How much should you pay for college?
Everyone knows that higher education does not come with a low sticker price. Most articles that offer advice on how to afford college summarize well-known methods: the 529, FAFSA, financial aid programs, grants, and scholarships. However, the general sentiment seems to be that higher education is a necessity and the more you pay, the more you get; the trick is finding out how to foot the bill. What most experts do not discuss is the egregious inflation of tuition costs and the opportunity costs that accompany the massive debt that most students accumulate. When I was growing up, my parents made a point of educating me on financial responsibility. Particular lessons usually addressed purchasing retail goods. For example, particle board was a no-no if my folks were in the market for a new piece of furniture. My dad would say, “you get what you pay for” and he always taught me to buy the best you can afford, or wait. The key here is afford. Of course, most students cannot afford to wait until they can fully finance the degree of their dreams. Debt is a given and an accepted burden for most students. The problem lies with the exorbitant amount of debt incurred and the idea of best when it comes to higher education. After all, it is not fair to equate an “elite” school with oak and a flagship state university with particle board. Best is a more relative term when applied to schools and well-known college rankings that bestow the moniker have come under fire. With the accuracy of these rankings in question, students should spend more time considering how much the debt from higher education will ultimately cost them. Students need to realize that a BA in Computer Science from a school costing $30,000 a year will not get them a job with a higher starting salary than a candidate with a BA in Computer Science from a school with a $15,000 year price tag. Those four years will cost Student A $60,000 more than Student B and they are not likely to make that up in salary and benefits from their first job out of college. In fact, Student C, who completed their first two-years of general education requirements at the local community college and then transferred to the $15,000 year school, will graduate with the same degree and the least amount of debt. If students want their debt to be worth every penny, then they need to consider saving their money for graduate school where the degree will yield them more money to pay off such debt in the long-term. Of course, there are more considerations than cost when it comes to choosing a college and some students will find their “best fit” at more expensive institutions. In order to help them finance this plan, we are here to help students and their parents find the funds to help with our scholarship search and application services. Ultimately, students need to make the choices that are right for them, but understanding the inflated rankings and inflated costs of higher education is a good start to making the best decisions.