Is College Worth It?

In Paying for College on Jul 06, 2016

Is a college degree worth it? As college costs continue to rise, many students ask themselves whether they can really justify the cost of an education.


According to the College Board, tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year at public schools will average $9,410 while those costs at private nonprofit schools will reach $32,405. When you include room and board, costs at a public school jump to $19,548 and at private nonprofits they'll soar to $43,921.


No matter if you choose a state university or live at home, there's no denying college expensive. However, it's a worthwhile trade-off.


Firstly, most students don't pay the typical sticker price for college. Even if a school lists its tuition and fees as $30,000 annually, that's not the final out-of-pocket cost for most students. Grants, scholarships and work-study programs can put a sizeable dent in that $30,000 and leave your family with much less to pay. But it's important to get a head start and apply for scholarships as early as possible - there are some for every student, no matter what your academic background is, where you're from or what extracurriculars you were involved in.


Even for students who don't receive generous scholarships or grants, college is still very worthwhile. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, there's a big gap between what you can make as a high school grad and a college degree holder, and this discrepancy has gotten larger over time. Individuals with a high school degree can expect to make about $28,000 annually. Their counterparts who earned a four-year college degree can anticipate earnings of $45,500 a year. That's a big difference, especially over many years.


Going to college isn't all about making more money later, though. Choosing not to attend college usually leaves you with a smaller network. You won't be able to forge relationships with professors, classmates or administrators - the very people who could recommend you for a job or let you know about career opportunities that could be of interest to you.  


Ultimately, though, financial success is strongly tied to completing a college degree. Among millennials, the Pew data shows unemployment rates are much higher among students with only a high school diploma and those without at least a bachelor's degree are much more likely to live in poverty.

Yes, college is worth the cost. But to get even more bang for your buck, start applying for scholarships as soon as possible. Every dollar you win in scholarships now means much less money to pay back later.

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