Along with standard questions of choosing to go to an in-state school or leave home and whether to live on or off campus is the growing question of if expensive colleges are really worth the cost. The number of stories of young adults leaving college with hundreds of thousands of dollars in college loans and few job prospects is increasing, and it is naturally a source of growing concern for students and parents alike. According to The Wall Street Journal, Americans owe more than one trillion dollars for student loans alone.

There are circumstances where shelling out the big bucks for a high-priced, well-known private school is worth the investment. Multiple studies have shown that going to ivy league schools like Harvard and Yale carry enormous cachet, and they can open doors that nearly guarantee high paying jobs. However, per the previously cited WSJ article, these institutions are attended by a mere four percent of college students. For students going to equally expensive institutions with less name recognition, the payoffs aren’t always there.

Part of the quandary for many is that according to statistics, higher education still leads to far greater earnings opportunities. The Huffington Post looked at the numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and found that an individual with a high school diploma will have a median annual income of $28,659, for those with a college degree it is $49,648 and for people with a professional degree the median is $87,356. Clearly, a college education is often a major component of improving earning potential, but it is important to not be saddled with an even greater college loan burden.

When it comes to determining the value of a degree from a particular university, there are a number of considerations, including the price of the school in question, the degree someone is pursuing and their earning potential once they have graduated. This can be difficult for younger individuals who want to follow a dream. While someone may be deeply interested in the arts, it is a much tougher field to find a job in, much less one that pays well when compared to those who study medicine or engineering. A lesson that many are finding out the hard way is that a costly degree in certain fields of study may turn into a large amount of debt while doing little to improve job prospects.

Before choosing a career path, people may want to look at the unemployment rate in their desired field and starting salary and as well as potential earnings growth. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is an incredible resource for all types of jobs and industries.

It is also important to consider how a degree from a particular college is viewed in an industry. For example, the University of Central Florida is a mid-priced state school, but they have a reputation as a top engineering school. Attending this state school may provide more earning and job opportunities than a higher cost private school due to its reputation.

When looking at schools, people should also consider the college’s job offer and salary rate for graduates. This information can often be obtained from the school itself, and people may also be able to find it on the Open Education Database website.

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