Average annual cost of tuition to a four-year college or university in America – $10,700.

Average cost of student loan debt among graduating seniors of four-year colleges – $23,186.

Average value of the overall college experience – Priceless.

As tuition rates across America continue to skyrocket, you’re likely finding yourself faced with an impossible question: Is college worth it? While tuition hikes are nothing new, recent media coverage has put some of the nation’s biggest schools in the spotlight for raising their tuition as much as 30, 40 and even 50 percent in just a few short years.

As a result, you, the recession-era student, is left to do some serious soul-searching in ways your parents likely never had to. Is your primary purpose in obtaining a college education simply to land a career? If so, how can you determine how much money to borrow if you can’t possibly know your post-college earning potential? Is the knowledge you’d obtain in a secondary school setting any more valuable than the knowledge you’d gain jumping right into the job market? Perhaps most importantly, is there still something invaluable about the quintessential college experience that really can’t be given a price tag?

These are just a few of the conundrums facing you and your college-bound peers. With this many tough decisions to make before your applications are even mailed, the college campus setting might actually come as a relief to you, where answer keys often exist and the choices you have to make are more of the “pizza or Ramen?” variety.

So, how do you pay for that peace of mind? Here are some considerations:

  • Explore all of your in-state tuition options. For example, Colorado has the Colorado College Opportunity Fund (CCOF), which offers a stipend to eligible undergraduate students that pays a portion of total in-state tuition (that you don’t have to pay back!)
  • Discover private schools who want you, as they’ll be more likely to offer you merit aid. Sometimes a private school can cost you less than your state’s flagship university.
  • Use the new cost calculators that every college and university is now required to post on its website.
  • Search for scholarships. Cast a wide net, but http://www.usscholarshipguide.org/ is a great place to start. For more ideas, check out the “Resources” section of our website here: http://www.collegeprimers.com/resources/useful-links/financial-aid/
  • Be realistic. According to The Jewish Business News’s “Is a College Degree Worth It?”  by Moshe Klein, the average starting salary for a new college grad is a mere $27,000. In other words, you might want to think twice before accepting that loan of $40,000-$50,000.  Remember, your career path may still see some twists and turns between now and graduation, and even if you’re confident you know what you want to do for the rest of your life, salary comparison sites such as www.payscale.com only offer a vague idea of what you might expect. Actual salaries vary dramatically based on everything from what part of the country you live in to the popularity of a given field.

 

 

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