College: Is It Worth It?

Consumers want the most from their dollars, both earned and spent, as we continue to advance to the next level of achieving an economic equilibrium in the midst of a national economic crisis. This means businesses will naturally become more competitive and collaborative, thereby necessitating the recruitment of qualified educated individuals to meet productivity demands. Consequently, the chances of employment will selectively be given preference to those candidates who possess the highest level of education possible for every position. Postsecondary education becomes cardinal for educating tomorrow’s leaders, however, the rising costs of a quality education may outweigh the benefits of having one.

According to the latest reports on subsequent for the 2012-2013 academic year (fall through spring), the average tuition cost to attend an in-state public college is $22,261 and $43,289 for a private institution. This does not include expenses incurred for housing, meals, books and supplies, personal and transportation.

Depending on the student’s major, all costs may be significantly higher than previously quoted. According to the “U.S. News & World Report”, the positive side to these tuition quotes is that some colleges have already announced they will freeze their tuition rates for the 2013-2014 academic year, thereby allowing better financial planning for those paying out-of-pocket for these expenses. However, the more prestigious universities have already announced an increase in tuition rates that equal more than a $3,000 difference per academic year.

For those students having to rely on the federal government to pay a majority of (or partially for) their college education, the Congressional Budget Office announced earlier this year that drastic cuts will have to be made to the Pell grant program in order to offset a $1.4 billion deficit predicted for the 2015 fiscal year. This means having to impose stricter eligibility and academic requirements as well as reducing the amount awarded to each eligible participant. Furthermore, this will force the reduction of the amount of prospective students being eligible to enroll in a postsecondary institution by 40%.

This leaves prospective students with only one other alternative to meet their education expenses: student loans. In August of 2013, President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress approving the increased student loan interest rates for all variations of student loans, except for the Perkins Loan. Student loans have a repayment grace period of 6 months after graduation, cessation of attendance, or whenever the borrower drops below half-time enrollment status.

Given the average enrollment time to complete a degree that will give a college graduate the competitive edge in today’s job market is 4 years or more, the amount of financial debt owed to the federal government by the borrower could mean having to use a majority of their salary to repay this debt for several years. For some, it may mean a lifetime.

Although most profitable and worthwhile occupations require applicants to have a college education, another requirement for applicants is tangible experience. This takes time and can force a graduate to have to settle for a salary much lower than what they are actually worth. Companies falling by the wayside from the pressures of an enormously competitive economy may be forced to downsize. Ironically, downsizing holds no discrimination regardless of how educated an individual is. Meanwhile, all debts incurred while achieving that education must be repaid regardless of the future outcome of one’s career path.

Conclusively, is a college education still worth the increasing cost and student loans? It will be IF you remember to choose carefully, invest wisely, and keep an open mind no matter what educational risk is taken.

©2013 Learus Ohnine