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If you’re in high school, guidance counselors, teachers, and other well-meaning adults have probably told you – on several occasions – that you need to go to college to make a good living. But is a college degree worth it?
The cost of a college education has increased dramatically since your parents were in school. Over the past decade, costs have increased by more than 25%, and most university graduates leave school with significant amounts of student loan debt.
However, a bachelor’s degree can still pay off in the long run. Here’s what you need to consider when deciding if college is right for you.
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How much does a university degree cost
If you are planning on going to college, be prepared for sticker shock.
The College Council reported that the average total cost of attending a public school for students in the state is $ 26,820 per year, while the total attendance fees in private universities averaged $ 54,880 per year.
If you graduate within four years, that means your degree would cost between $ 107,280 and $ 219,520, depending on the type of school you attend.
Even if you are eligible for financial aid, including Scholarships and subsidies, this price can be staggering. Before paying your tuition fees, be sure to ask yourself, “Is college worth it for me?” “
3 reasons why college is worth it
For many people, college is well worth the expense. Not only do you gain valuable life experience and make lifelong connections, but a college degree also offers the following benefits:
1. University graduates earn more than non-graduates
Despite the increasing cost of post-secondary education, a college degree still pays off for the majority of graduates. On average, those with a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more than their peers with only a high school diploma.
How much more? The median salary of workers with a high school diploma is $ 38,792 and they have an average unemployment rate of 3.7% in 2019, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at Northeastern University. In contrast, the median salary of workers with a bachelor’s degree is $ 64,896 and their unemployment rate is only 2.2% on average.
Over the course of their careers, college graduates can earn hundreds of thousands more than those who do not attend college.
2. The majority of jobs require a college education
In generations past, a college education was not necessary to earn a middle class income. According to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, two-thirds of jobs required a high school diploma or less before the 1980s.
This is no longer the case. Georgetown University predicts that 70% of all jobs will require a college education by 2027.
Without higher education on your resume, it can be more difficult to find a high paying job, and competition for available opportunities will be fierce.
3. University graduates are more likely to have health insurance
With healthcare costs skyrocketing, having quality health insurance is essential for your well-being. However, purchasing health insurance on your own can be prohibitive. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, the benchmark premium for individual policies written in the health insurance market is $ 462 per month or $ 5,544 per year.
What does this have to do with college? You might not realize it, but there is a significant correlation between a college education and health care coverage.
College graduates are much more likely than high school graduates to have employer-sponsored coverage, thereby offsetting their health care costs. The College Council found that 64% of workers with a bachelor’s degree and 70% of workers with a graduate degree had employer-sponsored coverage, while employer plans covered only 52% of high school graduates.
3 reasons why college is not worth it
While a four-year degree can be valuable for many students, a bachelor’s degree is not necessary for everyone. Before going to college, be sure to take into account the following disadvantages:
1. You will likely graduate with student loan debt
Because education costs have increased so much, it is unlikely that you will be able to cover the full cost with your savings or income from a part-time job; instead, you will probably need to use student loans cover at least part of the expenses. According to The Institute for Access to and Success in College, 62% of 2019 college graduates left school with student loan debt, with an average balance of $ 28,950.
Depending on your student loan repayment plan, you could be in debt for 10 to 30 years. With your minimum monthly payments, you may feel pressured to postpone other financial goals, like saving for retirement or buying a home.
2. Well-paying jobs are not guaranteed
While a college degree is often touted as a path to prosperity, it can be more difficult than expected in the job market.
Especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic – which prompted tens of millions of people to file unemployment claims in 2020 – finding a well-paying job after graduation can be difficult.
The average starting salary for university graduates upon leaving school is around $ 51,000, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. While this is a comfortable income for most, many graduates will earn less than that. What if you have weight student loan debt that exceeds your income, you might have a hard time making ends meet.
3. It may take more than four years to graduate
When it comes to earning a bachelor’s degree, you probably plan to graduate within four years. However, this may not be realistic. The National Center for Student Research found that only 58% of students who enrolled in university in 2012 graduated within six years. The rest of the students were either still in school or dropped out.
For every additional year that you study, you rack up additional expenses and will likely have to take on more student debt to pay for your education. Taking six or more years to graduate can cause you to leave school with even more debt, and it can be difficult to get out of it.
4. Alternatives to a college degree
Is a university degree worth it? Not for everybody. If you decide that attending a four-year school is not the right decision for you, there are other options you can use to earn a good income.
It is significantly cheaper to attend a community college than it is to attend a four-year college or university. According to The College Council, the average cost of tuition at a community college in the district is only $ 3,770.
At a community college, you can earn an associate’s degree or take certificate programs that lead to stable careers. For example, the following career paths require two-year degrees and above-average salaries:
- Radiotherapist: $ 80,160
- Programmer: $ 79,840
- Dental Hygienist: $ 72,910
- Registered nurse: $ 68,450
- Telecom installer: $ 53,640
Trade schools, vocational schools or technical colleges offer practical training for various qualified careers. Programs tend to be much shorter than college programs, with students graduating in six months to two years.
The cost of attending a trades school is much less than attending four-year schools. The average cost to complete a program is $ 33,000.
There is an increased demand for trained trade professionals, and you can earn a comfortable income. For example, these are the median earnings for the following trades according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Electrician: $ 56,180
- Plumber: $ 55,160
- Carpenter: $ 48,330
- Mechanic: $ 42,090
If you’re interested in software and website development, attending a coding bootcamp can be a potentially lucrative career path. According to The course report, the average bootcamp program is only 14 weeks long, and you can land a new job in data science, application development, or cybersecurity.
The average cost to attend a coding bootcamp is $ 13,500 and the average starting salary for bootcamp graduates is $ 67,000.
If you have a business idea, being an entrepreneur may be a better career path than going to college. As an entrepreneur, you can be your own boss and set your own salary. The average salary for entrepreneurs is around $ 43,000 per year.
However, keep in mind that starting your own business can be risky and it may take several years for your business to generate profits. For help developing your ideas and creating a business plan, take advantage of the resources offered by the US Small Business Administration.