Many families are assessing the value of a college education due to today’s rising tuition costs. A college education is a financial investment that requires students and their parents to make a serious judgement about the consequences of excessive student loans. Students are taking on more loan amounts than ever before in addition to many parents taking on private loans to finance their child’s college education. These financial risks can impact future life decisions such as the purchase of a first home or a parent’s retirement. As a nation, we now have over one trillion dollars in student loans which is the second highest consumer debt category behind mortgage debt.
Not being able to complete a degree in a timely manner has proven to be one of the major causes of financial drain. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “the active length for students earning a bachelor’s degree from a four-year public institution is 5.2 academic years or full time equivalent of 5.6 calendar years. “Additionally, the report found that “a quarter of all bachelor degree earners from any institution, more than 370,000 graduates, did not finish within six calendars.” This extra time, which includes tuition, living and text book expenses, adds to the financial burden.
In addition to affordability factors, it is extremely important for students and their families to evaluate what makes a particular college the right fit for them. Students should be able to list reasons for their college of choice, the important factors that distinguishes their school of choice from competitors, and the influence it will have on potential career goals. Students and families who can define these factors are more likely to better engage in the college process, and make sound decisions that will lead to long-term success. Those that successfully navigate the college process statistically stand to obtain professional jobs, higher lifetime earnings, and financial benefits such as company sponsored health insurance and retirement plans.
In summation, four important factors should be considered at the onset: a good college fit, affordability, proper planning for the college career ahead, and the follow-up to college graduation. The letter of acceptance from a university of choice only begins the labyrinth decision process. Throughout the college journey, students and their families will continuously need to make informed choices and be made aware of support resources, all of which are critical to a smooth progression and to safeguarding the financial investment of their education.
Campus to Career Crossroads is a partner for the new model of navigating from college to career and would welcome discussing a personalized plan to reach your goals.
*National Student Clearinghouse Media Center, “The New Reality for College Students: Earning a Bachelors Degree Takes 5 to 6 Years and Students Attend Multiple Institutions.” https://nscnews.org/the-new-reality-for-college-students-earning-a-bachelors-degree-takes-5-to-6-years-and-students-attend-multiple-institutions, September 2016