The amount of debt that many college students have accrued by the time they graduate is at an all-time high. According to New York Times, students who graduated in 2019, held an average of $30,000 of student loan debt. This is nearly twice the figure that students were burdened with 20 years ago, even after allowing for inflation.
As many as half of medical and law students are graduating with six-figure debt, but with their income, they are generally able to repay the debt within 10 years or so. However, students who graduate with just a bachelor’s degree with that high of student loan debt are much less likely to earn enough to pay back the loans within a reasonable time frame.
This trend of escalating tuition costs and other associated costs has been growing for a number of years and is expected to continue.
So is a college education and its accompanying degree(s) worth the expense?
The answer is still Yes.
College-degreed workers are still paid higher salaries, are more likely to be hired, and less likely to be unemployed than their under-educated peers. So the prospective student (and the parents, if applicable) needs to educate him- or herself about education and its related costs.
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One of the first things to look into is a scholarship. Starting back in high school, scholarships can be sought after and won. Check into Student Aid programs, internships, or even civic or religious sponsorships. Perusing a current book of available grants may produce funds otherwise not known about. Often you may find grants for specific demographics, specific career fields, races or ethnicities, gender-specific, or some other specific category into which you may fit.
Whether or not the student chooses to live at home and commute to college, or live on campus will figure into the costs of a college education. Often it may not be possible to remain at home while in college. A student may not live near the college of choice. But if it’s possible, living at home is a money-saving option. Driving your own car to classes is much more convenient, but it may not be as cost-effective. Many public transport companies offer student passes at reduced rates. This not only saves on fuel costs, but also on parking fees.
Even small things like best backpack for college, whether to pack a lunch or eat out has an effect on the overall costs of higher education. When you take time to analyze the whole picture, you may find that you can obtain a quality education for less money that it would appear on the surface. Do your diligent research on the various colleges that offer your chosen major to see which one may be the least expensive to attend, or which one may have the most perks to offer, such as scholarships or student aid programs.
Look into the possibility of obtaining a job while attending classes. A part-time job will help you out financially without overtaxing your energy. After all, attending college classes to obtain that coveted degree is your most important job, and nothing should detract you from giving it your best efforts.
States With the Highest and Lowest Tuition
The state in which the student lives and/or attends college makes a difference in how much college tuition costs. Of course, tuition costs are less expensive to a resident student rather than a non-resident. New Hampshire tops the list of the most expensive state in which to attend college, while Utah is the least expensive. Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California come just above Utah as other less expensive states. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maine are the top three below New Hampshire as being the most expensive. All the other states fall somewhere in between.
Figuring Your Debt
If at all possible, it would behoove the student to try to estimate how much his or her college education for the chosen profession will cost, and compare it to the expected salary from the profession. Then perhaps a wise choice can be made, pairing a career with its educational costs. Another consideration is to see that your student loan debt is no higher than you can expect your salary to be upon graduation. Let’s take a look at some of the highest and then the lowest paying college majors.
Highest Paying College Majors
The highest paying college major available today is Petroleum Engineering. With a median salary of over $100,000 a year (upwards of $130,000 or more), you could expect to pay back student loans within a reasonable length of time, especially if you live carefully.
Second on the list is Mining Engineering at just under $100,000 per year. Here again, if you live carefully, you should be able to repay the student loan debt within a few years. Other high-paying careers include Chemical Engineering, Computer Science & Engineering, Computer Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Systems Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, Electronics & Communications Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, Computer Science, Actuarial Mathematics, Mechanical & Aeronautics Engineering, Computer Science & Mathematics, Industrial Distribution, Applied Mathematics, and Physics. The lowest salary of this list of impressive majors still comes in at $55,500 per year.
Lowest Paying College Majors
Now we’ll take a look at the lowest paying career majors. Early Childhood Education tops this list, which is rather a sad commentary on priorities. Coming in at just $30,300 per year, the salary that this major brings in will hardly allow the debtor to pay off the student loan debt. Figuring $100-a-month payments, it would take 25 years to pay back a $30,000 loan, not counting interest.
The remaining six college majors on the lowest-paying list are: Child and Family Studies, Child Development, Youth Ministry, Counseling, Early Childhood and Elementary Education, with Social Work being at the top of this list, bringing in a modest $33,200 per year.
When choosing a career, listen to your heart. Do what you are adapted for, where your passion lies. Then make your finances work to achieve your dreams.
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