Financial Literacy: Return on College Investment

Justin Klonoski, Writer

Most people are familiar with or have heard about the student debt crisis in this country. In some extreme cases, people are still repaying thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans in their mid-30s or older.

Much of the problem stems from people expecting to receive a well-paying job after college without considering the true value of their major. For example, majoring in Philosophy or Visual Arts alone does not guarantee you well-paying opportunities after graduation.

When you declare your major in college, having a clear goal for your future can be very beneficial. Having a lot of options for your future career is another crucial factor for choosing your major because you will most likely have to apply for multiple jobs before being accepted.

Another facet to consider is work experience. Your degree alone might not be enough to get you a job, so it is encouraged to take part in internships, independent study, and research while you are in college.

If you have a passion that probably won’t pay the bills, double majoring in your passion and another major that has more economic value is something suggested for you to think about. Some valuable majors to consider include engineering (biomedical, civil, chemical, electrical, etc.), information systems, finance, applied mathematics, and most other STEM majors. The job growth is outstanding for most STEM majors in the future. Therefore, you would definitely get a return on your investment of money and time in college through the various jobs that are available.

It’s crucial to understand that it’s unnecessary to overspend on a degree if you can get that same degree from a cheaper college, while having access to the same jobs. In fact, many employers do not care if a candidate earns a degree from a less reputable university, as long as that candidate has proven work experience. There is a huge misunderstanding that you have to study at a top university in order to be successful in life.

This perception certainly does not reflect the truth. In reality, eight out of ten CEOs at the top 10 companies on the Fortune 500 list were educated at public colleges according to the U.S. News & World Report. You can still move up the ladder and run a business without a degree from the top colleges like Harvard and Stanford.

With that being said, financial aid at these prestigious private universities is usually better than what you can receive from public universities. As a result, you have to take the costs of the colleges on your list into consideration. Every college is required to have a financial aid calculator which should estimate the yearly cost of attending the institution. It is encouraged that you research the estimated cost of all the colleges on your list, so you can be prepared for any potential debt that will be incurred as a result of obtaining a degree from that school.

While many people do not get admitted into the best private colleges, there is always another option. You can go to community college, which is very cheap, for the first two years and fulfill your general education requirements, before transferring to an in-state public school like the University of Illinois and take classes to fulfill your major requirements for the last two years. As a result, you will have spent basically half as much money as you would have getting your degree if you went to your in-state public school for all four years.

Student loan debt is a huge problem, but if you formulate a roadmap before you enter college, you will become successful and not have a hard time paying off any debt you owe