How to Make Sure College is Worth It and Save Money Too

Make money after college and save money while in college.  Possible?  Yes, if you do the right things at the beginning.  If you do what college students have traditionally done you can wind up with huge debt and low income.  Many have and millions more will without a change in the path to a degree.   Here’s what you need to know.     Source:  The New York Times.   At a time when the value of a college degree is being called into question, and when job prospects for many new graduates are grimmer than they’ve been in years, perhaps it’s no surprise to see a not-back-to-school movement spring up.  The push, which is luring a handful of select students away from the likes of Princeton, Harvard and M.I.T., is the brainchild of Peter A. Thiel, silicon valley billionaire.  A  college education remains essential for people from less privileged backgrounds says Carmen Wong Ulrich, co-founder of a three woman investment firm in New York City. “Many African-Americans and Asians can’t afford to ask the question, “Is college worth it?”  We’re not all starting from the same starting line. “Many of us are the first in our family to even attend college”, says Ms Ulrich.

I assume that you are not one of the select few destined for Princeton or Harvard and that you are, like me, first in your family to attend college.  The challenge for us is to make sure college is worth it.  We cannot afford to do otherwise.  Unfortunately, just going to college is not a guarantee that the degree at the end of the process will be worth it.

Two key factors determine the financial part of the ‘Worth it’ answer.  These are, what you can earn after you earn a degree and how much you pay to earn that degree in the first place.  Let’s begin with the last issue first – how much you pay or the inverse, how much money you can save.  By far, the biggest factor that impacts how much you pay is the college or university you attend.  Sounds simple.  It is if you have the right information.

To begin with, the average net tuition being paid at many colleges and universities is at an average almost 50% off of the listed tuition cost.  That means that you can save almost half of the cost by wisely selecting the college you attend.  Details are available in Your Future is Calling.

There are excellent independent data sources about income earned with various degrees.  We will look at one case study here.  As part of a larger study I was asked to look at the financial potential for a graduate of a two year college program in any one of six careers.

Preschool teacher,Paralegal, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Registered Nurse, Dental Hygienist, Occupational Therapy Assistant.

The data sources used for this analysis were O*NET, COLLEGENavigator, and SalarySurfer.  Looking at the income two years before and two years after graduation for California Community College graduates in these six careers show a rate of financial return of over 1,500% for the weighted career average. I know of no other investment that even comes close to this financial return.  The bottom line is that it is possible to make sure college is worth it.  See Your Future is Calling for more details.

Is College Worth It? YES – for most

Lot’s of people are jumping onto the question of the value of college education.  In a just released book titled “Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education” the former secretary of education asserts that the promise of education has been broken.

          Data from the US Department of Labor shows that the conclusions the authors draw in the BUZZ Today quote simply are not true.   Source:   Department of Labor careeronestop
The graph shown here shows that for every level of education, higher levels  of education result in both lower unemployment and higher income for most graduates.  Note that the median is the point where one half of the group is above the value and one half is below.  The conclusion has to be that for most students, higher levels of education result in higher economic benefit to the learner.  Buzz Today Source:   Washington Times – Is College Worth It? book review:   William J. Bennett and David Wilezol’s “Is College Worth It?” asks and authoritatively answers one of life’s biggest questions.  It provides a thoroughgoing deconstruction of the “of course it is” delusion. It turns out that for too many, and maybe even most of our young people, the answer to this central question is, sadly, “no.” “Whether the standard of excellence for higher education is cultivating the mind and the soul or maximizing financial return on investment, most of higher education fails most students,” the authors write.   The Department of Labor data shown here is unambiguous.  For every increase in education level obtained the unemployment goes down and the income goes up.   Under no line of reasoning can one conclude from this data that higher education fails most students. Instead of the sweeping claims that associate degree holders earn more than bachelor degree holders (shown not true in the data above) or that the ROI on an education investment is not worth it financially, the discussion needs to focus on what a student needs to do to make sure that they get the best return on their personal investment. The Practical Guide on how to do that is what Your Future is Calling is about. Instead of making headline grabbing general statements about all and every, we need to be helping individual higher education students make better decisions about their own career choices, college majors and universities that they attend.  This can only be done with specific objective data about the choices each individual faces.

Another Book on the Topic: “Is College Worth It?”

Yet another book is out about the cost and value of a college education.  This one is from former Secretary of Education William Bennett.  Unfortunately, this book, like so many publications before focuses on universities and public education funding issues.  These are important, but they do not help you make better choices about your own future.  You need specific guidance on how to invest in your own future.  Under every scenario, learning is key to that future.  Buzz Today Source:  Washington Times book review – “Is College Worth It?”    College has simply become too expensive… A bachelor of arts degree in political science at a price of more than $150,000 now seems like a bad choice…It is a horrible return on investment to spend four years and six figures on a degree in women’s studies and a minor in religion.

I want to add a few observations to this “Is College Worth It?’ conversation.  I think it is the wrong question.

It is true that in the twentieth century, earning just about any college degree vastly increased the odds of getting a well paying job and a secure future.  The world has changed.  Two important things have happened since these simpler days of old.  First, the world has not only changed it is changing at an ever faster pace.  This makes it more difficult to select a career that make your future more predictable.  Today, every choice involves greater uncertainty.

The other thing that has changed is the cost of education.  A college degree has become very expensive.  This is one of the main complaints of authors like those in the BUZZ Today reference.  It is important to not mix cost with value.  Is it valuable to learn?   The answer without a doubt is yes!  Is it more difficult to decide what to learn?   Again Yes!   Because it is more expensive to take the traditional route of a college degree should you avoid learning?  Absolutely not.

What has not changed, and is important to you, is that the best route to a more prosperous and fulfilling future for you is still through learning.  It is simple to say don’t go to college.  Unfortunately this leaves you with the challenge of deciding how to get to your better future.

One of my strong reactions to the points in BUZZ Today is that it is not for me or anyone else to tell you what choices you should make about your future.  The BUZZ Today authors can help you with facts and data about investments and returns.  Financial costs and returns are appropriate for you to consider in your decision.  What I think is not appropriate is for me or anyone else to tell you that you should not study for a college degree in women’s studies and religion.  If these are subjects that you want to be a part of your future – go for it.  But in the end you have to make choices like this.  No one else can make them for you.

My advice is that your choices involve your journey to your future.  The key elements that I have you focus on are specific choices that make your personal road map from “who you are” to what “you will be doing” in the future.  Help on these important issues are outlined in detail in Your Future is Calling.