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What's an Education Worth Anyways?

You won’t find too many people arguing against going to college these days.  It might be getting more and more expensive but we know that there’s a direct correlation between going to college and average salary and lifetime income.  And generally, the more school you go to, the more money you’re likely to make.

College graduates on average will make more during their lifetime than high school graduates.  And advanced (masters, MBA’s, etc) degree holders will make more on average than their bachelor degree counterparts.  But these numbers fail to take into account one important thing: just how much does it cost to get this education?

True Cost of College

The sticker price for a college degree might not seem that expensive considering the earning potential you’ll eventually be rewarded with.  But you also need to take into account ancillary things like room and board and discretionary spending when figuring out the cost of an education.  These costs won’t vary much from school to school but they should definitely be considered during the college selection process.

Value of an Education

Most students tend to be more concerned with the name of the university on their degree than what the degree actually means.  Your degree and the school you went to will only get you so far.  Eventually, you’re going to have to prove yourself in the workplace.

Sure, a degree from Stanford might help you distinguish yourself for an entry level job but after you have a few years of experience, your degree will start to matter less and less.

Future Student Loan Payments

Not many students ever take into account what their loan repayment schedule will be like once they graduate.  You can use a student loan calculator to figure out what your payments will be like and how manageable they will/won’t be once you graduate.  If you knew that fancy degree was going to cost you $500/month for 10 years, you might re-think your choice right?

Once you know the amounts you will have to pay back, you can also compare that payment to the average starting salary for your major.  It might not be the best idea to select a low paying major and a high tuition school since you’re nearly guaranteed to have trouble paying back the loan if you manage to find a job.

Reducing the Cost

College might seem expensive but there are a lot of creative ways you can reduce the cost of your education without sacrificing too much:

  • Start at a Community College By attending a junior college for two years, you can nearly cut your tuition bills in half.  At the end of the day, your degree will look just like the degree’s of 4 year students but it will have cost a lot less.
  • Take Summer School – Taking classes at a community college in the summer is a great way to take care of your general education requirements but for a fraction of the cost.  Summer school could help you graduate in less than four years thus saving you an extra year’s worth of tuition.
  • Graduate in 3 Years – If you don’t mind the workload, you can increase the number of classes you take every semester and graduate sooner.  Most universities allow you to take 1-2 extra classes without having to pay anything extra.

Photo Credit: greeneaaron

Harry Campbell Harry Campbell is an aerospace engineer by day and personal finance blogger by night. He runs his own personal finance blog at Your PF Pro and is a freelance writer. Harry's expertise includes retirement, credit cards, home buying, higher education and side hustles like ridesharing. His work has been featured on Zillow, Credit Karma and Harry currently resides in Newport Beach, CA and enjoys biking and playing beach volleyball in his spare time.
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