Is a College Education Worth the Cost?

college education

A college education opens the door to better jobs, and a degree can help you build your career ladder. A bachelor’s degree is the most common postsecondary credential, and it can lead to higher incomes than a high school diploma alone. Yet, a degree can also come at a price, with students taking on large amounts of debt that they may not be able to pay back in 10 to 30 years.

A key question in college planning is whether or not the degree is worth the cost. Some colleges are responding to consumers’ skepticism by increasing their financial aid packages, while others are lowering tuition rates. In fact, the rate of annual increases in tuition and fees at public four-year schools has slowed significantly this year and is below inflation.

It’s also important to remember that the sticker price an institution lists on its website can be quite different from the net price, which is what a student pays after adjusting for need-based aid and merit scholarships. The net price of a bachelor’s degree at a four-year public university increased by 28% over the last 10 years, while private nonprofit institutions saw an increase of 19%.

Ultimately, deciding whether or not a college is right for you should be an individual decision, and it will depend on your own goals and priorities. For example, if you have a passion for art or music, you might consider attending a small college with strong arts and music programs. If you’re an athlete, you might prefer to attend a NCAA Division 2 or NAIA school where you can balance academics and athletics.

But it’s equally important to consider how a college will support you as a student. This includes a college’s safety net, which can include student support services such as counseling and health and wellness centers. It’s also crucial to ensure the school is a good fit for you spiritually, culturally and in terms of any special learning needs you might have.

The most effective way to evaluate a potential college is to visit it and talk to current students, especially in your intended major. You can ask students about their experiences and how the college helped them achieve their academic, career and personal goals. You can also ask them about the job market and salary prospects, which will give you a sense of how well a degree could help you in the future. Finally, you should look into the careers of people you know who have a bachelor’s degree or higher and see what kind of salaries they are earning.