One silver lining to the financial crisis is the falling costs of things like houses and cars that are typically financed. That is basically the one upside to deflation. Unfortunately, while the college degree is also usually funded with borrowed money, government involvement and protection of the industry is ensuring that tuition prices only continue going up and up.
This 2010 – 2011 college academic year is no exception. Comprehensive reports aren’t finished yet, but some early research I am working on has indicated that another 5-10% tuition hike is pretty average for this year. If you thought college costs were expensive in your freshman year, it will probably be even worse by the time you actually graduate. That is something to keep in mind when you’re trying to estimate how far your scholarships, savings, and financial aid are going to go.
There still might be a silver lining here as well, though. If these loans weren’t being backed explicitly by federal regulations that allow lenders to recover wages from student loan borrowers, the loan providers wouldn’t be offering so many lines of credit in the first place. Tuition would really only fall like houses and cars if the demand for it suddenly crashed as quickly as the stock market has recently.
The best bet for most students is to find an academically serious school with low prices. Plenty of public state universities offer a spectacular deal – a real chance to study at a high level for almost nothing out of pocket. When combined with state scholarship and grant programs, as well as federal need-based financial aid, a four-year college degree can very well be possible without taking on any long term student loan debt.
Of course, if you know exactly what you want to do with your life and you’ve been accepted to the leading school for that specific field, it still might be worth shelling out as much money as it takes to take advantage of that kind of opportunity. Otherwise, just because a college is expensive doesn’t mean it is good. Even if an expensive college is good, that also doesn’t mean that it is any good for the specific major or program you want to study!
And once you’ve got that degree and some work history, most employers aren’t even going to be too concerned with where you went to school but rather what you have experience with and what kind of jobs your resume shows you are capable of. These days, it seems better than ever to work your way through school – gathering that experience before you’ve even finished the degree. That way, you’ll not only have the formal education, but you’ll also have a few years working in your field and less debt hanging over head.
The career path you ultimately end up on might be a bit of random luck and chance, but one thing is for sure: tuition prices aren’t going any where but up and you still need that degree to really maximize your earning potential.