't really all that bad. I lived on campus (apartment, not super expensive must buy a meal plan residence halls) for two years and commuted the rest. I didn't get to "go away" to college but that's OK. My semester exchange out of state at Spelman College my junior year more then made up for it. The loans are paid off, I don't want to start all over and I still don't know what I want to be so I am not even considering a Master's degree at this point. I feel better about myself in general having earned my BA and I do believe that even though it was not a requirement for my current job it certainly helped me get it.

As an adult online and accelerated programs seem to be the route many are taking but those are by no means cheap. There are many who haven't gone to college who are highly successful and some who have degrees that are barely squeaking by. What is one to think? I wouldn't discourage anyone from getting a degree. I'm just saying that you really need to be careful about how much money you are willing to invest and cut corners financially where you can because there really are no guarantees on what you will get out of it. Crippling loans can carry huge consequences.

If you insist on going to that prestigious school because it has an excellent reputation, is far away from home and has the total college experience written all over it that's great, but be prepared for the possibility that you might be paying for it for the rest of your life.

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