Massive student loan debt is a big issue in our society right now. Student loan debt has ballooned to nearly $1.5 trillion from over 44 million borrowers. It seems to be common knowledge now that this is going to be our next bubble as a society. I can’t help but think that we need to start looking in the mirror and stop trying to blame the system. While I don’t believe the government backed student loan system is ideal, I do think that it gives all students a great opportunity to go to college. Therein lies the issue, with great opportunity comes great risk. Students need to learn about the risks that they are taking, this is a huge investment. Students need to start taking ownership of the decision to go into debt to chase the college dream. Here are 3 key ways students can take dominate this decision.
What you study matters so much more than where you study it.
STEM degrees typically give you a better return than Arts & Humanities. The discrepancy between Colleges does not nearly return the same difference in ROI. Studying engineering at your local community college or state school will often be a better decision than going to your favorite private school to get a degree in art history. Students can fall for this trap easily as school visits can entice potential applicants with great food, local flair, and beautiful campuses. The value of an undergraduate degree has diminished, so if you insist on going to a top private school wait until Graduate School where recruiters will pursue you heavily.
Analyze what the future with the degree looks like.
I have heard so many ‘woe is me’ stories about how someone went to get a fancy new degree, but ended up staying in their same job. Taking on this debt should not be taken lightly. You have to plan for what your new salary or opportunity will look like after you obtain the degree. It is a pretty simple ROI calculation -incremental salary or opportunity from the new degree versus the cost of that degree. There are a lot of great resources to help you better understand future salaries based on job titles. A few of my favorites are Glassdoor and PayScale – both offer great insight on job salaries.
Develop a 4-year budget to better understand true costs.
It is easy to look at the costs on a college pamphlet and do a quick comparison, but this just simply isn’t enough. There are so many external factors that need to be accounted for when analyzing colleges. Heading into college I knew that I was not going to get any help from my parents – who were not in a position to pay for me. After racking up big debt my Freshman year, I started to meticulous map out my education expenses. This helped me limit my student loans and encouraged me to get an internship to help reduce the total student loan burden.
Pick a good major that you are interested in from a growing field with high salaries. Map out your true cost of college over the 4 years and develop a plan to limit the student loan burden. This will set you up for sustained success as you begin your new career.