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The Cost of an Education During Hard Economic Times

Lili Kiefer, Writer
January 28, 2013
Filed under Student Life & News

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Nearly 20 million Americans attend college each year. Of that 20 million, close to 12 million or 60% borrow annually to help cover costs.”  These days finding a student who is not in debt due to taking out college loans is as likely as finding a four-leaf clover. It is also about as likely as finding the Lucky Charms leprechaun with his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Knowing these cold, hard facts can be rather daunting for the typical college kids and their families, leaving everyone wondering whether or not college is the worthwhile investment it used to be. The answer to this question is simply that, while there are so many students that are in debt, college still, at this point, is worth the financial investment.

According to Megan McArdle, a special correspondent for Newsweek, “College is not a lousy investment at all if you are a good student and enjoy school. And if you are motivated and plan to work hard, then it is certainly a good investment.”

However, this may not be the case according to Richard Vedder who is an Ohio University economics professor. He also is the head of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. He claims that, “Less hardworking students or marginal students are more questionable because the return they may get on their college education from taking out all those loans may not turn out to be quite as positive.”

The next question you may ask: Why is this becoming a recurring problem that, by the time students graduate, they have a better chance of cashing in their debt during a winning streak in a black jack game in Vegas than actually going out on the job and earning that money back?  According to Vedder, in “the United States, we encourage everyone to go to college and as a result the aid packages become so low that we have created a financial bubble.”

Knowing this, another question to ask: Does my college degree actually have value when I go into the work force? Secondly, does it set me apart from those that do not have a degree? The answer to both of these questions is a definite yes, and here is why.

Even though we are seeing a lot of jobs that once did not require a college degree now require one, the bar for higher education with a globally growing population moves higher. Therefore, employers have a large selection of young motivated educated people to choose from. The better the education, the better your chances for a good job, so the investment is worth it.

The last inquiry to make here: How can we make sure that, as a college student, you are getting the bang for your buck and getting the best out of your education during such hard financial times? Executive editor of Newsweek, Justine Rosenthal, offers practical solutions to this endeavor. She suggests that people “need to start being cost conscious about their education.”

That’s right! If you want to continue your higher education, don’t you dare put it off! Forget that soul searching trip to India or Bali and hold off backpacking Europe!

If you want to go to college, you need to make sure that not only are you academically prepared, but financially prepared. You need to ask yourself questions such as “is this education worth what I am spending on it? Or can I go to a cheaper institution where I can get a better return on my investment?”

Lastly, it is not a good idea to go to college just to delay going into the job market. If you do not feel that college is for you or that you are not college material, than get into the workforce , gain experience and then eventually later you may want to go back to college.

The bottom line is time is money, so if you are committed academically and financially to getting that degree, head straight to the Financial Aid office and don’t look back. I suggest getting a campus map should you get lost along the way. This isn’t Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz!

There will be no Cheshire cat or yellow brick road to help you find your way, but once you get there, make sure you keep these few practical tips in mind! By following these tips you will most certainly be on your way to get that degree in no time — and hopefully with a little more green left in your wallet!

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