Education Ain't Cheap
College offers a lot, and costs a lot. When people go to college, they typically have new experiences that help them grow. They also learn about themselves, the topics they study, and the ways of the world. Furthermore, college graduates tend to earn more than those without a degree. All things considered, college can be an investment worth borrowing for.
What's It Worth?
If you want to talk numbers, there is no doubt that a college degree is worth the cost. According to the United States Census Bureau, those with college degrees have earnings that almost double those of non-degreed people. A 2005 press release stated that college-educated citizens over the age of eighteen earned an average of $51,206 per year. Meanwhile, those with a high school diploma earned an average of $27,915. Over a lifetime, college can really pay off.
There are also benefits that don't come in your paycheck. Alisa Cunningham, Director of Research for the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C., authored an informative paper on some of the softer benefits of higher education. Complete with charts and citations to the data, she shows how college graduates impact the world around them. They are more likely to:
Have better health
Vote in elections
Volunteer in the community
Read to their children at an early age
Use critical thinking skills
Certainly, there are plenty of individuals without a college degree in society who have the same attributes listed above. Furthermore, you can probably think of more than one college graduate who does not display any of those qualities. However, when looking at large numbers you will see unmistakable trends.
How to Pay
So, if college is a priority, how can you pay for it? Prices for a college education are going up faster than general costs in the United States. That means the younger a future scholar is, the more it'll cost. The ideal solution is to have somebody pay the costs for you. It may be hard to get grants and scholarships that will offer a full ride, but you can do it, even if your child isn't the best student in their class or the best athlete in the world. Boutique college-planning practices are increasingly helping people find ways to get assistance from colleges, foundations, and the government (in the form of tax incentives). There are a lot of shady operators out there, but a good college planner is worth her weight in gold.
If you can't get somebody else to pay, you might have to borrow the money. There are many loan choices out there, so get some help from an advisor. Your financial aid office will have resources to help you understand what is available to you. In general, you should start by looking at government loan programs. These programs might allow you to borrow without accumulating any interest while you are in school. Of course, you will have to pay them back later, but you can get favorable terms on your student loans. In addition, these are installment loans, which will affect your credit (and your pocket-book) more favorably than if you used credit cards to fund your education.
Investing to Invest
If you have enough time before the bills are due, you could consider investing some money to help cover your investment in education. Because college costs go up so fast, it's a good idea to get started as soon as possible, like when you have a newborn child. There are a variety of options out there for college savings, including an ordinary savings account. The newest option is the 529 College Savings Plan, which is more flexible than most other education savings vehicles. To learn more about paying for college, you might try the College Board's Web site (
The majority of financial aid comes in the form of loans. This means that you can expect to have loans if you or somebody in your family is going to college. Use them wisely, because they can affect your credit later in life, and they might be with you for a very long time.